2015 Rankings – Top Graduate Geography Programs for Spatial Careers

January 13, 2015 at 12:39 pm  •  Posted in Education, Geography by  •  211 Comments

Hard to believe it’s already been 3 years since 2012 when I published my first set of geography graduate program rankings, based on NRC data. I followed in 2013 with a survey-driven set of rankings. Last year I produced rankings of traditional GIS programs and on-line GIS programs. These four posts have generated approximately 175,000 pageviews, so far. I seem to have filled a void.

This year I’ve decided to cobble together a variety of lists and categories with some new twists. Here are my notes for the 2015 rankings.

Over the past year I’ve come to the conclusion that, when in doubt, you’re likely better off attending a graduate school at a large major University, especially one that serves as a flagship public institution for the State. The reasons for this are varied but I think it’s a combination of (1) availability of top minds/resources/courses from related fields on one campus, (2) career-enhancing name recognition and (3) a superior University experience in terms of affiliation and alumni networking. Two and three sort of go together. You may notice a few tweaks in department tiers/rankings reflecting this idea.

I’ve produced several categories of rankings this year. Following on my 2014 GIS rankings and in response to some calls for separate Human/Qualitative rankings I’ve created a “Best Overall” category and several sub-categories. Hopefully this will be helpful for students seeking information for a particular field of study or area of emphasis. Programs listed under the “Best Overall” category provide a balance in terms of Human/Physical/Technical geography offerings and should accommodate most anyone aspiring to a spatial career. If you have a strong interest in one of the sub-field categories you should also consider the programs listed in each category. For potential PhD students the choice of a faculty advisor is the MOST important decision. Program/University is still crucial, but secondary.

The overwhelming majority of programs listed here offer a PhD. I favor PhD-granting departments because they attract the best faculty and because you never know what twists and turns might come along. It’s nice to have the option to stay in place if the scope of your studies expand.

You may notice none of the programs listed have a numerical rank order. I did this for two reasons. First, it’s sort of splitting hairs. How much better is #6 versus #7? I’m a quant guy but I don’t really know. I think these tiers make more sense – programs within each tier are ordered alphabetically. Second, I want to avoid misinterpretation by a bright student who thinks they must go to the #1 program…even if the #4 program would be a far better fit. And, this makes a good segue to my standard disclaimers and warnings about selecting a graduate program:

  • From 2014: I do NOT recommend selecting a graduate program based solely on these rankings.  You can use this as a starting point but be sure to explore as many programs as possible, seeking to find the best individual fit.
  • From 2012/2013: Warning to prospective graduate students, selecting a graduate program is an individual decision and the top programs listed here may not be the best program for you.  There are many factors to take into consideration and this decision process is probably worthy of its own blog post, or a series of several blog posts.  At the very least, you should take a look at a recent copy of the AAG’s Guide to Geography Programs.

So here we go – the 2015 rankings. Ta-da!

Best Overall Programs

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Human Geography

  • Berkeley
  • UCLA
  • Syracuse
  • Washington

Physical Geography

  • Boston
  • Maryland
  • Oregon State


  • University of Texas at Dallas
  • San Diego State
  • George Mason
  • Maine (Orono)
  • Iowa


  • Wisconsin
  • Oregon
  • Penn State
  • Kansas
  • Oregon State

Remote Sensing

  • Boston
  • Maryland
  • Georgia

Spatial Analysis/Statistics

  • University of Texas at Dallas
  • Arizona State
  • Buffalo
  • Ohio State


  • Buffalo
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • North Carolina

On-Line/Hybrid (Master’s only)

  • USC Spatial Sciences Institute
  • Penn State World Campus


Who did I miss?  What did I get wrong?  Who invented liquid soap and why? (sorry, random movie quote. couldn’t help myself.)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy new year!



  1. Pingback: Top 20 Graduate Geography Programs in the U.S. | Geographical Perspectives

  2. Pingback: 2014 Rankings – Top 10 Graduate GIS Programs | Geographical Perspectives

  3. Behzad / January 13, 2015 at 4:25 pm / Reply

    dear Justin
    Thank you for this ranking and also for all of your useful posts.
    How come UCSB is not among any of the categories or specialties you’ve listed? If it is a tier 1 school, I think it must be outstanding in at least one specialty! being average in all of the listed categories does not make a tire 1 school.

    • Justin / January 13, 2015 at 5:10 pm / Reply

      Dear Behzad, you’re right. I wanted to list top programs for various specialties that may otherwise have been overlooked. UCSB is certainly at the very top for GIScience, Physical Geography and probably a few other areas. My thought was to draw attention to other worthy programs not in the very top tier. Many of the other top tier programs are in the same boat. Thanks for the question! Best, Justin

    • Justin / January 13, 2015 at 5:27 pm / Reply

      By the way, I think it’s worth noting UCSB is at an interesting inflection point. Michael Goodchild is now Professor Emeritus and the remaining GISci faculty are fairly top-heavy, i.e., all Full Professors with one Assistant Professor. Still a tip-top program to be sure. But other programs may have an opportunity to close the gap as other full GISci Professors at UCSB move into retirement. I’d like to see a few Associate Professors in the bunch. Grad students need academic advisors who have tenure/stability but remain hungry for grant money and promotion. Thanks again for the comment! Best, Justin

  4. Paul Thompson / January 14, 2015 at 10:16 am / Reply

    Hello Justin, have you thought about pushing this ranking into other countries like Canada and the UK?

    • Justin / January 14, 2015 at 10:35 pm / Reply

      Hey Paul! I’d love to provide rankings for Canada, UK and everywhere else but I don’t know enough about programs outside the US. Want to feed me the info for Canada and I’ll post here? Cheers, Justin

  5. Rich Quodomine / January 14, 2015 at 11:36 am / Reply

    Since it’s my line of work, are you going to add economic or transportation GIS? I’d be curious what you think in those regards. UNC Charlotte comes to mind, though that’s a bit of a knowing guess, having been taught by Jean-Claude Thill.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Justin / January 14, 2015 at 10:43 pm / Reply

      Hi Rich! Thanks for the encouragement! I thought about various components of Human and Physical geography. I could do cultural, political, economic, human-environment, climate, biogeography, geomorphology. Where do I stop? For economic/transportation I think of Buffalo, Tennessee, UCSB, Washington, Arizona State. Maybe Illinois. Charlotte does indeed have a great “applied” reputation but is it still going strong? I don’t know. Not many faculty doing that sort of work. I worry that retirements will essentially eliminate a generation of would-be applied geographers. For now, and probably until 2016, we’ll just have to supplement here in the comments. I have too many irons in the fire. Thanks again, Rich. Cheers, Justin

  6. Doug / January 16, 2015 at 7:25 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you again for providing this resource. I am a prime example of how helpful your site can be in informing potential GIS students. You probably don’t remember my specific posts, but I posted a couple of questions on your earlier lists, and found your responses immensely helpful. In addition, the responses you gave to questions posed by other people were very helpful to me as well. Anyway, long story short, I was accepted into USC’s GIST MS program, and my first course just started this week! So, I just wanted to thank you for the role that your guidance and website played in helping me realize my goals 🙂

    • Justin / January 18, 2015 at 4:07 pm / Reply

      Hi Doug, I am so pleased to hear that my blog was helpful to you! Congrats on your admission to USC’s program, an increasingly popular option. Please keep me posted on your progress and best wishes for making the most of this great opportunity! Cheers, Justin

    • Yao-Yi / September 20, 2015 at 12:14 am / Reply

      Hi Doug, Welcome to USC! I am a research faculty at the USC Spatial Sciences Institute. If you are on campus, please stop by and say hi!

      Hi Justin, Great blog!!

      • Justin / September 20, 2015 at 11:57 am / Reply

        Thanks Yao-Yi!

  7. j@shell / January 19, 2015 at 6:32 pm / Reply

    What I can best speak to here is human geography. Berkeley, UCLA, Syracuse, and Washington are indeed great programs, so I’m glad to see them. Clark, Kentucky, Minnesota and Wisconsin ought to be added.

    Wash really is strongest on quant/social; UCLA’s thing used to be postmodern geography though I think it’s moved in more of a quant direction; Syracuse/Clark/MN/KY are important nodes in the Antipode/Critical conversation; Wisconsin’s strength is environmental/historical.

    There’s also these departments’ university/urban setting to consider. The Berk department obviously has an incredible setting.

    All nuances which a serious prospective grad student ought to be keeping in mind!

    • Justin / January 19, 2015 at 6:46 pm / Reply

      Jacob, thanks so much for adding your thoughts! I don’t know nearly as much about Human Geography departments so I really appreciate this feedback. The four programs you mention as omissions are all in the “Best Overall” category so I wanted to highlight other noteworthy programs that weren’t listed. This is the second comment along the same lines (why aren’t top programs listed consistently in sub-discipline rankings) so I think I will need to do a more thorough job of clarifying/figuring out sub-specialty rankings in future editions. Thanks again for your input! Best, Justin

  8. Phil / February 1, 2015 at 12:21 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for this post, I thoroughly enjoy your website. I’m a big geography fan and happen to be at a transition period in my life. I graduated with a BS in geospatial science and completed Penn State’s online GIS certificate program. I currently am taking classes (just started my first class) online at the University of Colorado at Denver working towards Masters of Engineering in GIS. I was recently accepted to Buffalo for their MS program. I currently work in the defense industry and use GIS/Remote sensing quite often. I am debating transferring my credit from UCD and going back to school to complete Buffalo’s program. Any thoughts?

  9. Phil / February 1, 2015 at 1:22 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for this post, I thoroughly enjoy your blog – I skim through it everyday for career guidance. I work in the defense industry and just started taking classes online at University of Colorado Denver towards a Masters of Engineering in GIS. I also was just accepted to Buffalo’s MS program. I’m debating dropping work/UC Denver program to go to Buffalo, but I’m not sure if the cost/benefit is there. Any thoughts or insight you could provide?

    I also completed the online GIS certificate offered by Penn State. One of my big fears is that my education is becoming too focused on simply ArcGIS and software manipulation (ie – your post about how software skills will soon become outdated).

    • Justin / February 1, 2015 at 5:58 pm / Reply

      Hi Phil, so glad my site has been helpful. Buffalo has an outstanding program but leaving a good job is a big decision not to be made lightly. What are your career objectives? Are you looking to get out of the Defense Industry?
      Best, Justin

      • Phil / February 1, 2015 at 9:41 pm / Reply

        Justin, thanks for the response. I am not necessarily looking to get out of the defense industry, but I am looking to transition out of the uniformed active duty military side of the house.

        I am still discovering what specific spatial career is most appealing to me. I am very interested in the software development and spatial analysis career “tracks”. I have some experience with Java, but most of my programming experience is with javascript and Python. I am a little hesitant to jump into the software development arena due to my inexperience. Any thoughts on what spatial careers are the most lucrative? The spatial statistics career field you mentioned in one of your posts seems like it could be profitable.

        • Justin / February 2, 2015 at 11:24 am / Reply

          Phil, I love the spatial statistics track and see opportunities emerging & growing more than other tracks. That said, either one – or a combination of the two – could be quite lucrative with some luck. More important is to choose a path where you’ll enjoy your work so much that you become one of the very best. Such passion comes from love of the craft, not from love of money. Hope this helps. Best, Justin

  10. Narya Lin / February 7, 2015 at 8:36 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks for providing tips for upcoming graduate students. Last year I graduated from a Bachelors degree in Anthropology and this semester I will finish my second bachelors degree in Geography from the University of Puerto Rico. My GPA is 3.07 but my Geography GPA is slightly higher (3.20). My concern is that along with my poor GPA, I have a couples of W, and that will eliminate any chance to get into any grad school. I have not taken the GRE but I am studying for it. I have an internship working on my favor, various posters presentations at local conferences and a publication in the academic magazine of my university which is peer reviewed. I am currently working as a GIS analyst in the government. With that being said, can you give me tips, in which universities should I apply, based on this? My main interest is environmental geography, cultural integrated with GIS.
    I have spoken with my professors about it but they only recommend Binghamton University and East Carolina. They recommend those universities to other students too, which is why I’m looking for other opinions.

    • Justin / February 8, 2015 at 3:00 pm / Reply

      Hi Narya! Your GRE scores are really important so study hard and perhaps plan to sit for the exam at least twice. I don’t know why your professors favor Binghamton and East Carolina. There are many more worthy programs. I would wait for your GRE scores. If they’re high apply to PhD-granting departments at flagship public Universities. If they’re low start with second tier Master’s only programs. I would need more info about where you want to live, what sort of career you want to pursue, etc to provide more specific guidance. In any case, you’ll need persistence but your GPA won’t keep you from pursuing graduate studies. Hope this helps. Best wishes, Justin

      • Narya / February 8, 2015 at 10:37 pm / Reply

        Thanks Justin. I really appreciate your advice. I should say that my B.A. concentration is technologies applications in geography. My career interest fall in environmental or human focused research where I can employ geospatial technology.I have my mind set on living in the Bay Area, for personal reasons. I plan to live there permanently and for at least the next 20 years I don’t see myself returning back to Puerto Rico. But I understand that graduate school may change the place where I would like to live, so I would say around the west coast is more desirable for me.

        • Justin / February 9, 2015 at 12:24 am / Reply

          Narya, there are plenty of good options in the Bay Area. Check out San Francisco State, San Jose State, UC Davis. Of course, there are wonderful programs at Berkeley but admission may be a stretch…though you never know. You might also consider Cal State Chico. Plenty of good programs in Southern California, Oregon and Washington as well. But, if your goal is to live/work in the San Francisco area I would recommend going to school in the area. This will make the transition from grad school to a job far easier as you will be able to explore target organizations and internship opportunities. Hope this helps! Wishing you the very best, Justin

      • Sahil Sasidharan / July 28, 2016 at 8:30 pm / Reply

        Dear Justin,

        When you mention high GRE scores for a PhD admission in best schools of Geography (Human/Urban in my case), what range do you have in mind. I have a 157 out of 170 in Verbal, 162 out of 170 in Quant and an Analytical Writing score of 4.0 on a scale of 6.0. Where would you classify me with those scores and an average GPA of 4 in both my Bachelors and Masters (from India)? I have more than 3 years of exclusive urban research experience professionally, but no peer reviewed publications in my name.

        Also with a specific interest in Urban Geography, would your overall 8 recommendations (for Human) change. Which schools would you add from the other lists?

        I ask these questions while understanding that the most important factor would be the Professor, but I am also interested in the contextual exposure (of University/location/city) and the breadth of the department’s expertise/exposure. Please advise.



        • Justin / August 2, 2016 at 12:37 pm / Reply

          Hi Sahil, I wish I could help give you a better idea where you might stand but I’m not really familiar with the relatively new GRE scoring system and it’s difficult to gauge the current level of competition among grad school applicants. My sense is that it’s a more favorable environment now (for applicants) but still very challenging to gain admission. In other words, it depends. For Urban Geography there are many options and I would continue to emphasize the professor over the department and the University. That said, I’d think you’d want to be in or near a vibrant urban environment. Best wishes, Justin

  11. Kim / February 9, 2015 at 11:27 am / Reply

    My son & I visited A&M Corpus Christi where we were introduced to GIS and the high demand for this field. They have a GIS & Geospatial Surveying Engineering Program.

    “Accredited. Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi offers the only combined geomatics and GIS focused Bachelor of Science Degree in Geographic Information Science in the nation that is also accredited by the Applied Science Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org” -from their website.

    Is there any reason it’s not on your list? or maybe it’s just new? Any thoughts on TAMCC?

    Thanks for your input.

    • Justin / February 9, 2015 at 3:50 pm / Reply

      Hi Kim,
      Corpus Christi seems to have a good thing going and I noticed they’ve been looking to hire additional faculty. One reason they’re not on any of my lists is because it’s a relatively new program. The other reason is the “surveying engineering” orientation. If you want to go into Surveying or work for an Engineering firm the program may be outstanding. But, if the career objective is to become a GIS analyst I would recommend looking elsewhere.

      • Jennifer Aitken / April 2, 2015 at 6:19 pm / Reply

        One interesting thing about TAMUCC – they are administering the new drone (UAV) airspace in south Texas! So it will only grow.

        • Justin / April 3, 2015 at 10:42 am / Reply

          Interesting indeed! Do you have a link to this program or research center? Thanks, Jennifer!

          • Jennifer Aitken / April 3, 2015 at 4:28 pm /

            Yes. It’s now called the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation


          • Dr. Gary Jeffress / May 28, 2015 at 1:01 pm /

            Just to keep you up-to-date, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi is introducing a PhD in Geospatial Computing Sciences in the fall of 2015. This builds on our BS in Geographic Information Science (1995) and our MS in Geospatial Surveying Engineering (2007). These programs are supported by an endowment from Conrad and Zula Blucher. Conrad was the last of three Blucher generations of Surveyors who practiced Professional Land Surveying in Corpus Christi since 1849.

          • Justin / May 28, 2015 at 6:50 pm /

            Gary, thanks for providing this information! Sounds exciting! Let me know if I can help spread the word. Best, Justin

          • Phillip Davis / August 2, 2015 at 11:57 pm /

            I can second Dr. Jeffress enthusiasm for the TAMUCC program. My son just graduated from there last year and now enjoys an exciting and rewarding career working for the US Army Corp of Engineers running their drone program. He will eventually become a private Surveyor with nearly unlimited career opportunities. Gary’s program combines the best of GIS with Surveying to create a truly modern geomatics professional.

          • Justin / August 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm /

            Hi Phillip – thanks for your input!

  12. ChrisM / February 11, 2015 at 8:45 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin, This is a god resource. I am surprised and curious why NC State is not on your list?

    They offer on-campus & a distance Master’s for < $11.5k in-state. Worth a look and every penny.


    • Justin / February 12, 2015 at 9:27 am / Reply

      Hi Chris, I’m certainly aware of NC State’s program and it looks good. But, my focus has been geography-oriented programs whereas NC State (if memory serves) is more of an engineering/technology program. I’d want to know how you will learn to “think spatially” before I could recommend NC State. Thanks for the comment! Best, Justin

      • Seth Church / January 16, 2016 at 6:15 am / Reply

        Hey Justin,

        Thanks for all the time and thought you’ve put into these rankings. After earning a bachelor’s in geography from UNC-Chapel Hill, I enrolled in the master of GIS program at NC State’s Center for Geospatial Analytics. In my experience, NC State teaches spatial thought at a very deep and quantitative level. Every graduate is required to know his technology and programming, sure, but also the spatial reasoning behind the algorithms. At NC State, we learned graph theory, fractal geometry, and complex topology ideas like how adjacency and containment are described mathematically. These spatial ideas seem fundamental to me now, and were not even mentioned at UNC (where I took graduate level classes as an undergrad). I would definitely take a second look at NC State’s Center for Geospatial Analytics. They may not do as good of an advertising job as other schools, but that’s probably because they’re busy working on a really great curriculum.


        • Justin / January 16, 2016 at 11:42 am / Reply

          Hi Seth,
          Thanks for the review of NC State! So glad to hear about your positive experience and the depth you found in the curriculum. I will take a second look on your recommendation.
          Thanks again and best wishes,

  13. Patricia / February 12, 2015 at 7:58 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for publishing your own Geography programs rankings. They have been very helpful in my search for a PhD program in Geography, especially since there isn’t a lot of information around regarding Geography programs.

    I have looked into most of the universities in your rankings since I don’t have many restraints regarding location. My biggest challenge, besides the fact that my background is not in Geography, is the choice of a supervisor. Do you have any advice regarding how to choose a supervisor? I’ve read one of you previous comments saying we should focus more on Associate Professors rather than Professors. In your opinion, are there any other aspects we should focus on when choosing a supervisor?

    Thank you.

    • Justin / February 12, 2015 at 9:38 am / Reply

      Hi Patricia, so glad to hear my posts have been helpful! It’s important to demonstrate in your application that a grad program is a good fit so you want to identify professors who are involved in the research you want to pursue. Let’s say you’re interested in fluvial geomorphology. Then you would want to peruse the latest physical geography publications and get a feel for the key researchers making contributions. Once you have a list of professors/programs reach out to them directly via email and ask about current projects and potential opportunities for grant funding/support. Don’t be offended if you don’t hear back – these people are super busy. Be persistent without being annoying and you should get some information. Cold calling is an option too – slight risk of a grumpy professor on the other end but potentially high yield in terms of connecting and learning. If they aren’t taking on new grad students ask if they know anyone else doing similar work who you might contact. Or just ask for advice on admission and funding. It’s sort of an obstacle course and requires a bit of luck but it’s well worth the effort. Hope this helps! Best wishes, Justin

      • Makendran / February 17, 2015 at 12:30 am / Reply

        Hi Justin
        Im from India. I’m a B.E graduate in Geo informatics. I would like to do my masters in Gis, can you guide me with it so that I could be able to select the best university for my studies in US.


        • Justin / February 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm / Reply

          Hi Makendran,
          I don’t know how to guide you beyond pointing to my set of blog posts on rankings and the associated comments. If you have a more specific question I’d be glad to try and help.
          Best wishes,

  14. Marissa / February 18, 2015 at 8:58 am / Reply

    I was looking at the USC online Master’s vs the Penn State online master’s…
    Here is the difference:
    Penn State cost/credit = $784.00
    USC cost/credit = $1602.00

    Since its my second master’s, and i am doing it at night while i work full time, I am going with the lowest cost.

    • Justin / February 18, 2015 at 11:57 am / Reply

      Hi Marissa, thanks for sharing this info. Do you know how many credits are required for both programs? Obviously if the credits required are different the cost comparison may change. Thanks! Best, Justin

  15. Marissa / February 19, 2015 at 8:13 am / Reply

    Good point!

    Penn state Master’s in GIS:
    35 credits
    each class is 3 credits
    $784/ credit
    $27,440 total cost plus minor technology fees

    USC Master’s in GIS
    28 credits
    each class is 4 credits
    $1602/ credit
    $44,856 total cost plus minor technology fees, and airfare to attend one week on an island

    • Justin / February 19, 2015 at 3:44 pm / Reply

      Thanks Marissa! Big price difference!

  16. Pingback: Top Graduate Geography Programs 2015 | SoCalGIS.org

  17. Amariah / February 20, 2015 at 4:40 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks so much for your list! I had one question however. I am interested in human geography as my main focus, but also have a huge love for cartography! I didn’t know if you had any schools on your list that offer decent programs in both rather than just a strength in one or the other. I understand that I won’t necessarily be able to get my masters in both, however it would be nice to go to a school that would offer great classes in both specializations.


    • Justin / February 21, 2015 at 6:58 pm / Reply

      Hi Amariah,
      Your best bets, in my opinion, would be Wisconsin, Penn State and Oregon. But you’ll find human geography and cartography are quite compatible and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a program where you can pursue both as part of one Master’s degree.
      Best wishes!

  18. Anthony / February 26, 2015 at 9:43 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,
    I have just started to look into GIS master programs specifically Maryland’s MPS GIS program. I am curious what your thoughts are on this program. I am shifting my career focus somewhat drastically and I’m still learning about all the possibilities in this field. I see that you list maryland under physical geography and remote sensing can you elaborate on those? I should mention UMD is my top choice because of its flexibility for part-timers and proximity to where I live. any info you could provide would be much appreciated. Thank you for all your hard work!

    • Justin / February 27, 2015 at 11:49 am / Reply

      Hi Anthony,
      Maryland is an outstanding program if you pursue traditional graduate study. I’m not sure about the MPS. Looks pretty good but includes what appears to be a heavy focus on ESRI technology. My advice would be to start slow – take just one course to dip your toe in the water without getting soaked.
      Best wishes,

  19. Christian / March 3, 2015 at 1:15 pm / Reply

    Hello. Finding the right program for an individual can be tough. I am interested in how you came to these conclusions/rankings. I apologize if I missed the exact explanation. I have noticed a possible decline for ASU from 2014 to 2015, after it made a significant jump in your rankings the year prior. Obviously ASU ranks high in spatial statistics because of the GeoDa Center. What else, if anything, do you feel the ASU MAS-GIS program offers to rank it that high? And why? Thank you.

    • Justin / March 3, 2015 at 3:33 pm / Reply

      Hi Christian, the 2014 rankings were GIS only whereas the 2015 rankings are more general. The reason ASU gets high marks is due to the strong expertise in GIScience among faculty, led by Luc Anselin. One caveat: the MAS is probably quite good but my rankings are meant to reflect the strength of ASU’s “traditional” residential graduate programs leading to M.A./M.S. and PhD degrees. Hope this helps. Best wishes, Justin

  20. Paul / March 6, 2015 at 3:50 pm / Reply

    Hi I have read over this posting a few times and had a few questions if you didn’t mind?

    I have been working in the remote sensing/geospatial for a little over 8 years in the public sector and have been looking at making a transition into the private sector. I am looking to complete a masters in GIS to help with my resume, along with give me a lot more confidence in my GIS skills before leaving the government. I have been accepted to Arizona State’s program, waiting to hear back from Redlands University, and have been accepted to a Masters in GIS in New Zealand (http://www.mgis.ac.nz/) at the University of Canterbury, since I really want to try to relocate down there afterwards and figured it would make sense to attend a program there so I can network while in school. Was wondering your thoughts on any of this, or your advice for trying to get a GIS job overseas in general?


    • Justin / March 8, 2015 at 8:35 pm / Reply

      Hi Paul,
      Wish I could offer advice on GIS work abroad but I don’t really know of any sure-fire path to follow. Arizona State would be a great place to enhance your GISci skills but I wouldn’t count on an easy transition to the private sector.
      Best wishes,

      • Paul / March 24, 2015 at 1:51 pm / Reply


        Thanks for getting back to me. Why do you think I would have a harder time transitioning to the private sector with my previous experience?


        • Paul / March 24, 2015 at 1:58 pm / Reply

          Also did you have any opinion on Redlands MGIS program?

          • Justin / March 26, 2015 at 1:02 pm /

            I like Redlands but they are, by necessity, joined at the hip to ESRI. This isn’t a problem as long as you don’t drink too much of the ESRI Kool-Aid.

        • Justin / March 26, 2015 at 12:53 pm / Reply

          I just think it’s relatively difficult to move from public sector to private. Most people underestimate the cultural differences.

          • Paul / March 26, 2015 at 2:05 pm /


            What are the cultural differences you are referring to? Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my multiple questions.


  21. sivapratap / March 17, 2015 at 1:40 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Illinois State University,Normal is offering Masters in Computer Science with one of the key specialization as Geographical Information Systems. Can you share your reviews on this course.

    Thanks in advance.


    • Justin / March 17, 2015 at 6:13 pm / Reply

      Hi Sivapratap,
      It’s not a Master’s in Computer Science, rather it’s offered through the School of Information Technology. May sound the same but it’s different. I don’t know much about the program but it could be a good fit if you’re interested in an IT position with a GIS focus. If you want to be a programmer/software developer or a GIScience type you should probably look elsewhere.

  22. Grin / March 17, 2015 at 6:32 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,
    I am a Chinese student happens to be choosing his master’s program, and ur blog turns out to be just what I needed. Here are some qusetions I have come across, if you would not mind answering.

    I am basically making choice between GISDE of Clark and MA of Buffalo(Urban and Regional Analysis). Since u rank Clark higher than Buffalo while the former does not appear in any of the specfic lists, I am confused about on which basis the “Best Overall Programs” are ranked. Or should I choose Buffalo if I tends to make further study on the field of Spatial Analysis.


    • Justin / March 17, 2015 at 6:08 pm / Reply

      Hi Grin,
      You have two excellent options. You should be in great shape either way. If you want training in quantitative spatial analysis I highly recommend Buffalo. Peter Rogerson, Geoffrey Jacquez and Jared Alstadt are all top notch and a new faculty member, Monica Stephens, has done great work visualizing Twitter data and other “web-scraped” data. Clark is an outstanding geography program but, for quant spatial analysis specifically, I’d choose Buffalo.
      Good luck!

  23. Peter / March 21, 2015 at 7:41 pm / Reply

    Hi, Justin,

    My son just got admission to 2015 GIS MSc program from University of Minnesota. He particular likes that the program has some links to water related subjects and application.

    How’s this program overall? My son got a GPA 3.19 in Environmental Science (3.6 in upper division) from UC Berkeley. Will this be a good choice for my son?

    If we postpone his graduate study for one year, what other programs you will recommend to my son?


    • Justin / March 22, 2015 at 7:41 pm / Reply

      Hi Peter,
      Minnesota is a great choice. Congratulations to your son on finishing strong at Berkeley!
      Best wishes,

      • Peter / March 23, 2015 at 12:14 pm / Reply

        Dear Justin,

        Thanks for your advice, which is very helpful.


        • Justin / March 23, 2015 at 12:44 pm / Reply

          You’re welcome!

          • Peter / March 23, 2015 at 3:42 pm /

            Dear Justin,

            One more question – how do you compare USC with University of Minnesota if both are offered full time in GIS master program to my son?


          • Justin / March 26, 2015 at 12:50 pm /

            Well, USC is primarily online with a 1 week residency. Minnesota is a traditional program as I understand it.

  24. Robin / March 24, 2015 at 2:58 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin –

    Great information!!!

    Any thoughts on undergraduate programs? Many offer different concentrations, some are basic, and some really connect well with the community at large – which I think is really important for helping students make connections and gain experience for employment.

    Which programs in the west/mountains – that are affordable – would you recommend that offer G/GIS and urban planning and also incorporate field work for a rugged-outdoorsy young man?

    • Justin / March 26, 2015 at 1:11 pm / Reply

      At the undergrad level I think any College or University that has a geography department would be fine. Not sure about relative affordability but Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Berkeley, Santa Barbara are all solid. A few others that come to mind: Northern Arizona, Cal State Chico, Wyoming, Montana State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Humboldt State. For me, the key for undergrads is to go to a school where they can be successful and productive. No one size fits all. Hope this helps! Best wishes, Justin

  25. Anusha / March 25, 2015 at 8:36 am / Reply

    Hi my name is Anusha. For the health geography, which other universities would you suggest ?
    I got accepted for MA at SUNY, buffalo.

    Also, any idea about health geography masters in germany?


    • Justin / March 26, 2015 at 1:12 pm / Reply

      Hi Anusha, for health geography Buffalo is top notch! Congratulations! No clue about programs in Germany. Best, Justin

  26. Nathaniel / March 25, 2015 at 3:42 pm / Reply


    What do you think of the University of Pittsburgh’s Professional Masters Program in GIS?
    I have decided to pursue a masters degree, and due to the location and convenience, I have looked into this program. I want to pursue a graduate degree because I feel that it would definitely help my confidence in GIS, and it would also make me more employable for a career in GIS.
    Also, do you have any opinons about Professional Masters programs? I have read/researched a little about it, and I wanted to know if a program such as that is worth the investment.


    • Justin / March 26, 2015 at 1:17 pm / Reply

      Hi Nathaniel, Wish I could help but I don’t really know anything about Pittsburgh’s program. Might be perfect for you. And that’s all that matters. Professional Master’s have really proliferated in the last several years. I think there’s a lot of benefit to completing a research project under faculty supervision. But it’s not for everyone. If you’re targeting entry level government or private sector jobs in Pittsburgh it’s probably a good bet. Is it a “MPS” degree? Or an MS or MA? I would try to get the latter. Best wishes, Justin

  27. Claudia / March 25, 2015 at 4:18 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    You’ve given great advise to others and I was hoping to pick you brain regarding the programs I’ve been accepted to: the University of New Mexico (UNM) and Texas State University, San Marcos. (If I’m not mistaken, Texas State made it in your 2014 Top 10 Graduate GIS Programs, under the “Outstanding alternatives” category.)
    I am currently waiting for funding information from Texas to have all the cards on the table before making a decision. (I applied for an assistantship and two scholarships.) UNM offered me a GA position, which comes with tuition waiver, salary and other benefits.
    For my undergraduate studies, I specialized in physical/environmental geography and GIScience, and am interested in continuing that path in graduate school, focusing on human-environment interactions, geomorpholgy, hazards and applications of GIScience in research. Both UNM and Texas offer M.S. majors in Geography with emphasis in environmental studies and GIScience, and the advisors I’ve been appointed have interests that match my own (specially the one from Texas). After completing the masters, I will work on a PhD degree. Texas has a PhD major and UNM doesn’t.
    I would like to know your thoughts regarding these graduate programs, and what would be the pros of choosing one over the other, aside from funding opportunities.
    Thank you!

    – Claudia

    • Justin / March 26, 2015 at 1:34 pm / Reply

      Hi Claudia, sounds like you have two great options. If the funding comes through from Texas State I guess I might favor it slightly because of the option to continue there for a PhD and an improving profile within the discipline. That said, if it were me, I would prefer living in Albuquerque. There may be interesting opportunities for collaboration of some sort with scientists at Los Alamos and, generally speaking, I prefer public “flagship” Universities. The University of New Mexico is the flagship University in NM. Texas State is not; that would be UT in Austin. In any case, sounds like you’re in great position for a strong grad school campaign. Persistence is the key to success. Best wishes, Justin

  28. Ruoyu / March 31, 2015 at 8:29 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for updating these valuable information!
    I’m a junior studying in Virginia Tech, majoring in GIS and meteorology. I’ve learned some GIS fields like cartography and modeling in GIS, but I want to study other field emphasizing on coding or computer science. Do you have any recommended programs?
    Besides, if you could tell me some programs combining GIS and meteorology, I will appreciate!


    • Justin / April 1, 2015 at 8:46 am / Reply

      Hi Ruoyu,
      Thanks for the kind words. There are many programs combining GIS and climate but I don’t know too much about meteorology. Check out the University of Oklahoma.
      Best wishes,

  29. Dorothy / April 3, 2015 at 9:26 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,
    That’s a extremely useful ranking and it helps lots of students like me. And I’m about to choose my master’s program. So I can’t wait to ask your suggestions.
    Here’s my situation: I have been admitted to some programs, which include MS of SUNY-buffalo, GISDE of Clark, and MS-GIS of UTD.
    I would like take following factors into consideration.
    1, I want to make sure the program I choose will provides me with maximum resources
    which will help me to learn knowledge I want. My interest mainly focus on GIScience/Computation which emphasizing on coding or programming while Spatial Analysis/Statistics could be my second choice.
    2, I hope the school I choose can offer me a better internship opportunity to make me
    more competitive. Because, to obtain a promising job of GIS in US could be my first goal after I graduate.
    Besides, since you listed Clark in tier2 and buffalo in tier3, can you give me nore information about differences of GIS programs between Clark and buffalo, and both their advantages and disadvantage in GIS? Which one should I accept?
    I’m aware of that finding the right program for an individual can be tough. But, I really want hear something from you. Looking forward you reply!

    • Justin / April 3, 2015 at 10:56 am / Reply

      Hi Dorothy,
      I’m so glad you find my rankings to be useful. You are in an excellent position having been admitted to 3 outstanding programs. I don’t think you can go wrong choosing any one of these programs. The question isn’t which one is best; rather, which program is best for *you*. UT-Dallas is relatively new to the scene but they have a very strong faculty and benefit from their location in Dallas which offers relatively good access to employment opportunities. Buffalo has a superb faculty as well and a much longer history of excellence. If you are serious about research and considering a PhD, I would favor Buffalo. Clark is a unique program with a very strong reputation and opportunities (I assume) to become involved in R&D activities at Clark Labs (clarklabs.org).
      I don’t think I have provided much useful guidance but hopefully you are comforted to know that you have 3 terrific options. Perhaps choose the program where you feel most comfortable in terms of connecting to the people in the department and the University community. Also note that Clark and Buffalo will have very cold and snowy winters whereas Dallas will have milder winters but very hot and humid summers.
      Best wishes,

  30. Dorothy / April 4, 2015 at 12:13 pm / Reply

    Dear Justin,
    I never expect such perfect answer, thank you very much! Personally speaking, I’m more inclined to GISDE of Clark. Maybe, I’ll consider this program. haha~
    Hope you would mind my other questions in the future. Because, I stil have 4 applications without clearly decision. And I’ll will recommend this ranking to more GIS students, which certainly will help them a lot!
    Best wishes

  31. Mingjing / April 8, 2015 at 4:25 am / Reply

    Hello, Justin.
    I’m a undergraduate student from China, and I really like your helpful blog. How about the GIS program of Louisiana State U? I have received the admission of MS of LSU and MS-GIS of UTD (their deadline is April 15th), Meanwhile, I’m still in the waiting list of MS of SUNY-Buffalo and it seems that Buffalo won’t reply me before April 15th. So, I think I need to make a choice between LSU and UTD now. Could you give me some advice? Thank you very much!

    • Justin / April 8, 2015 at 9:26 am / Reply

      Hi Mingjing, LSU is a great university and I’ve met some LSU geography grads but I don’t know much about their GIS programs. Any advice would depend on your career objectives. What do you hope to do after completing a Master’s degree? If you provide details I can try to help with your decision. By the way, congratulations on your admissions to these programs! Best wishes, Justin

      • Mingjing / April 8, 2015 at 11:23 am / Reply

        Hi Justin, the admission offered by LSU is MS in geography, I’m informed that the geography in LSU is better than UTD, but no idea of the GIS area . I’m inclined to find a job in USA or China after I get my Master’s degree. What about the reputation of these two university in GIS area ?

  32. Amarinda / April 9, 2015 at 4:47 pm / Reply

    Hi, Justin! I’m currently a undergrad GIS major at Cal State Northridge. I’m not far from completing my BS in Geography and began to conduct some research about graduate school such as fellowships. I wanted to ask that is it true, depending on the institution, graduate school offers more scholarships and other financial aid opportunities (excluding loans) than undergraduate school. Second, I was wondering if you have any knowledge what is a good overseas international university.

    Thank you

    • Justin / April 12, 2015 at 6:08 pm / Reply

      I’ll assume you mean Geography graduate programs. Typically, if you’re admitted to a PhD program you’ll be offered funding in exchange for teaching or research. Funding usually includes tuition plus a modest stipend. Sometimes you can receive similar funding for a Master’s degree program but it’s less likely. So, in general, yes there are better opportunities to receive funding to pay for graduate school but these are more like part-time jobs. I wouldn’t expect to find much in the way of “scholarships” that simply pay for grad school without some work required in exchange. Hope this helps! Best wishes, Justin

  33. Heather / April 14, 2015 at 1:48 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for putting the time and effort into creating these lists and updating your blog!

    I’ve followed your lists/blog for a couple years, and I’ll definitely review your 2014 comments for any missed guidance. Do you know of any programs that apply GIS and Archaeology together in the same program? It seems to be common in the UK, but the only program I have found that would come remotely close to a combined program is Boston.

    I know it may be a little outside your wheelhouse, but any recommendations or suggestions is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Justin / April 14, 2015 at 7:53 pm / Reply

      Hi Heather, I don’t know much about Archaeology but I’m aware of at least one collaborative effort involving GIS and Archaeology at the University of Oregon. Here’s a link to learn more: http://mongolianaltai.uoregon.edu/theproject.php

      I would look for a major University offering both Archaeology and Geography PhDs. Building the bridge between the two might be up to you. Good luck! Cheers, Justin

  34. abhi / April 15, 2015 at 6:15 am / Reply

    hello justin, i have done BS computer science from india ,intersted in gis remote sensing in master which best in usa /world which giving scholarship .

  35. Heather / April 15, 2015 at 9:22 am / Reply

    Thank you!


  36. AG / April 22, 2015 at 9:04 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,
    I’d like to take up GIS masters with basic skills and a B.Sc degree in geography from India. The cost of the program, together with financial aids/ scholarships offered is a very important deciding factor. Keeping that in mind, which university programs do you recommend?
    Thank you for putting this up!

    • Justin / April 23, 2015 at 12:24 pm / Reply

      Any of the top “traditional” programs listed here would be best. Applying for PhD programs or Master’s with thesis requirements instead of professional or applied Masters programs will improve your chances for funding opportunities. Best wishes, Justin

  37. JK / April 29, 2015 at 8:21 am / Reply

    I like the new approach to your rankings. Given the diversity of programs, placing them in tiers is reasonable.

    • Justin / April 29, 2015 at 9:12 am / Reply

      Thanks for the feedback!

  38. Sean / May 3, 2015 at 8:15 am / Reply

    Hi Justin! I’m wondering what are your views of the Spatial Science degree at Stephen F Austin University?

    • Justin / May 3, 2015 at 8:29 am / Reply

      Hi Sean – I don’t really know much about the program. I just found the program page and I see it’s part of a Forestry department and Bachelor’s only. I checked the CVs of the faculty and none of them have been trained in geography/GIS except within forestry and/or natural resource management programs. I think they may just be trying to take advantage of student demand for “spatial” programs. If you’re already at Stephen F Austin and interested in natural resources or forestry it’s probably fine. If you’re in the market for a strong spatial program I would look elsewhere. Best wishes, Justin

  39. chanc / May 8, 2015 at 7:18 am / Reply

    Hey Justin i’m debating on colorado and Oregon Programs. Where i go to school will be where i live long term also. I want to invest in land while im in college. In your opinion what would you choose?

    • Justin / May 8, 2015 at 6:54 pm / Reply

      Depends. Do you like sunshine + mountains or moderate temperatures + green forests?

      Don’t think of the decision in terms of where you’ll find the best financial returns on real estate investments. Rather, think about where you’ll find the greatest happiness. I don’t think you can go wrong either way. Both great college towns. Both great Universities. Both fairly expensive places to purchase real estate. From a Geography Department perspective I favor Oregon. But, of course, I’m completely biased. My advice is to visit both places for at least a few days each then choose the place that feels right to you.
      Best wishes, Justin

  40. Sivapratap / May 25, 2015 at 4:06 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    I am from CS background and planning for masters in GIS. I have found that Michigan Technological University offers Masters in Integaretd GeoSpatial Technology. Can i bet on this university. your advise is greatly helpful.


  41. Kate / May 26, 2015 at 6:01 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,
    First off, thanks for making these lists! Really helpful in jump-starting my search. I’m looking into graduate school and hoping to find a resesarch-oriented school with a strong biogeography program. Any ideas?

    • Justin / May 26, 2015 at 6:33 pm / Reply

      Hi Kate! For programs, check out Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah…maybe Hawaii, Northern Arizona. But your time is better spent digging into the biogeography research literature to identify professors who are working on the stuff that interests you. If you find them you will have found your program. Good luck! Best, Justin

  42. Sivapratap / May 27, 2015 at 8:23 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Can you please share your reviews on Michigan Technological University-Masters in Integrated Geospatial Technology. your help will be greatly appreciated.


    • Justin / May 28, 2015 at 6:53 pm / Reply

      Hi Sivapratap, I don’t know much about Mich Tech. I have heard good things about the University but don’t know anything about their geospatial program. I do know that Houghton, Michigan is in the beautiful yet frigid Upper Peninsula. Bring your snow mobile. Best, Justin

  43. Karen / May 30, 2015 at 9:14 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin!

    First of all, thank you for taking your time with these lists, you have no idea how much you’ve helped me. I’m a college senior majoring in Journalism and Geography, with interests in Physical Geography, specifically climatology. Here’s the fun part, my GPA is still suffering from my junior year. I’m staying an extra year to raise my GPA, which should finish somewhere between 3.30-3.36. My GRE Scores is 150 Verbal and 160 Quantitative, and 4 in the essays part. At first I was worrried about not getting into grad school without a solid GPA. Do you know any physical geography programs with my interests and that accepts students with a GPA like mine? Thank you so much for your help!

    • Justin / May 31, 2015 at 2:00 pm / Reply

      Hi Karen!

      Your GRE scores a bigger problem than your GPA. Bear in mind GPAs are difficult to compare. How does a 3.2 at MIT compare to a 3.9 at Mississippi State? Or what about a 4.0 at the University of Alabama vs a 4.0 at UC Davis. Which one is better? Beats me. So your 3.3 is probably not a deal breaker. Admissions committees typically rank candidates by GRE scores before digging deeper. Rankings end up placing candidates in one of three groups. Group 1 consists of candidates with the very top GRE scores and perhaps a few students who have been flagged by faculty for a grant funded position. Group 3 is the bottom of the barrel with GRE scores well below average along with unimpressive GPAs from run-of-the-mill undergrad institutions. Group 2, the largest group, is everyone else. You really want to be in Group 1 or near the top of Group 2. For you to get there you need better GRE scores. Take it again! Take practice tests and study!

      If you’re not a good test taker and the paragraph above makes you cringe then don’t lose hope but this will likely mean applying to lower-tier Master’s only programs where you are unlikely to receive funding. Ideally you’d find a decent program in-state where tuition is lower. If you can do well in such a program, even for a year, you can make a stronger case for transferring to a PhD granting program either to complete a research Master’s or as an incoming PhD student.

      I could make more specific program suggestions if I knew where you are now and/or where you want to be generally. Hope this helps!

      Best wishes,

      • Dale / October 28, 2015 at 5:08 am / Reply

        Dear Justin,
        Thanks for all the great information. It helps me a lot.
        I am a international student with an 3.38 GPA, 319 on GRE(Q:167 V:152) and 96 on TOEFL.
        I have two questions about applying.
        1.Would this score be qualify enough for applying USCB and Buffalo ?
        2.What score of GRE could be considered high ?

        Best wishes

        • Justin / October 28, 2015 at 9:19 am / Reply

          Hi Dale,
          I’m not really very familiar with the newer GRE score format. When I took the GRE scores ranged from 200 to 800 and anything 700+ was really good. Your scores sound good enough to get you past the first round but then you’ll need to stand out in terms of research interests and fit with the faculty/department. You might read this post for more info…the advice here would be applicable for applying to research-oriented Master’s degrees as well.
          Hope this helps!
          Best wishes,

  44. Nicholas / June 12, 2015 at 12:17 pm / Reply

    Hey Justin!

    I’ve looked at your site for information for about a year and a half now and you have some excellent pointers that have given me a better sense of direction when thinking of the workforce/grad school debate.

    I currently attend SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry as a rising senior and my major (Environmental Science) offers a concentration in Information and mapping (currently finishing up), which includes surveying, remote sensing, another advanced/engineering based GIS course (I’ve taken an introduction course already) and cartographic design as coursework. I’ve also decided to take up a minor in Computer Information and Technology at Syracuse University (learning programming especially as a natural science major can get difficult at times, but the sister school relationship has been nothing short of excellent for me). I recall from one of your earlier posts that the software side will be more of a standard within the workforce rather than a plus at least from the ArcGIS standpoint, so I’ve been exploring my options and trying to look around for grad schools that incorporate environmental science or land planning with GIS. Are there any programs that come to mind? I know a good amount of programs say that prospective students don’t need the prior coursework within these areas, but would it help from my standpoint having that coursework under my belt?
    Also when it comes to marketability to those programs mentioned before, what programming languages should I focus my time on the most? I know python, java, CAD and VBA are all used within the field from going on two years experience as an intern within a well known civil engineering firm, but am I missing something from the coding list. I’ve thought about the apps avenue, but I’m more or so worried that I won’t have the coding/computer science knowledge that’s needed. Thank you for your help.


    • Justin / June 13, 2015 at 2:27 pm / Reply

      Hi Nicholas,

      I think you’re good with Python but you might try to build a web application to demonstrate your ability to take a project from start to finish. Most of what you’ll really need to know will come on the job or by completing projects where you have to build something cool that actually works. A demo is better than a resume if you want to pursue GIS technology work.
      Lots of programs come to mind but not one in particular. Find a place where you think you’ll be happy and productive. If you’re not sure choose a flagship state/public University close to where you think you might want to live and work. Hope this helps.

  45. Suhaas / June 14, 2015 at 1:28 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin ,

    I have read most of your posts. I got good exposure in gis field because of that. Thanks.

    I have done my undergraduation in Electronics n communication and finally ended up in software company as quality assurance guy. I have experience of 3 yrs in gis based company in utility domain (G/Technology product). I want to stick to this field, I felt it interesting. So I want do ms in gis n later move on as either database admin/cartographer/developer though not decided yet.

    Will I have to do any homework as I will be lagging behind comparatively to under grads from geography.. Any suggestions.

    • Justin / June 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm / Reply

      Hi Suhaas. By homework do you mean reading everything you can get your hands on regarding your chosen field? If so, the answer is yes. You may also need to take remedial geography coursework. This is good for you. Until you learn to think spatially, as a result of exposing yourself to geographic research and writing, you won’t be well enough equipped for a career in gis/geospatial. Work hard on this aspect of your education just like you would the core GIS coursework. It will pay off long term. Cheers, Justin

      • Suhaas / June 14, 2015 at 2:53 pm / Reply

        Thanks for the reply. Can you suggest me some of the books to get better in geography n improving my geospatial thinking. Also any other interesting blogs like yours.

        This will be very helpful for me. 🙂

        • Justin / June 15, 2015 at 3:48 pm / Reply

          Difficult to know where to start. Here are a few thoughts/resources:

          Intro textbooks by Alexander B. Murphy, Harm de Blij, Alan Strahler
          National Research Council books
          – Rediscovering Geography
          – Beyond Mapping
          – Understanding the Changing Planet
          Geospatial Revolution online class from Penn State
          Maybe read or watch Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

  46. Brendan / June 28, 2015 at 8:57 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    I got my B.A in geography from Wvu and am looking to get my M.S in geography at UO. I had an average score on the GRE. My gpa is in the 3.2 range overall with a 3.7 in geog. I have a 3.55 over my last 60 creds. but people are constantly telling me how hard it is to get into UO geography. I think that my research interests align very well with some of the faculty in the program, plus I am interested in living in the PNW. I understand that all grad programs have their challenges but I’m curious to hear from someone who has experience going through the program.

    • Justin / June 30, 2015 at 10:22 am / Reply

      Hi Brendan, the key is to make a connection with a member of the faculty. I recommend making contact with the professor(s) you’ve identified as having research programs aligned with your interests. I think all good programs on the West Coast are competitive simply because young people want to live there. All you can do is submit the best application possible and try to make a connection with a professor who can help move you up the list. Best wishes, Justin

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  48. Joe / July 7, 2015 at 6:00 am / Reply


    I am a military officer with an opportunity to attend either the Royal School of Military Survey or a similar graduate program in the US. My overall goal is to transition into GEOINT/ geospatial analysis and further develop means for rapidly getting tools, information, anlaysis down to the user level. I have fairly limited experience with commercial products and systems, programming, etc., but a lot of experience in applying the products at the ground level.. Would like to hear your thoughts on RSMS or recommendations for pathways into the defense/intel sector. I have looked at George Mason, and they seem pretty well tied in with their MS GEOINT. Thank you

    • Justin / July 8, 2015 at 10:20 am / Reply

      Hi Joe, I don’t know anything about the RSMS program. In the US, George Mason has a good offering and is well located in the DC metro where the best jobs would be found. Penn State is the other program that comes to mind. You should investigate both. Sorry I don’t have any insight to share on RSMS. Best wishes, Justin

  49. Rohit Venkat / July 24, 2015 at 6:40 pm / Reply

    Hi ,
    I have completed my Bachelor of Technology course in Geoinformatics from India.
    I want to pursue Masters in GIS or Geospatial Technologies where I would like to concentrate more on Spatial Analysis. I want to settle as a GIS Developer or Programmer in ESRI or other related Organizations.Could you please guide what are the universities which could match my interests with best teaching faculty and well equipped infrastructure. I have a good GPA score in my Bachelors, GRE(303) as well as TOEFL(106).

    • Justin / July 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm / Reply

      Hi Rohit, if you want to work for ESRI you might check out the University of Redlands. The University is not only in ESRI’s backyard, it’s also in Jack Dangermond’s back pocket. San Diego State and UC Santa Barbara are other excellent programs near ESRI in Southern California. Otherwise, I recommend any program on this page supplemented with self study in Computer Science and Software Development. Best wishes, Justin

      • Rohit Venkat / July 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm / Reply

        Thanks Justin for your immediate response,
        Please kindly read my scenario and advise me the best option to do.
        Actually I got admits for FALL 2014, in University of Minnesota(MGIS) and Michigan Technological University(Integrated Geospatial Technologies), University of Edinburgh(MSc in GIS)
        The fee in Minnesota (30,000$/year) is pretty high and the graduate advisor has assured me that there is no guaranteed funding so I’ve thought to gain some work experience which may improve my chances for funding. As a result I deferred my admission for Fall 2015 but still I’ve not received any funding. I am even not done with my Visa till now and in a second thought.

        Coming to MTU’s program I heard from my seniors that the course curriculum is not that good and there is no reputation for the program. Even dropped that.

        How about University of Edinburgh’s (UK) one year Msc course in GIS. Is it reputed, hows the course curriculum, internship opportunities, Job scenario

        I now have the Minnesota and Edinburgh’s admissions ready in hand.
        Classes in Minnesota starts at the end of August and for Edinburgh it starts in September

        Finally, If I could proceed with any other universities which I could apply for Spring 2016, please help me in figuring out the right universities this time so that I do not miss any chance.

        • Rohit / July 26, 2015 at 7:09 pm / Reply

          Please respond and suggest me which universities are the best fit for my profile

        • Justin / July 26, 2015 at 7:26 pm / Reply

          Rohit, In the UK, check out Leeds. I answered the other questions below. I can’t do the research and make the decision for you. Worry less about getting to the right program and worry more about acquiring geography/GIS and software development knowledge. In software what you actually know is far more important than what University you attended. Best of luck to you. -Justin

  50. Allan Lumb / July 27, 2015 at 4:22 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    I read your page regularly and have participated a number of times in the discussion. I have read this post thoroughly which prompted me to put a question to you.

    At various universities around the world, the GIS, GNSS, Geodesy, Remote Sensing and other related technologies have converged under the umbrella of “Geomatics Engineering” and more and more universities are embracing this discipline. While you have touched Geospatial education in all possible combinations, I cannot find or may have missed any pertinent discussion on the combination of GIS and GNSS.

    Let me further elaborate my point through personal example. I have a Bsc degree in Civil Engineering and Msc in GIS from University of Leeds UK with specialization in developer stream. Over the pd of time, I have done sufficient work in developing both standalone and web based applications with ESRI based and open source platform. However, while working on different projects, I have often felt necessity of in-depth knowledge of GNSS. I am even considering to do an Msc in GNSS to supplement my GIS background as it relates to both Civil Engineering as well as GIS. A GNSS degree can mainly enable to design customized hardware/ software solutions to meed customer needs in land survey, LBS, land/air/marine navigation systems and even environmental monitoring. I may subsequently pursue a PhD in Geomatics Engineering.

    Please share your opinion on the matter whether a combination of MS level degrees in GIS and GNSS is a worthwhile option or I should restrict and develop myself in GIS domain. I have specifically asked this question with regards to future scope of GIS and GNSS disciplines.
    Also I would suggest to add some analysis of “Geomatics Engineering” education options and job potential of various sub-domains.

    Best regards.

    • Justin / July 28, 2015 at 12:48 pm / Reply

      Hi Allan,
      Thanks for being a regular reader!
      The Engineering discipline in the US has been trying to take a piece of the growing GIS pie for some time. One of their industry association or lobbying groups actually tried to pass legislation in the US attempting to exclude non-engineers from doing spatial work for government projects. I don’t remember all the details so I may not be phrasing this correctly. In any case, as a result of these efforts, geographers don’t really see eye-to-eye with engineering programs offering geospatial. And, to be honest, I don’t think engineering programs “get” spatial as well as they think they do. Just like geographers don’t “get” engineering programs. Now, all that said, combining GIS with civil engineering makes a lot of sense and could be a terrific career path for you. But, evaluating Geomatics Engineering programs is outside the scope of my interests. If you want to be a spatial/GIS person I recommend pursuing your career via geography programs and professional geographers. If you want to be a geomatics engineer I don’t discourage you at all; but I encourage you to look elsewhere for program guidance as I can’t really offer knowledgeable advice.
      Best wishes,

  51. Roshni / August 2, 2015 at 10:33 am / Reply

    hi 🙂 thanks for this article..
    i am from India. can you tell me the best Universities offering master programs in Geoinformatics.

  52. Maciel / August 11, 2015 at 10:06 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for sharing such good articles that help us a lot in our decision making process.

    I am from Brazil and when I was an undergrad I studied for a year in the US, first at University of Florida where I took a course on the foundations of GIS and after that I spent a semester at the University of Georgia where I could learn more about the applications of GIS in natural resources.

    It made me persue a M.S. on Forest Engineering in Brazil with focus on hidrology, water quality, remote sensing and GIS. Now I am looking for a PhD program in the US that would allow me to better uderstand how GIS works, how to program and develop an open source GIS-based water resources management system that I could implement in my country later on.

    First, I was just thinking about going back to one of the univesities that I have studied, but now I am a little bit confused if it is a good idea once that there are several options all over the US.

    Do you know any program that would contain the research line that I have mentioned?

    Thank you so much in advance,

    I am looking foward to hearing from you.

    Best regards.


  53. Ian Muehlenhaus / August 19, 2015 at 11:41 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    First, I just want to say that I love your blog and read it regularly. I’m a first-time poster, though.

    Second, just wanted to send you a heads up that a new Online Professional Master’s in GIS/Cartography at UW-Madison is about to go live. It will be completely online (32 credits) and include all of the department’s existing graduate visualization/cartography, database management, geocomputing, GIS programming, and mobile app development courses. (Though they are, of course, completely revamped for the online learning environment.)

    The program is geared toward professionals or recent undergraduates who took cartography and/or GIS courses in college but want to delve into web mapping, GIS programming, and database management. Basically, it is a one-stop shop for open-source GIS on the Web. (Plus, we will teach you everything we know about visualization and web mapping, areas in which, as your polls point out, Wisconsin is solid!)

    I know you can’t rank a program that doesn’t exist yet, but I just wanted to make you aware of this development for next year’s rankings, as this has been in development for over a year and our instructional designers are putting the final touches on it right now. First class will begin in September 2016. We will begin accepting applications for the program this fall. Full-time students can earn the Master’s in twelve months. Diploma will be the same as that given to our M.S. – Cartography/GIS students who attend in person.

    I believe in the potential of this program (and the capabilities of UW Geography!) so much that I gave up the professorial life to tackle the challenge head-on. I’m now the Program Director. If in the future you have any questions about us, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

    Regardless, great blog, great writings, and thanks for being such an active member of the GIS community!


    Ian Muehlenhaus (UW-Madison Geography)

    • Justin / August 20, 2015 at 9:32 am / Reply

      Hi Ian,
      Thanks for posting this important news! And congrats on your new position! I’m delighted to hear that Wisconsin is entering the on-line arena. Do you have a description of the program you might share?
      Thanks again!

  54. Paola / August 22, 2015 at 7:10 pm / Reply

    Justin, what do you thing about the MS GISci from CalState Long Beach? I’ve been considering it, but I don’t if its a good choice to do a Masters solely in GIS. Another thing is that I don’t know about the reputation of the program.

    • Justin / August 23, 2015 at 8:39 pm / Reply

      Hi Paola, I think Cal State Long Beach would be good if you plan to stay in Southern California for your job search. It doesn’t have a strong reputation nationally but the faculty looks relatively strong. I would ask who will be teaching the core classes and how they will help you find a job. Good luck! Best, Justin

  55. Abu / August 25, 2015 at 2:41 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin, I’m currently in the second year of the ‘MA in Geography’ program of University of Iowa. I’m an international student and thinking about searching for job in USA after my masters. Can you give some of your insights about the prospect of my program? I’m currently working with HAZUS modelling for flood. Thanks.

    • Justin / August 25, 2015 at 4:53 pm / Reply

      Hi Abu, Iowa is an outstanding program and University so that will help. First, have you asked your advisor(s) for suggestions? They may have contacts in govt or industry to get you started. Second, comb the job board aggregators like SimplyHired using your “HAZUS” and other technology acronym keywords. Beyond that, simply hustle and be persistent. Good luck! Best, Justin

  56. Dave / September 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm / Reply

    I saw that you mentioned UT – Austin being the flagship university for Texas. I think that the reputation of a university is important, but it doesn’t accurately reflect the reputation of the Geography department. I’m considering what graduate school to go to right now and Texas State University is currently at the top of my list for schools in Texas.

    The undergraduate Geography department at Texas State University is the largest undergraduate Geography department in the nation with 600-700 students, which in my mind makes their local pool of potential researchers a significant consideration in comparing graduate school potential. Also, the job placement is remarkable, the business card database of Texas State University graduates (which is a physical document that can be verified) would max out a Google search.

    Anyway, that’s part of the reason, but not the entire reason, for why Texas State University is currently at the top of my list, but I have some time to make decisions before I choose in the Spring. What do you think that I should consider when choosing (bearing in mind that for family reasons I am Geographically limited to Texas for my choices) Also why did Texas State University not make your list?

    • Dave / September 9, 2015 at 2:46 pm / Reply

      I meant to caveat that statement about being the largest undergraduate geography department, with “I’ve heard that.” Because, I never actually verified if it’s a legitimate claim. Thanks for reading!

    • Justin / September 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm / Reply

      Texas State is a fast growing and fast rising program but it’s still relatively new/young so I guess for me the jury is still out. Texas State is a better option for GIS than Austin. You might also consider UT-Dallas (also new but with very well-established faculty), especially if the quantitative side of things interests you. Good luck! Best, Justin

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  58. Amariah / October 9, 2015 at 5:59 pm / Reply


    Thank you so much for taking the time to create these rankings. I am seriously interested in cartography and GIS, and I am really hoping to get into Wisconsin. However, it is one of the top schools in the country (as you know), and while I am confident in myself, I am also realistic. I want to get an assistantship of some kind when I go to grad school, and my chances of achieving that are lower at a prestigious school. I was wondering if you know of any schools that are less prestigious that I can apply to as safety/back-up schools that would still have a decent cartography/GIS program. I don’t want to settle, and this may seem like a weird thing to ask, but I want to make sure I apply to schools on various playing fields.

    Thank you,

  59. ziqin / October 19, 2015 at 9:24 am / Reply


    Thanks for this article. I’m finishing my bachelor degree in urban planning with a focus on GIS. I saw Minnesota offer a master degree in Geographic Information Science and a master degree in geology with a focus on GIS. I’ m just wondering which one might suit me better considering my interest in gis on urban issues. Besides, what else university would you recommend,like UTD? Thank you.

    • Justin / October 19, 2015 at 2:10 pm / Reply

      Hi Ziqin,

      I would *not* pursue a Master’s in Geology if you want to pursue a career in Urban Planning/Studies. If your primary interest is Urban Planning I would look for Urban Planning programs that include GIS/Spatial technologies in their program. Check out Arizona State.

      Best wishes,

      • ziqin / October 20, 2015 at 9:25 am / Reply

        Thanks for the reply, Maybe I did not say it clearly. My research focus on the application of GIS and spatial analysis techniques to extract information on urban issues. In this way, a master degree in geography makes sense. Besides, I have quite a few research experience related to the transportation and GIS. I notice professor Miller in OSU is doing some research in this area. so does that means that OSU might be a good choice?, and how about UTD? While it is relatively new, it has shown some incredible improvements in these years.

  60. B / October 19, 2015 at 4:28 pm / Reply

    Hey Justin–

    I graduated from the University of Arizona with a BA in Geography. GPA 3.8, high verbal & decent quantitative GRE scores. I’m looking at pursuing a PhD in Human Geography–and would prefer to avoid huge cities. Currently, I’m leaning towards Boulder, Madison, and UNC Chapel Hill. Thoughts?

  61. Beatrice / October 19, 2015 at 5:43 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Graduated with a BA in Geography from Univ. Arizona, GPA 3.8– I’m interested in pursuing a PhD in Human Geography. UNC Chapel Hill, Madison, CU Boulder are my shortlist. I’m not a fan of huge cities, so that rules Berkeley out. Any thoughts? Thank you in advance.

    • Justin / October 19, 2015 at 6:13 pm / Reply

      Hi Beatrice,
      I think you’ve got a good starting list. Check the 4 tiers above and add any programs with an attractive (not too large/urban) location. I’m biased toward Oregon so I would add Eugene. Penn State, Michigan State, Illinois all fit the bill. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere it’s important to find the right “fit” especially for a PhD. Look for a Professor who does the sort of work you want to do and try to make a connection to facilitate admission and funding.
      Best wishes!

  62. Shelly / October 22, 2015 at 11:19 pm / Reply

    Hey Justin,

    Excellent site! Thank you for posting such a hopeful list!
    I was wondering if you knew which schools offered a dual masters degree in international politics and geography (with a GIS specialization) ? Or if such an arrangement would even be possible?

    • Shelly / October 22, 2015 at 11:19 pm / Reply


    • Justin / October 23, 2015 at 6:05 pm / Reply

      Hi Shelly. Certainly possible. There would be several good options depending on regional interests and research preferences. Look for a professor you want to work with and perhaps identify Universities with both a geography department and an international studies or related program. Good to have a good pool of faculty to help you along the way. Good luck! Best, Justin

  63. Dale / November 2, 2015 at 10:51 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks again for this excellent site!

    I am an international student who majors in urban planning in Taiwan and, while I was in university, I had received some basic training of GIS. After I graduated, I went to a vocational training of Big Data analysis,topic ranging from basic coding skill, database, Linux and HDFS system.

    Now I am hoping to get a professional master, or master which is career-oriented, that focuses on both computer science and spatial analysis, especially spatial algorithm and statistic. Degrees in which I am interested are listed below:
    2.SUNY Buffalo(MSGIS-project option)
    3.UT Dallas(MSGIS-project option)
    4.Maine(MSSISE-project option)
    5.Geoge Mason(MSGeography-project option)

    However, I still have some questions.

    1.Are there any other programs that I miss?
    2. What’s the difference among those programs?(Based on your opinion, what is the top 3 programs that you would recommend)
    3.Based on my need, if there any thesis-required program that you would recommend?(UCSB,Ohio State?)

    Thanks for your time and effort.

    • Justin / November 4, 2015 at 12:05 pm / Reply

      Hi Dale,
      You should add Arizona State. Check my rankings but, of the programs listed here, I recommend Arizona State, Buffalo and Illinois. Dallas might be good too but only if you want to move toward the quantitative side of GIS. Yes, UCSB and Ohio State are excellent. So are many others. Again, check the rankings here. But, more importantly, look for a good individual fit with your objectives.
      Best wishes,

      • Dale / November 7, 2015 at 9:40 pm / Reply

        Hi Justin
        Thanks for your advice.
        There are two programs among Arizona State, MAS-GIS and MA, which one would you recommend?

        Best wishes,

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  65. Katie M / November 11, 2015 at 6:31 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks for sharing the information. I’m a senior in high school who wants to pursue geography in college. Do you have any advice for undergrad schools? Location or country doesn’t matter much (although I like the west), but a good program that has hands-on learning and field opportunities are important to me. If you know any private schools that are good for geography I’d appreciate your thoughts on that as well, although I’m open to public as well.

    • Justin / November 11, 2015 at 3:23 pm / Reply

      Hi Katie,
      So great to hear high school students considering studies/careers in geography. Some of the top private colleges with strong geography programs include Middlebury, Dartmouth, Clark and Macalester. Top public University programs in the West include Oregon, UC Santa Barbara, Arizona State and Colorado. But there are many others that would be excellent options. Don’t pursue the top ranked geography department at the expense of other important (lifestyle) factors. It’s important to learn from the best minds in the field but it’s more important to find a college campus where you will thrive.
      Best wishes,

      • Katie M / November 11, 2015 at 10:54 pm / Reply

        Thanks so much! I have a few more questions if you don’t mind. Do any of the following schools have a notable geography program that you’ve heard of? University of Washington, other Washington state schools like Western, WSU, or Evergreen, University of British Columbia, Syracuse University. One last thing, what are some main differences in the daily work of a geographer vs. a geologist? I know that they’re similar fields with definite distinctions, but I don’t understand what a geologist would do compared to a geographer in their job.

        • Justin / November 16, 2015 at 10:26 pm / Reply

          Hi Katie,
          Univ of Washington is notable for Human Geography but not for Physical Geography. I prefer programs with a good Physical/Human balance. I’ve heard great things about Western Washington Univ but don’t know anything first hand. Neither Washington State nor Evergreen has a geography department. UBC would be outstanding. Syracuse is similar to Univ Washington.
          Geographer vs Geologist is probably worthy of its own blog post. I can’t do it justice here. But, check this link for more info on what geographers do: http://www.aag.org/cs/what_geographers_do
          Hope this helps!

  66. Gaurav / November 17, 2015 at 5:35 am / Reply

    Hi Justine,

    I am from India and planning to apply for Geography PhD in USA this year. I have a masters degree in urban studies and about 2 years of post-masters work experience. I am interested in questions around power, territory and scales in urban governance. Currently, I am planning to apply at Ohio State University, Wisconsin Madison, and University of Washington. Could you please suggest, which other colleges might also be suitable for my research interests?


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  68. Moein / November 28, 2015 at 3:57 pm / Reply

    Dear Justin
    I am working on medical geography and my GRE is 307 what is your suggestion for universities
    I have already applied for University of Minnesota and Virginia Tech. Also I am studying for GRE again.

    • Justin / December 9, 2015 at 12:53 pm / Reply

      Hi Moein,

      I like the following programs for medical geography.

      North Carolina

      Best wishes,

  69. Rohit / December 3, 2015 at 2:25 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    I am an avid reader of your website which really fascinated me to a major extent about the spatial careers one can acquire by doing a masters degree. I have decide to do my masters program in Geospatial Information sciences in University of Texas Dallas. I also got an admit for it. Could you please tell me how far UTD is apt for me to do masters in GIS and acquire a good job in GIS domain. I hope you can also provide some inputs regarding the department reputation in UTD and other formal aspects which will be very helpful for me in deciding about the university.

  70. Andrew / December 31, 2015 at 5:07 pm / Reply

    I’d suggest checking out George Washington too! They have lots of connections to people (alumni, partnerships etc) in the DC area like foreign affairs (State Dept, EPA, USAID, military and intelligence community and so on), and with the humanitarian community, plus Arctic research. They’re doing a lot with OpenStreetMap too.

    • Justin / January 1, 2016 at 12:24 pm / Reply

      Hi Andrew,
      I agree! George Mason is another solid program in the DC area. Studying in or near the market where you hope to find employment is a great strategy. In fact, I think many students would do better to choose a lower ranked program in a region with lots of opportunity in their chosen field, especially students who want a terminal Master’s leading to a private sector gig. Washington DC and Denver are GIS “hot spots” making programs near these locations more attractive relative to prestigious programs further from the action. Same goes for programs in major economic hubs like LA, SF, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, etc.
      Best wishes,

  71. Asis / January 1, 2016 at 7:09 pm / Reply

    Halo Justin, nice information.
    How about the best university for geography education? I mean for educators in geography master program.

    • Justin / January 15, 2016 at 4:40 pm / Reply

      Hi Asis,
      Not really sure. If you’re already teaching and want a Master’s then I would think it would have to be local or completely on-line, limiting options substantially. If you’re mobile I would refer to the same list(s) to identify strong programs. Sorry I can’t be more helpful on this!
      Best wishes,

  72. Haley / January 15, 2016 at 5:52 am / Reply

    hi justin

    I am a PhD prospective international student. i want to go to a university in NY, However, my research interest is in the application of gis and remote sensing for military purposes. i already have a msc in envr. modelling, monitoring and reconstruction from the university of manchester, uk.

    which university will u suggest?

    • Justin / January 15, 2016 at 4:55 pm / Reply

      Hi Haley,
      I would look at George Mason, George Washington and Maryland. I recommend these three because they’re in the Washington DC Metro area and will provide the best access to careers in military/defense research.
      Best wishes,

  73. Shruti Dabas / January 17, 2016 at 9:14 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    You are great! Ive been following your blog for some years now. You are the only blogger with geography knowledge. No body else discusses it.

    I had a favour to ask, if you could share 2016 ranking for GIS colleges. Geography also as alot og GIS courses are online or not full time or evening classes, so people go for Geography and specialize in GIS.

    Best Regards

    • Justin / January 17, 2016 at 4:25 pm / Reply

      Hi Shruti!
      Thank you for the kind words. I am working on 2016 rankings and should have something posted soon – stay tuned!
      Best wishes,

  74. Mark / January 18, 2016 at 3:43 pm / Reply

    Hey Justin,

    Thank you for your time and effort in compiling this information each year.

    Do you have any idea which graduate programs would be best for the technical aspect of GIS? I need a degree that will place my skills on the cutting edge of technology to make me more marketable. Many GIS positions I see require the ability to use programming languages, create apps, and utilize web-based services. When I was in school, GIS wasn’t at this level. I don’t want to be left behind skills-wise.

    Does the University of Redlands offer the best advantage due to its ties to Esri? Their tuition is rather high.

  75. Vaishali / February 8, 2016 at 3:25 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin

    Thank for your list and the effort you take to update it every year.

    Can you please give some information on GIS online courses? I have a environmental background with a certificate in GIS from SJSU. Now I am looking for a online MS degree in GIS with a bit of emphasis on Environmental Science. The only universities I could come up with are Penn State (online) and Kent State(online). Can you please guide me, which one is better?
    Are there any other options that I can explore.

    Thanks in advance.

  76. Rohit / February 17, 2016 at 9:13 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    I have secured admission at University of Texas Dallas for Geospatial Information Sciences for Fall 2016. The tution fee is around 22,000 USD per year. Can you give a review of this programme at UTD as I am much interested in Spatial Analysis and programming side of GIS. Is this a good university for getting jobs in GIS public and private sectors.

    • Justin / February 21, 2016 at 6:59 pm / Reply

      Hi Rohit,
      Yes, there are other good options but UT-Dallas has an excellent faculty. You should ask them about recent graduate placement to get a better idea as to how well students are faring after graduation.
      Best wishes,

  77. ziqin / March 8, 2016 at 10:37 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    This is a extremely useful ranking and it helps me a lot. And I’m about to choose my master’s program. So I can’t wait to ask your suggestions.
    I have received the MS-GIS at University of Texas Dallas. and MS-GIST at Georgia Institute of Technology which is a one year program.
    Here are my thoughts:
    1, My interest mainly focus on GIScience and Spatial Analysis.
    2, I hope the school I choose can offer me a better employment opportunity since obtaining a promising job of GIS in US could be my first goal after I graduate.



    • Justin / March 9, 2016 at 10:49 am / Reply

      Hi Ziqin,
      Tough decision. Both would likely set you up for success.
      UT-Dallas faculty probably have greater expertise in spatial analysis albeit more theoretical (not certain).
      Georgia Tech is a far more prestigious University and their program looks solid, especially if you also have interests in Urban/Regional planning.
      Hope this helps! Good luck!
      Best wishes,

      • Ziqin Wang / March 15, 2016 at 8:38 am / Reply

        Thanks so much! I have a few more questions if you don’t mind. I just got another admission of Upenn in master of urban spatial analytics. It is a one year program. Do you have any advice on this program? Personally I don’t think the course is as solid as Getech.



      • Ziqin Wang / March 16, 2016 at 5:36 am / Reply

        Thanks so much! I have a few more questions if you don’t mind. I just got the admission of master in urban spatial analytics (MUSA) in Upenn. Is this a solid master program? The students there says that since this is a 9 mouth program, many of them have continued to pursued a Phd in other university. My concern is that this short term program may not be helpful when finding a job.

        • Justin / March 16, 2016 at 1:42 pm / Reply

          I don’t know too much about the program but I have worked with someone who attended the Urban Planning program and she was highly skilled in GIS and data analysis. I would give it a serious look. I don’t think 1yr vs 2yr would make a difference to a hiring manager.

  78. Ben / March 17, 2016 at 6:05 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin, any thoughts on the University of Missouri or University of Arkansas? Thats where I’ve got my Bachelor’s, and working on my MS. Mizzou has the GEOINT certification through USGIF and in some cases work with NGA. UARK has the Center for Advanced Spacial Technologies which work on a number of US and international projects.

    I’m considering a PHD in the near future but not quite sure where to look.

    • Justin / March 27, 2016 at 6:56 pm / Reply

      Hi Ben,
      I think they’re both solid programs but you’ll want to go one of the ranked programs on my list for a PhD. Unless you find the perfect faculty mentor at a less reputable program.
      Best wishes,

  79. Michael De Soto / April 10, 2016 at 3:42 pm / Reply

    This list is a complete joke! No where on here is there any mention of critical, political, sustainability, urban or economic geography! Additionally, you have failed to include UC Davis, which is one of the best schools for human and critical geography. Furthermore, I would not rank College Park so high, there are certainly geography departments which enjoy much greater prestige. Lastly, The University of Indiana at Bloomington, Iowa State University, among a few others, which are some of the best geography departments in the world. How did you derive the order for your list?

    • Justin / April 10, 2016 at 7:22 pm / Reply

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for submitting such a thoughtful comment.

      Did you notice these rankings are for “spatial” careers? Check the title. Here’s a link to a separate blog post on the topic to give you an idea of what I mean by spatial careers:

      For the careers most of my readers are seeking you need to learn to think spatially and develop 21st century technology skills, among other things. The programs you think of as missing from this list probably tend to emphasize social theory, which is great if you want to be a sociology professor, but not terribly useful if you want a graduate degree that leads to a paying job in the private sector.

      Perhaps you’re looking for a ranking of graduate programs focusing on social theory? Were you hoping to recognize your alma mater where you learned to “deconstruct” various “isms” and “unpack” overly verbose jargon? Sorry to disappoint.

      You see, somewhere along the way, people like you forgot the meaning and nature of geography and decided to discard both the “geo” and the “graphic” elements. What’s left isn’t really geography at all. And those who practice such nonsense aren’t really geographers.

      So, as it turns out, the joke’s on you.

      Best wishes,

  80. Haoyu / April 15, 2016 at 1:04 pm / Reply

    Hello Justin,

    I’ve been visiting your site for months, and I have to say that you provided me with a huge help during the application process. I’m wondering if you could guide me in regard of school choosing? I recently got offer from UIUC and ASU, when I was about to accept ASU’s offer, I talked with a new recruit faculty in my school who just graduated from ASU last year. She said she would not suggest going to ASU if I’m planning to seek job after graduation, because of the city Phoenix relies more on hospital, there isn’t much GIS related opportunities. Plus, the icon of the department Luc Anselin left ASU last year, so she thinks ASU is no longer worth to go. Do you have any idea if this is true? Would you still recommend ASU if you write an guide for 2016 GIS programs?

    I also applied for UT-Dallas and Clark. UT-Dallas needs my final transcript before they can make any decisions( I am an international student, haven’t take TOEFL because most of US school waives TOEFL if I earned bachelor degree in a US institution.). Clark University sent me an email saying that their program coordinator will be contacting me, but haven’t heard back from them yet.

    Since the last day to accept UIUC’s offer is May 11th. Do you think I should wait for Clark University to respond me?

    Thank you very much for reading this comment. Have a nice weekend! Again, Thank you for making this wonderful site.


    • Justin / April 17, 2016 at 1:55 pm / Reply

      Hi Haoyu,
      I hadn’t heard about Anselin’s departure but ASU has a deep bench and it will still be a strong program. That said, Illinois would be an excellent choice too. Your decision depends on too many factors for me to point you in any particular direction. If it were me, I’d go to Illinois and take advantage of their world class computer science department and the geography department’s relationship with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Chicago is a short train ride away and should offer plenty of job opportunities.
      Best wishes,

  81. Sam / April 21, 2016 at 5:45 pm / Reply

    Dear Justin,

    First I want to thank you for all your efforts. Your site is very informative. I am wondering if you can help me choosing between Clark and UT Dallas. Both universities gave me admission for a PhD position and I am confused to choose between them.
    My research interest match both universities. However personally I am more biased towards Dallas based on the technical courses they are offering for the computational geometry focus. On the other hand Clark is developing IDRISI which can give me a good experience in developing raster-based algorithms. Both PhD positions come with a TA package but the offer from Clark is more secure financially. So based on the faculty, reputation of the program and chances of finding a proper job after completing the program, do you have any suggestions which one of the schools should I choose.


    • Justin / April 21, 2016 at 9:38 pm / Reply

      Hi Sam,
      You can’t go wrong here. I think it comes down to two fairly simple questions:
      (1) Who do you want to work with most?
      (2) Where do you want to live?
      As I’ve written previously, the right faculty advisor is critical to a successful PhD campaign. Who would you like to work with most? If the professor you want to learn from is at Clark, go to Clark. If they’re in Dallas, go to Dallas.
      You will probably end up living in this place for several years so it’s not a trivial consideration. Clark would be great because it has a wonderful tradition in geography plus Boston is a technology hub and you’ll have access to great opportunities. On the other hand, as you mentioned, Dallas seems to have developed a very robust curriculum in spatial analysis and geocomputation and Dallas winters would be a lot milder.
      Football-wise you’re screwed either way. I can’t think of two more obnoxious teams than the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. 🙂
      Good luck with the decision. A difficult choice like this is a good problem to have.
      Best wishes,

    • Prabhat / September 20, 2016 at 11:38 am / Reply

      Hello Sam.I am a prospective PhD Student and currently i am doing masters in Earth System Science in Germany.I am planning to apply to some of the graduate schools for the fall of next year.Since you got admissions with funding in two good graduate schools i would like to know your profile(GPA, GRE and pubs) to get an idea of what it takes to get into a good grad school.

  82. Korab / April 27, 2016 at 12:38 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    First of all I must say that I love your blog and the effort you put to answer every question brought here from the students, thus I know for sure that you will answer mine too.

    My question is: Which would you consider as best grad schools for GIS but that have a huge focus on either Urban Planning or Urban Studies?
    I ask this question because I want to pursue a masters in that field and your suggestions would help me when it comes to decide for which to apply.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Justin / April 27, 2016 at 8:24 am / Reply

      Hi Korab, Check out Arizona State – it’s perfect for what you want to do. Best, JH

      • Korab / June 8, 2016 at 4:12 am / Reply

        Hi Justin,

        Since ASU is perfect but I couldn’t get an offer from them , I got two others instead and they are: Master of Science in Geographic Information Science program at California State University Long Beach and the other Master of Science in Geography program at the University of Arkansas!

        I would like to know which one based to your knowledge on the subject matter fits the needs for GIS with the focus on urban planning.

        • Justin / June 13, 2016 at 10:35 am / Reply

          Hi Korab,
          I think both are pretty good options. I would make the decision based on where you want to live. If you like the idea of living in Los Angeles go to Long Beach; if you prefer the Southeast go to Arkansas. If you don’t have a preference one way or the other I would choose Arkansas because it’s a larger University with more resources to offer.
          Best wishes,

  83. Pingback: Geography Graduate Programs – Zach Coomes' Map Blog

  84. Anna-Barbara / June 6, 2016 at 4:20 am / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    thank you very much for this compliation, I can only guess how much time it takes to do the necessary research. As I am not familiar with the US education system I do have several questions that you might help to clarify.

    I am looking for a university that’s best for PhD in social and/ or political geography. Would you know about a renowned one?
    Do you know whether most universities start their PhD programmes just once a year? Unfortunately I missed the December deadline for the coming fall semester for most universities and waiting for another 1,5 years does not sound overly attractive. Maybe there are universities indeed that start their programmes twice a year?
    As for the admission: I hold a Master of Science Geography, specialised in Human Geography with a very good score (i.e. First class/ “A”/1.0 in several systems) from a German university. Now I know of people who are admitted to a Geography PhD programme and funding, although they do not hold a Master, but “only” a Bachelor, and neither have studied geography before! Do you know which personal references the universities hence draw upon to decide who to take in and who not? I’d be glad to have some more info on that to estimate my chances.

    Thank you very much!

    Best regards from Germany.

    Anna-Barbara Heindl

  85. Rohit Venkat Gandhi / June 12, 2016 at 7:32 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    I have recieved admissions from two Universities. One being the University of Texas at Dallas in USA and the other one being University of Twente, (ITC Netherlands). Can you please let me know which university more concentrates on GIS and its development and analysis part. The computer science and programming concepts of GIS are majored well in which university?. My main focus is to be ready for both the IT and GIS industry right after my graduation. Please let me know which one is the best option to accomplish my goal

    • Justin / June 13, 2016 at 10:16 am / Reply

      Hi Rohit. Congrats on admission! I don’t know anything about Twente but UT-Dallas seems to have a very solid technical program. You may want to go out of your way to take computer science coursework along with the GIS/geography requirements. Best wishes, Justin

      • Danish / August 24, 2016 at 10:33 pm / Reply

        But UTDallas it a very expensive one. I assume, the total tuition fee fro two years program is around 50k. so be cautious in choosing the university.

  86. George / September 1, 2016 at 12:29 pm / Reply

    Hi Justin,

    Your guides have helped me tremendously to narrow down my choices. This is the situation: I have obtained a 5 years Bsc in Rural & Surveying Engineering from National Technical University of Athens. I have been accepted for a MSc. in Environment & Urban Planning in NTUA. I plan to apply for admission in a MSc./MA program in US for September 2017. So, my main area of study is the 3D GIS. More specifically, 3D Modeling, BIM, CityGML Standard, PostgreSQL/Oracle spatial databases are fields of my research. I have participated in 3 conferences (9,10,11th 3D GeoInfo Conference) with four peer reviewed full papers. Nevertheless, i am familiar with GIS from my BSc and soon from the MSc that I have been admitted to. My initial intention is to participate in a second Master’s program that aims completely at GIS, although I am interested for a more applied GIS Program. Afterwards, I would like to pursue a PhD in the field of 3D Geomatics. My research interests are in the field of transportation, environment and urban development. I would like to ask now a couple questions:

    1)I have narrowed down the targeted universities to the following: U. of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, Georgia Institute of Technology, U. of NC Chappell-Hill, U. of Colorado Boulder. I am still not sure about Clark, U. of Tennesee Knoxville and ASU. Do you think that any of them might be a good fit?

    2)Would you advise me pehraps to apply striaght for a PhD? I am not sure how the system works, but I have been informed that it is possible for the first year to participate in a Masters as well.

    3)I was wondering, if you could advise me a little bit more specifically, for a university that I could fit in since 3D Geomatics is an even more special field, than GIS in general.

    I hope I was not much of a trouble. I am counting on your help though!

    Kind Regards,


    • Justin / September 6, 2016 at 10:02 am / Reply

      Hi George,
      1) The programs you list here are all good but I would favor Illinois and Arizona State given your interests. You might also check out UPenn’s (and other) Urban Planning programs with strong GIS components.
      2) Yes, if PhD is your ultimate objective then go straight for it. Some programs may want you to start with a Master’s but if you can gain admission to a PhD program then I think that’s a better path.
      3) I don’t know much about 3D geomatics. In the US geomatics isn’t a term that’s used as frequently as I see it being used in Canada and Europe. Because of that you might want to investigate some programs in Canada or the UK.
      Good luck with your campaign! Persistence is the key to success.
      Best wishes,

      • George / September 24, 2016 at 11:16 am / Reply

        Hello Justin,

        thank you very much for your answer. I had been a little busty studying for the TOEFL/GRE exams. I passed TOEFL with a great score and soon I will have finished the GRE test as well. Regarding your comments, I still have a few questions:

        1)Every university recommends to have an advisor. Well, for me living in Greece, I think is the hardest thing to achieve. I have read your article regarding the approach to the faculty. I was wondering if there are any extra tips that might help me.

        2)I am already checking in Canada. I am not interested for a Master’s in 3DGIS, but my PhD would like to cover this field as well. Thing is, I am not yet fully aware of the exact topic of my PhD. I was hoping that through my masters i could reach that point eventually. This is the reason I am a little doubtful about applying straight to PhD, if my statements is a little vague concerning my PhD specific area of field, isnt it more likely for me to be rejected?

        Once again, thank you for your time.

        Kind Regards,


        • Justin / September 25, 2016 at 11:36 am / Reply

          Hi George,
          Yes, if you don’t know what you want to do for research it will be more difficult to gain admission to a phd program. From Greece your only option is to make contact via email. You might also consider attending the next AAG meeting in Boston. That way you could meet faculty from all over in one place. Hope this helps.
          Best wishes,

  87. farfar / September 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm / Reply

    dear justin
    would you please guide me to find the top 10 unversity in germany for geographic information system and remote sensing or any other field of geomatic engineering
    I am searching there but i couldnt find the best academicaly
    i ll be really appreciate



    • Justin / September 25, 2016 at 11:31 am / Reply

      I’m not familiar with any of the programs in Germany. You might want to consider ETH Zurich: http://www.ikg.ethz.ch/en/
      Best wishes,

  88. Maggie Domingo / September 26, 2016 at 1:15 pm / Reply

    Hi, Justin.

    I would like to start off by saying I have been reading many of your posts, and they have been helping me a lot. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    I am currently an undergrad at CSU Channel Islands in California for environmental science and resource management. I have taken an intro to GIS class and will be taking intermediate GIS (the only two GIS courses at my school) this upcoming spring. I have decided to focus my career after I graduate in spring 2017 on GIS. Since that decision, I have begun independent research with my professor from intro to GIS and researching grad school information. However, I am at a loss as to which school and program to choose. I am leaning more towards an online certificate program; I just want to be able to show a potential employer that I can work within ArcGIS proficiently. My hesitation with any online program though is that I am worried that they would not “flow” as well as an on-campus program. I want to make sure that the curriculum learned each during class builds off of the previous material versus bouncing around from concept to concept with no correlation between the concepts.

    What is your input? Am I looking at this all wrong?

    Maggie Domingo

    • Justin / September 27, 2016 at 12:12 pm / Reply

      Hi Maggie,

      No, I think you’re on the right track. And, I think you’re right to be concerned about how much you’ll get out of an online program. That said, many online programs are pretty well battle-tested at this point. I cringe a little bit when I hear you say your primary objective is to demonstrate ArcGIS proficiency. Knowing how to use ArcGIS won’t be sufficient to sustain a career. Have you read my series of “Spatial Career” posts? http://www.justinholman.com/2012/03/28/spatial-career-guide-for-undergrads-currently-studying-gis/

      You might want to check it out to better identify a path, within GIS, that you want to pursue.

      Best wishes,

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