What are the course requirements for the online Certificate in GIS and the Master of Science in GIS programs at Johns Hopkins?

There are two online GIS programs at Johns Hopkins University. The first is a graduate certificate in GIS, which explores the many facets of GIS. Students choose 5 out of 6 courses in the certificate program. These courses include Web Mapping, Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Spatial Data Analysis, Geospatial Data Modeling, and Development and Management of GIS Projects. These 5 courses can be completed in as little as one year. Each course is equivalent to 4 academic credits.

The Master of Science in GIS builds upon the certificate program to include advanced studies in GIS system architecture. The 5 out of 6 courses that comprise the certificate are also the core courses of the Master of Science degree program. In addition to the core courses, students are required to complete 4 additional elective courses plus a Capstone project as the end of the program. For the Capstone project, students select a qualified mentor who  guides and assists them in developing the project. The Capstone project requires the student to develop a research problem, identify the data necessary to address the problem, devise the modeling or analytic approach used to investigate the problem, and then present a research paper detailing their approach, findings, recommendations, conclusions, and avenues for further research.

What is the emphasis of the GIS program?

The online GIS programs at Johns Hopkins are focused on educating the next generation of GIS practitioners with the skills, tools, analytical, and management capabilities needed to succeed in this lucrative but highly competitive field. The job opportunities of GIS are many (please see the Bureau of Labor Statistics job prospects for Geospatial technologists at onetonline.org) and most require advanced training in the technologies of the new web such as cloud computing, social media, and Big Data. These new technologies are the very framework in which we build our courses and train our students.

What are the undergraduate or professional backgrounds of students accepted into the GIS programs?

Our students come from diverse backgrounds and a variety of undergraduate degrees. We have students with backgrounds in the social and natural sciences, including geography, geology,  environmental sciences or studies, economics, public policy, and public health. We even have a few artists who have a background in cartography and geospatial data visualization!

What happens if I do not have the prerequisite courses required for admissions to the GIS programs?

There are two prerequisite courses necessary for consideration of admission to either the certificate program or the Master’s degree. Students need to successfully complete at least one semester of undergraduate Calculus and one semester of undergraduate Statistics. Students who have not yet completed these prerequisites can apply to the program and be accepted as provisional students with the requirement that these courses be completed within the first year of enrollment at an institution of their choice. Students would need to earn a grade of B or better in these courses. A recommended alternative is for students to enroll in the Quantitative Methods for Environmental Sciences course offered through the Environmental Sciences and Policy Program at Johns Hopkins, a course that combines undergraduate calculus and statistics. Students must earn a grade of B or better in their prerequisite course(s). Students may also take the Math Placement exam offered through Johns Hopkins. This is a one-time exam that tests  the necessary elements of calculus and statistics necessary to succeed in the program. A student must receive a passing grade of 80% or better to waive the course prerequisites.

Do I need to have a background in programming to successfully complete the programming courses offered in the GIS programs?

No, in fact the structure of programming in GIS is known as object-oriented programming and does not require you to learn a whole programming language in order to develop custom tools or Web-based applications. Our instructors carefully and thoroughly walk you through the basics of Python and JavaScript Web APIs so that you will be programming from the very beginnings of the courses.

What does an academic year look like for a student in the GIS program?

The online GIS programs at Johns Hopkins are offered throughout the academic year, which includes Spring, Summer, and Fall semesters. These semesters are 14 weeks in duration. For any semester, course materials, including recorded lectures, reading assignments, homework assignments, demonstrations, and discussions are all posted online in a highly interactive Blackboard Learning Management System. Various multimedia are used for recording presentations and software demonstrations which serve as rich visual tools for learning. Students are encouraged to learn as many different types of media to present their work. Students can start the program during any semester. Please note that not all courses are offered every semester; a two year course plan is posted on the website.

What kinds of software are used in the GIS programs?

We use as many different kinds of GIS software as possible to expose our students to as broad a base of GIS capabilities as possible. Our principal software for GIS is the Esri platform (ArcGIS for Desktop, ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS for Server) but we go beyond other programs to expose our students to a totally different GIS experience. Our students work with Google Earth Professional, FME Desktop and FME Server, Envi, as well as many freeware packages such as Protégé, R, CMAP, GeoDA, and CrimeStat. We want our students to be able to work on any platform in any environment.

Can I waive courses or substitute courses in the GIS program?

Yes you can waive courses in the GIS program if you have taken an Introduction to Geographic Information Systems or Remote Sensing courses at the undergraduate or graduate level, or have equivalent knowledge gained through employment or other means. Please note that any waived course would have to be substituted by another elective from the GIS programs.

Upon review, we can also allow substitution of courses for ones offered in a particular discipline here at Johns Hopkins (for example the Introduction to GIS in Environmental Engineering or Introduction to Spatial Epidemiology offered in the School of Public Health). Please keep in mind that GIS courses offered through other schools at Johns Hopkins may not be entirely online and may require permission of the instructor.

I want to switch from the Certificate in GIS to the MSc in GIS, is this possible?

Yes this is possible, provided you are in good standing in the program. You do need to formally request the change and your request will be evaluated before approval. Please complete the Change of Program application form and follow the directions on how to forward your request.

I have already taken a class in the program but need to take a leave of absence for at least a semester. Is this permitted and how do I request this?

Yes this is permitted. Please go to the ‘Current Student’ tab on the top, scroll down to ‘Forms’ and then find the link to ‘Leave of Absence Request Form.’ Complete this online form and submit.

What hardware and system requirements are necessary to be enrolled in the program?

To be enrolled in the program, the students need internet connectivity to access course materials and to communicate with the instructors and other students. The minimum Memory/RAM requirement is 4GB, but 8GB or higher is recommended. CPU Speed at the minimum should be 2.2 GHz, Hyper-threading or multi-core is recommended. Disk space requirements may vary depending on the courses taken, but the recommendation is to have at least 30-40 GB for software installs and data. Optimal Hardware requirements are listed here.

Note: Most of the GIS software we utilize in classes runs on Windows OS. We have students who have successfully completed the programs using Mac, but please note that you will need to have an environment that simulates Windows (Parallels/Bootcamp/VMware Fusion, etc.)

I would like to take a course outside of the GIS Program to be counted as an elective, is this permitted?

This is permitted upon approval by your advisor. Students can take up to 2 courses outside of the GIS program in an area they are interested in. These courses would be counted toward the elective requirements. Please contact your advisor for permission and further information.

I am new to the GIS field, is this the right program for me?

We have a lot of incoming students with no prior GIS experience. Our core courses, especially AS.430.600 Web Mapping and AS.430.601 Geographic Information Systems, are designed for students with no prior experience. For such students, it is recommended that they take those two courses first, and then proceed with the rest of the core courses and electives.

I have been admitted provisionally and need take the required courses in order to enter the program. Will this impact the amount of financial aid I receive?

It depends on the type of provision. The Financial Aid office will work with you on a case-by-case basis to develop an individualized plan.

Does JHU accept the Post 911 GI Bill as a form of Financial Aid?

Yes, all of our programs are approved for VA educational benefits. Please visit the Office of the Registrar Veterans page for further information.

I am a potential international student residing in a foreign country. Does the GIS Program offer F1 visa?

Since we are a fully online program, we do not offer F1 visas. Please visit the International Applicants page for further information.

State-specific Information for Online Programs

Note: Students should be aware of state-specific information for online programs. For more information, please contact an admissions representative.