2020-2021 Graduate Catalog

Geographic Information Science, M.S.

CIP: 450702



Program Admission Requirements

Applicants seeking admission to the M.S. in Geographic Information Science program must meet the following requirements:

1. Compliance with all of the eligibility requirements of the Graduate School as set forth in this catalog.

2. Acceptance to graduate study by the Associate Provost of Graduate Studies and Special Programs. 

3. Completion of a four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university with an undergraduate grade point average of 2.75 on a 4.00 scale.

4. Minimum verbal plus quantitative GRE score of 286. Students not meeting this score must maintain a 3.00 average for the first nine hours of graduate credit before admission to candidacy. GRE scores must be on file in the Graduate Office before a student’s application for admission will be evaluated. The GRE will be waived for applicants with a graduate degree (Master’s or higher) from an accredited institution, for those who have earned the graduate GIScience certificate at Northwest, and for those with one year of documented full-time GIS professional work experience or three years of documented full-time professional work experience in any field.


The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences reserves the right of final decision in accepting students to graduate degree candidacy in the department. Criteria for admittance to the program and acceptance to degree candidacy may include academic qualifications and performance, letters of recommendation, number of applicants, and available resources.

General Requirements and Policies for M.S. in Geographic Information Science

  1.  All requirements of the Graduate School must be met.
  2. Completion of 30 credit hours of approved graduate credit (courses numbered 500 or above) is required.
  3. Fifteen credit hours must be 600-level or above.
  4. A minimum grade point average of 3.00 in all graduate work is required for graduation.
  5. A grade of “B” or better must be earned in all courses that are prerequisites to other courses.
  6. No more than six credit hours of “C” grades may be applied toward the master’s degree.
  7.  All courses for the M.S degree must be completed within an eight-year period beginning with the date of the first course taken for the M.S. degree.
  8.  A maximum of six advisor-approved credit hours may be taken outside the department.


A member of the Graduate Faculty of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences will serve as the major advisor.  The major advisor must approve any changes to the student’s Degree Audit by notifying the Graduate Office.

Research Component

All M.S. in Geographic Information Science students must complete a research component, involving 6 hours toward the 30 hours degree. Through the completion of these 6 hours, students will demonstrate their ability on identifying research objectives or research questions, performing a literature review, searching suitable and usable spatial data, conducting a research project, drawing appropriate conclusions, and presenting findings. 

Required Core Courses

GEOG 32602Principles of GIS


GEOG 32543Applications of Remotely Sensed Data


GEOG 32582Cartographic Design and Visualization


Required Research Component

GEOG 32680GIScience Research Seminar


Electives (Choose 15 hours)

GEOG 32608Fundamentals of GeoStatistics


GEOG 32611Special Topics in Geographic Information Science

1 to 3

GEOG 32615Geographic Foundations of Geospatial Intelligence


GEOG 32620GIS Theory and Research


GEOG 32630Raster-based GIS and Modeling


GEOG 32641Geoprocessing with Python


GEOG 32642Internet GIS


GEOG 32650GIS Database Design


GEOG 32655GIS Project Management


GEOG 32660Trends in GIS


GEOG 32663Digital Image Processing


Advisor approved electives


Total Credit Hours:30

Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s Program

This program allows outstanding students to concurrently pursue a Bachelor’s degree (B.S.) in either Geographic Information Science or Geography and a Master of Science degree in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) and to complete graduation requirements for both degrees within five years. It works by allowing undergraduate students in the accelerated program to complete 15 credit hours of graduate coursework, which will count towards both their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, in their junior and senior years. Students can complete the remaining 15 hours of graduate coursework in the two semesters of the fifth year.

Admission Requirements for the Accelerated Program:

The GIScience graduate committee or coordinator will review applications to assess whether the applicants meet these requirements:

  1. Students must be currently pursuing a B.S. with a major in Geographic Information Science or Geography at Northwest or transferring into one of these programs from another accredited institution within the United States.
  2. Students must apply for admission to the program no sooner than the end of the sophomore year (at least 60 hours of graded courses) and no later than the beginning of the final semester of their undergraduate program.  (Students who begin the accelerated program in their final undergraduate semester will have to complete summer coursework in order to finish the M.S. by the end of the fifth year.)
  3. Students must submit their transcripts, a writing sample, and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member in a relevant discipline to the Graduate School.
  4. Students must also have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 and a minimum major GPA of 3.3.  Students with a slightly lower GPA may be considered for conditional admittance to the program with a strong writing sample and recommendation letter.
  5. Applicants must satisfy all of the eligibility requirements of the Graduate School as outlined in the Graduate Catalog at the beginning of the fifth year.


Students are not eligible to apply to the accelerated program after they are awarded a Bachelor’s degree but can still apply for the traditional GIScience M.S. program.  Students who are not admitted to the accelerated program may reapply later and/or apply for the traditional program.

Advising for Courses in the Junior and Senior Years:

  1. The accelerated program will begin after a student is admitted to it. Students can enroll in graduate courses only after the sophomore year (60 graded hours).
  2. The students’ undergraduate academic advisors and the GIScience graduate coordinator will assist them in developing a plan for enrolling in classes to complete both degrees within a five-year time frame.  The GIScience graduate coordinator will approve the plan.
  3. During the junior or senior years, a student may take graduate courses under the following conditions:

a.  Students can enroll in 500- and 600-level courses for undergraduate and graduate dual credit.

b.  Students may take a maximum of 3 hours of graduate credit per semester during the junior year with no more than 16 total credit hours.

c.  Students may take a maximum of 6 hours of graduate credit per semester during the senior year with no more than 16 total credit hours.

d.  The graduate coordinator and the associate provost of graduate studies may approve exceptions to the maximum credit hours.

e.  Earned undergraduate credits cannot be retroactively applied as graduate credit.


Advising during the Fifth Year:

  1. The GIScience graduate coordinator will be the primary advisor for all fifth-year students.
  2. Students will complete the M.S. degree by fulfilling the degree requirements as stated in the graduate catalog.

Degree Status:

  1. Students are awarded a B.S. degree as soon as those degree requirements are completed and are then admitted as candidates for the M.S. degree.
  2. Students are awarded an M.S, degree in GIScience as soon as their M.S. requirements are completed.
  3. For the purposes of financial aid and scholarships, students are considered to be undergraduates until the B.S. degree is awarded and graduate students thereafter.  Students are eligible for graduate assistantships after receiving the B.S. degree but not before.