UCLA Extension's GIS and Geospatial Technology Certificate Program, created in partnership with the UCLA Department of Geography, is an entry-level program designed to help students with little to no formal GIS training or work experience develop the skills necessary to either integrate GIS into an existing career or find an entry-level GIS job.
Geospatial @ UCLA, in partnership with UCLA Extension, offers a fully online certificate program in geographic information systems (GIS) and technology. This fully-online, one-year certificate program provides a comprehensive introduction to state-of-the-art methods and techniques within the field of geographic information systems (GIS) and geospatial technology. All courses are designed to accommodate the schedules of working professionals. and no prior GIS experience is required or assumed. Participants who complete the program can expect to be sufficiently prepared for an entry-level job in GIS and/or related geospatial industries.
Upon completion of the certificate program, students will have learned:
- A greater appreciation for geography and increased spatial awareness;
- The ability to ask higher-order geographic questions and to solve advanced geographically-based problems;
- Data collection, spatial analysis and data processing skills;
- Proficiency with working with spatial data and geographic information systems (GIS);
- How to make maps with GIS;
- Computing, problem-solving, and project management skills that will be of use throughout your academic career and in the geospatial technology industry.
The total cost of the certificate program tuition and fees is $9,650. This includes 21 quarter credit hours priced at $450/credit and a $200 certificate candidacy fees. Tuition is paid by course upon registration; the total cost is not due upfront.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How do I enroll in the certificate program?
Enrolling in the certificate program for the first time involves two steps: (1) registering for GEOG XL 7: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, which is the gateway course to the certificate program, and (2) declaring certificate candidacy. No formal application process is required given that this program is structured as an open enrollment program.
- Enroll in GEOG XL 7: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Enrollment in GEOG XL 7 can be completed fully online from the link above. Click "Add to Cart" and proceed through the registration process. Full payment of the course's tuition ($2,250) is required upon registration, but tuition is fully refundable until one week after the beginning of each course.
- Declare Certificate Candidacy (any time after enrolling)
You may declare yourself as a certificate candidate at any time after enrolling in the Introduction to GIS course. This entitles you to certain benefits and establishes you as a student formally seeking the certificate. Note that this process may be completed at any time after enrolling and does not need to be completed upfront. More information about certificate candidacy is available here.
Who should enroll in the certificate program?
The certificate program is an entry-level GIS certificate program designed for anyone looking to get started in the fields of GIS and geospatial technology. No prior knowledge of GIS or practical experience with GIS is assumed or required. Students who complete the certificate program are prepared to (1) find an entry-level GIS job and/or (2) integrate GIS into their existing professional environments.
The program is ideal for early career professionals seeking a competitive edge in a variety of fields, as well as mid-career and late-career professionals seeking to augment or update their existing competencies with highly marketable GIS techniques.
What are the admissions criteria for the certificate program?
The certificate program is an open enrollment program, meaning that any interested prospective students can enroll in the program regardless of previous educational experience.
What is the cost of the certificate program?
The total cost of the certificate program's tuition and fees is $9,650.
Of this total, tuition accounts for $9,450. The courses in the program constitute 21 quarter credit hours in total, and tuition is set at $450/credit. Tuition and fees are the same for California residents, out-of-state students, and international students. Also included in the total is a certificate candidacy fee ($200). Tuition is paid by course upon individual course registration, so the total cost of the program is spread out over the time in which you are enrolled in the program.
The total cost to get started in the program is $2,250 -- the total tuition for the program's gateway course, GEOG XL 7: Introduction to GIS. Some students also choose to declare certificate candidacy upfront, which carries a fee of $200.
How long does it take to complete the certificate program, and what coursework is required?
Five fully online courses are required for the certificate program. All five courses are required and no other electives may be substituted in place of these required courses. The required courses are:
- GEOG XL 7: Introduction to GIS (offered every quarter)
- GEOG XL 180: Cartography (offered every Winter and Summer quarter)
- GEOG XL 181A: Intermediate GIS (offered every Spring and Fall quarter)
- GEOG XL 181B: Advanced GIS (offered every Spring and Fall quarter)
- GEOG X 191C: GIS Databases and Enterprise GIS (offered every Winter and Summer quarter)
Introduction to GIS is a five-credit course, and all others are four credit courses. Courses are credit-bearing and credits are transferrable to any institutions that accept transfer credit from UCLA. Courses can be applied toward the certificate program or may be taken individually.
Will I be earning transferrable UCLA course credit?
Yes -- all of the courses in the certificate program are accredited and approved by the UCLA Academic Senate as credit-bearing courses. Courses carry both lower-division (Intro) and upper-division (all other courses) undergraduate credit.
What are the courses like?
All courses are online and flexibly scheduled, with weekly deadlines providing structure. We strike the right balance between flexibility and structure: we move through course content together as a cohort, but when you review the content and complete the required activities each week is up to you. No synchronous online or in-person meetings are required.
Weekly activities include:
- Reviewing video lectures, technical screencasts, and readings;
- Completing practical assignments involving the use of GIS methods to address real-world scenarios;
- Self-assessment using automated non-graded quizzes; and more.
No high-stakes exams are required: all activities are project-based and centered around practical applications of GIS techniques. Weekly practical assignments are the cornerstone of the program's structure. These assignments are not the typical step-by-step GIS software tutorials: they encourage critical thinking and problem solving, and completing the projects helps in the development of intuitive mastery of GIS tools and methods.
How much time do I need to set aside for coursework?
Students report spending an average of 10 hours per week, per course on completing coursework for this program -- however, this is just an average. Those students who consider themselves to be very proficient with the professional use of computers tend to move more quickly through assignments and activities, while students with more limited computer proficiency often require more time each week. Student workloads tend to be highest in the Intro course as well as when students choose to take multiple courses concurrently.
Since the courses are fully online, how are students supported?
We make every effort to ensure that students in the certificate program feel supported. On-demand course content provides everything you need to successfully complete all course activities, but your instructors and the program's administration regularly hold office hours. Office hours are provided at the UCLA campus, online, and by phone. Students and instructors also frequently engage in stimulating conversation in discussion forums integrated within each course module.
What computer hardware and software is required?
Students are required to have access to a suitable personal computer with a reliable Internet connection that is capable of supporting streaming video. Use of low-bandwidth Internet connections is discouraged.
Students will be provided with no-cost access to all required GIS software while enrolled in the certificate program. This includes full access to a student version of ArcGIS Pro. Any proprietary software provided within the scope of this program may not be used for any non-academic purposes.
Personal computers must be capable of running Windows 10 (or higher), be capable of running Intel-compatible (x86/x64) software and have at least 8GB of RAM. We do not provide computers or require that students purchase a specific computer.
ArcGIS is a Windows-only application, but contrary to conventional wisdom, it is possible to use a Mac for GIS. However, this requires some additional configuration: Mac users will have to use virtualization software to run Windows and ArcGIS within a virtual machine. Mac users may also need to purchase a Windows license.
Software installation instructions and support are provided within each course, and program advisors are happy to advise students about computer purchases or the suitability of their hardware.
Do I have to sign in at a specific time for course meetings?
No -- our courses are asynchronous, meaning that students are free to work on course-related activities at any time that is convenient and optimal for their individual schedules. However, students are expected to meet a series of weekly deadlines.
When can I get started in the certificate program?
We offer one start date per academic quarter, so there are four opportunities to start in the program each calendar year. Each year, we offer start dates at the following approximate times:
- Winter quarter (early-mid January)
- Spring quarter (early April)
- Summer quarter (early July)
- Fall quarter (early-mid October)
GEOG XL 7: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to fundamental principles and concepts behind the use and application of geographic information systems (GIS). Students will learn how to think spatially, become familiar with information technology, produce maps, communicate effectively using spatial information, and conduct data analysis with GIS. Instruction is techniques-oriented, focusing heavily on practical applications of GIS methods and practices using the industry-standard ArcGIS software platform. All course exercises situate GIS within both its practical and economic context. Key concepts and ideas are reinforced through practical assignments and activities with GIS.
GEOG XL 168: Intermediate Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
This course reinforces and introduces additional key geographic concepts and techniques related to the theory and application of geographic information systems (GIS). Topics such as geographic coordinate systems, geoprocessing, raster processing and analysis, digitizing, and various types of spatial analysis are given in-depth treatment during this intensive seminar. Spatial data literacy, data formats, and data manipulation practices are also emphasized. Students are trained in the use of both open-source (QGIS) and commercial (Esri's ArcGIS for Desktop) GIS software platforms. In addition to exposing students to the variety of settings and situations in which such GIS techniques are used, students will also learn how to implement such techniques.
GEOG XL 181B: Advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
This course is a project-based exploration of advanced topics in GIS and geospatial technology, with a focus upon spatial data management, modeling, advanced spatial analysis and geoprocessing, spatial data manipulation, and geocomputation. Emphasis is placed upon extensibility of GIS software, including the structure, development, modification, and installation of both third party and custom data processing models and extensions for both ArcGIS and QGIS. Applied training in GIS project management is introduced and is foundational to the courses project-based approach.
GEOG XL 167: Cartography
This course introduces the methods, techniques and considerations behind geographic data visualization, GIS mapping, and communicating using maps. The first part of the course covers the basic concepts and techniques involved in communicating with maps and cartography. We will explore constructing narratives using maps with Esri's ArcGIS Story Map platform. The second part of the course covers best practices for cartographic design, specifically generalization, representation, typography, classification, color, and symbology. We will engage with cartographic design using ArcGIS Desktop, the leading commercial desktop GIS platform. The third part of the course focuses on data science and the cartographic process, and in particular, considerations surrounding data visualization strategies and Web based mapping technologies. Practical applications are provided throughout the course.
GEOG X 191C: GIS Databases and Enterprise GIS
This course introduces concepts and techniques associated with the design, development, and management of geospatial databases, including databases used in shared and scalable enterprise GIS platforms. In addition to learning about relational database theory and design, students will construct and maintain spatially enabled relational databases using the free and open source PostgreSQL/PostGIS database management system. Database performance and user access considerations are introduced, and students learn to develop and work with enterprise database systems that support large datasets and simultaneous access by many users. Enterprise GIS systems and techniques facilitating concurrent editing of shared spatial databases are introduced. The courses practical assignments involving enterprise databases are contextualized with a focus upon GIS project management best practices.