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GIS Professional Certificate

Geographic Information System (GIS) Professional Certificate

GIS technology has broad applications in natural and social sciences, humanities, environmental studies, engineering and management. The use of geospatial technologies continues to rapidly grow and values a certified workforce.

You’ll leave the GIS Professional Certificate program with knowledge in the newest GIS software and best practices for utilizing it in your field.

  • Classes will focus on creating new features, editing, georeferencing and basic knowledge of web mapping, advanced GIS concepts along with hands on experience in specialty topics.
  • Electives will be topic focused and provide a deep dive into a particular subject matter.

Unlike other GIS certificate programs, we’ll focus on how desktop GIS software transitions to web facing applications and the role web GIS plays into today’s organizations.

Additionally, students who complete the certificate will be eligible to sit for the ArcGIS Desktop Entry certification through Esri, the leading GIS software provider.

Program of Study

The GIS Professional Certificate consists of two core requirements — the GIS Fundamentals Certificate & the GIS Advanced Certificate — one elective and the portfolio studio. Completing the GIS Professional Certificate will position graduates to sit for the Esri ArcGIS Desktop Entry certification.

Course Rotation

  • Fundamentals Certificate: Fall & Spring
  • Advanced Certificate: Summers
  • Electives: Throughout the year
  • Portfolio Studio: As needed

Available Classes

GIS Field Apps & Maps (elective)

  • Tues, March 2–April 20, 2021 (remote)
  • 6-9 p.m.
  • $749

GIS Fundamentals Certificate (core)

  • Wed, Feb 10–May 19, 2021 (remote)
  • 6–8:30 p.m.
  • $999 (Climb Credit eligible)
GIS Fundamentals Certificate

Our GIS Fundamentals Certificate is designed for professionals who wish to add GIS to their skillset and gather a broad understanding of the technology. The program provides a solid background in the fundamentals of geography and extends beyond a particular software program's capability or features. Strong computer skills are encourage, especially experience in the Windows environment.

Key topics covered include:

  • 5 parts of a GIS (hardware, software, data, people, methods)
  • Data types: raster/vector
  • Projections
  • Metadata
  • Finding/evaluating data
  • Data storage (geodatabases, shapefiles)
  • Web GIS

This 15-week course will include many hands-on labs and will have an active classroom environment. We will dive right in using GIS software and applications to encourage open discussion. Each class will be a mix of lecture and lab activity.

Since the program is structured around technology, we will be using it in all facets of the course (ex: assignments will be shared and stored using Google Drive). We also believe students should be exposed to both open and proprietary GIS software. 

The labs will be taught primarily in ArcGIS Pro but will include some open source exercises. We encourage students to explore both proprietary and open source software during the class and in their professional settings. Students will leave the course with an understanding of how to access ArcGIS and open source GIS resources for further learning, depending on software access and personal interest.

GIS Advanced Certificate

Our GIS Advanced Certificate is designed for professionals who wish to enter the field of GIS or to significantly add to their GIS skillset. The program provides a solid background in advanced topics of geography and extends beyond the basics of GIS and starts to uncover the possibilities of spatial analysis.

You’ll leave the certificate program with advanced knowledge in the newest GIS software and best practices for utilizing it in your field. Classes will focus on spatial analysis, spatial statistics, remote sensing and the power of web mapping and advanced GIS concepts.

Key topics covered include:

  • Spatial Analysis
  • Spatial Statistics
  • GIS Scripting
  • Advanced Geoprocessing
  • Remote Sensing

This 12-week course is focused on developing more advanced Geographic Information Systems skills and going beyond the fundamentals. This is not an introductory course, so little time will be given to review introductory GIS concepts.

Students will have to demonstrate proficiency covered in the GIS Fundamentals Certificate, if students have not completed that program of study. It will cover more advanced topics and analysis tools in Esri’s ArcGIS Pro software. Spatial analysis, spatial statistics and scripting will be introduced.


At least one elective is required for the completion of the GIS Professional Certification. Elective classes and workshops covering a variety of GIS topics will be offered throughout the academic year. Topics may include drones, LIDAR, cartography and programming.

The following electives will be offered in annual rotation:

Additional topics will be offered periodically. Review the GIS, IT & Coding category for a listing of current offerings.

Portfolio Studio

A one-day intensive workshop is required for the completion of the GIS Professional Certification. This studio workshop will give you the skills and knowledge to build a portfolio of work completed throughout your certificate education, and provide you a deliverable to demonstrate to potential employers the skills learned from coursework.

Esri Technical Certification

Students who complete the GIS Professional Certificate will be well positioned to sit for the Esri ArcGIS Desktop Entry certification which will validate skills learned in the classroom to potential employers. Students who complete the certificate can benefit from the combination of a professional academic certificate and a technical certificate in these ways:

  • Build ArcGIS technical skills
  • Grow experience with modern GIS applications
  • Gain competitive edge in the job market
  • Increase potential for job advancement opportunities and employment.
  • Be able to demonstrate knowledge in concepts and theory along with technical skills

Esri-certified students can showcase their achievements through digital badging.

Program Components



Since this is a professionally focused certificate program, elements of theory will be distributed through the program with hands on elements to ensure theory and application are linked.

  • Become familiar with the five parts of a GIS: hardware, software, data, people and methods.
  • Cover the basics of how to find, store, create, analyze and edit spatial data.
  • Discuss the importance of coordinate systems and projections in GIS.
  • Learn basic principles and applications of spatial analysis.

Desktop Software

Most instruction will take place in ArcGIS Pro, a new premier professional desktop GIS application that replaces the current standard, ArcMap.

  • Learn essential workflows for visualizing spatial data, performing spatial analysis and sharing completed maps in both static and web formats.
  • Users familiar with ArcMap will learn new workflows to help with the coming transition to Pro.
  • Includes introduction to open source GIS products to become familiar with the variety of options on the market.

Web Mapping Application

ArcGIS Online is a collaborative web GIS that allows users to create and share maps, apps and data to the web for easy access.

  • Gain skills needed to author web maps, explore data and easily share maps on the web. Build on your skills in ArcGIS Pro, which work together to combine desktop and web-based GIS.
  • Become familiar with building web applications through ArcGIS Online. Learn how best to display your maps for user interaction.

Presentations & Cartography

This program will include a final portfolio that will be an accumulation of all the skills learned throughout the course work.

  • Includes data collection, analysis, interpretation and final layout.
  • Includes special focus on cartography, culminating in final presentations and portfolio creation.
  • Develop and publish a portfolio of work that communicates spatial information effectively and aesthetically.


Taylor Holden, ’15, GC’19, is a GIS Analyst at HDR. He is the former GIS Technician for the Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL) at the University of Richmond. He graduated from University of Richmond in 2015 after studying Geography and Environmental Studies, and plans to complete a Master of Nonprofit Studies degree from the University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies in 2019.

Justin Madron is the UR Digital Scholarship Lab’s GIS Project Manager & Analyst. He has earned the Ersi ArcGIS Desktop Entry Certification. He is involved in GIS-related tasks and technologies required for the production and maintenance of the digital atlas of American history project. He has a BS in Landscape Architecture from West Virginia University and a master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Environmental Studies with a focus on Geographical Information Systems and Technologies. His thesis research was on the historical and present reforestation of red spruce in the Appalachian Mountains.

Sample Projects

Richmond Rent on the Rise - Jen Thomas View Project
Richmond Public Transportation History - Kris Mason View Project


Terry P. Brock, PhD - Asst. Dir. of Archaeology, James Madison's Montpelier

GIS has become an essential part of archaeology over the past decade. The program course offered by UR SPCS provided me with with the necessary skills to begin our department’s transition into using GIS, and has given me the knowledge to understand what we need to pursue. The instructors are talented, patient, and knowledgeable. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in learning about GIS.

Jonathan Worley - GIS Analyst, Goochland County, Va.

I am the sole GIS professional for a local county so finding time to be more efficient and learn new GIS processes can be difficult. The knowledgeable instructors introduced me to the latest GIS software, web based GIS solutions, and methodology. I incorporated what I learned in my daily job and feel that I am more efficient and creative in how I assimilate and provide location based information. Taking this class was a wise decision as I know I have grown in my professional abilities.