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Geographic Information System (GIS) Fundamentals Certificate

GIS technology has broad applications in natural and social sciences, humanities, environmental studies, engineering, and management.

Our GIS Fundamentals Certificate is designed for professionals who wish to enter the field of GIS or to add GIS to their skillset. The program provides a solid background in the fundamentals of geography and extends beyond a particular software program's capability or features.

You’ll leave the 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. 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.

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

Program of Study


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

  • During this course, you will become familiar with the five parts of a GIS (Geographic Information System): hardware, software, data, people and methods.
  • The course will cover the basics of how to find, store, create, and edit spatial data.
  • We'll also discuss the importance of coordinate systems and projections in GIS.
  • This course will introduce you to basic principles and applications of spatial analysis.

Desktop Software

The majority of desktop instruction will take place in ArcGIS Pro, a new premier professional desktop GIS application introduced to replace ArcMap (the current industry standard).

  • You will 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
  • In this course you will be briefly introduced to QGIS, a widely used open source GIS desktop software. You will learn to apply basic workflows learned in ArcGIS Pro in QGIS to ensure you can continue working with GIS in an open source software after the course is completed.

Web Mapping Application

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

  • You will gain skills needed to author web maps, explore data and easily share them on the web. This section will build on your skills in ArcGIS Pro, which work together to combine desktop and web based GIS.
  • In this course you will be briefly exposed to open-source web mapping software. Carto is a web-based drag and drop analysis/mapping visualization tool. This web software allows for deeper dives into data exploration and will be used in this course to help present data on the web.

Presentations & Cartography

This course will include a final project portion that will be an accumulation of all the skills learned in the class.

  • This will include data collection, analysis, interpretation and final layout.
  • Although cartography will be discussed throughout the course, we will emphasize it most in the final presentations.
  • You will leave the course with a final project that will communicate spatial information effectively and aesthetically.

Class Format

This 15-week program 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. We believe students should be exposed to both open and proprietary sources.

Throughout the class you will learn and experiment with the differences between them. The labs will be taught mainly in ArcGIS Pro but will include open source exercises as well. We encourage students to explore both proprietary and open source software during the class and in their professional settings depending on software access.


Taylor Holden, ’15, is the 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. He expects to complete a Master of Nonprofit Studies degree from the School of Professional & Continuing Studies in May 2018.

Justin Madron is the Digital Scholarship Lab’s GIS Analyst. 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 bachelor of science degree 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.


Register online for this program or for IT & Coding classes.

Contact Us

Special Programs Building
490 Westhampton Way
Univ. of Richmond, VA 23173
Phone: (804) 289-8133
Fax: (804) 289-8138

Monday-Friday: 8:30am–5pm
Closed for University holidays