Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a technological field that uses geographically referenced data to create maps and analyze real world situations.

At its most basic, GIS is computer-based mapping, which involves organizing and symbolizing data to create thematic maps. In its more complex applications, GIS is used to model aspects of the real world, to ask and resolve “what if?” questions that have a spatial dimension.


In academic settings, GIS is used not only by geographers but also increasingly by biologists, geologists, archeologists, historians, sociologists, political scientists, marketing specialists, civil engineers and others whose data has a component or dimension that is better visualized or analyzed through mapping. Elsewhere, GIS is used by most agencies, organizations, and companies that need to organize, classify, display, and/or model data that has a spatial component. These range from federal and state agencies (e.g., Bureau of Land Management, CIA and the U.S. Bureau of the Census; Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Transportation) to county and local governments, 911 systems and police departments, planning commissions, water authorities, watershed groups, and businesses of all sorts.

The Certificate in Geographic Information Systems is aimed at Pitt-Johnstown undergraduates who are enrolled in degree programs and for whom the completion of the Certificate will enhance the existing major, minor, or area of interest and make them more ready for the real world. The Certificate is principally directed towards undergraduates in those fields of study where the creation and/or analysis of spatial data is an important tool, primarily those in applied environmental or socio-demographic fields like biology, environmental studies, geography, criminal justice, earth/energy resources, and geology but also in business, history, sociology, and political science and possibly computer science or engineering technology.

The Certificate requires the completion of 18 credits, consisting of five core courses and one elective, with no grade lower than a C in each class.