The Geospatial Analysis and Mapping (GAM) Program at the University of Michigan - Dearborn supports and promotes the application of geospatial technologies in education, research, and community service.

Place-based technologies are ubiquitous, from location services on Smartphones to spatial-decision support systems that guide applications in business, government, utilities and communication, natural resources, public safety, transportation, utilities & communication, education, health and human services, and even digital humanities. It is not hard to see how place influences your particular area of study or practice! Because of the broad array of geospatial technology across a variety of disciplines and fields, people from diverse backgrounds and interests can benefit from gaining experience in GIS and Remote Sensing. 

What is GIS and Geospatial Technology?

A geographic information system (GIS) lets us visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends.

Although most closely applied to geography, it has found application across scientific domains ranging from environmental science to transportation to epidemiology

In addition, the use of geospatial information is increasing rapidly. There is a growing recognition amongst both Governments and the private sector that an understanding of location and place is a vital component of effective decision making. Citizens with no recognized expertise in geospatial information and who are unlikely to even be familiar with the term are also increasingly using and interacting with geospatial information.

GIS Industry and Career Prospects

Geospatial technology is expanding rapidly and is a growing area of employment with a need for high quality geo-spatial professionals. Having expertise in GIS&T provides a competitive edge when seeking employment in many fields.  If you are interested in a career in GIS and remote sensing, then you are in the right field! According to the U.S Bureau of Labor, Geospatial Technology is a "high growth" industry, as the market is growing at an annual rate of almost 35% (but the commercial subsection is expanding at an annual rate of 100%)! In part, this is because of the wide range of applications and fields of study that are adopting geotechnology. The geospatial industry is huge - just the remote sensing component (e.g. satellite and aerial imagery) was estimated to have exceeded 7 billion US$ in 2010. Geospatial World reported in their December 2013 issue (on page 18 and following) that the global geospatial industry brings in $270 billion in annual revenue, and companies in the sector pay more than $90 billion in wages each year (Source). Even the sales of GIS/Geospatial software, services and data grew a robust 4% in 2012, and that trend continues (nationally, and even worldwide).  

Finding a geospatial job is therefore feasible, with the right training, networking, and communication! Sites, such as the GIS Jobs Clearinghouse and, offer numerous postings for geospatial jobs, and some include details on salaries. Salaries tend to be relatively high (>$40,000) in the geospatial industry with a solid training/experience and even just a B.S. degree (i.e. it doesn't require years of schooling!), and it offers growth and advancement opportunities. In SE Michigan, there are a number of resources and organizations that provide geospatial internships and jobs, including Data Driven Detroit, MDA, and DTE Student Programs, just to name a few.

UM-Dearborn’s Certificate in Geospatial Analysis and Mapping

Since 2009, the University of Michigan - Dearborn has offered an undergraduate certificate in geospatial sciences (now the Geospatial Analysis and Mapping Program). Over 40 students have earned the certificate and most have found a career or graduate school opportunities using geospatial technology, including internships/employment at Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Michigan Tech Research Institute, numerous consulting firms (e.g., FTC&H, MDA), municipalities (Livonia, Novi), and private organizations.  Additionally, several graduates have continued their GIS education in reputable postgraduate programs throughout the U.S. (University of Illinois, Michigan State University, University of Toledo, etc).  

Admissions to the Certificate Program

There are two admission procedures to the UM-Dearborn GIS Certificate Program:

  1. Students currently enrolled in undergraduate programs at UM-Dearborn can apply via a "Declaration of Certificate Form" available in their unit's academic advising office. Students must have a 2.5 cumulative GPA and sophomore standing. Transfer students may petition to use up to 4 credits of previous course experience toward the program, upon approval from the Program Director.
  2. Post-graduate students or non-degree seeking individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree and are looking for professional development can apply online. Please visit the Office of Undergraduate Admissions Undergraduate Certificates page for the application link and instructions. Students may transfer up to 4 credits of previous course experience into the program, upon approval from the Program Director. 
Program Courses and Expectations

To earn the certificate, students must complete a specific set of geospatial classes that are expected to be taken in residency at UM-Dearborn, most occurring during the evening. Courses taken to fulfill the GIS Certificate may be used towards another degree requirement. A total of 16 credits are required; courses are classified as either Tier 1 (Introductory), Tier 2 (Intermediate), or Tier 3 (Advanced).

Tier 1: Courses that introduce and build basic skills and content in geospatial technology; emphasis on thinking spatially and becoming familiar with GIS software, spatial data, and the geospatial technology. Tier I courses have no prerequisites. Students must complete at least 3 credits from Tier I to complete the Certificate.

Tier 2: Courses that increase breadth and depth of design and application of geospatial technology; students are expected to work on more complex problems in small teams or as an individual. All Tier II courses require a Tier I course as a prerequisite. Students must complete at least 3 credits from Tier II.

Tier 3: Projects that develop ability to interrelate, synthesize, and integrate data and analytical approaches to solving interdisciplinary spatial problems; students are expected to work independently on projects from early stage development to final product delivery, either through off-campus internships or under faculty supervision. Students must complete at least 3 credits, but not more than 6 credits, from Tier III.

  • Independent Study
  • Research / Thesis
  • Internship / Co-op
Program Goals
  1. Describe fundamental concepts and practices associated with geographical thinking and geospatial technologies and analyses;
  2. Understand how geospatial data are acquired (both remotely and in situ), processed, and analyzed;
  3. Build, organize, and manage geospatial data for a variety of geospatial applications;
  4. Demonstrate proficiency in cartographic visualization to effectively, concisely, and ethically present geospatial data;
  5. Formulate and execute effective workflows to integrate multiple datasets and complete geospatial projects, both individually and collaboratively;
  6. Demonstrate confidence in identifying, troubleshooting, and solving issues when working with complex geospatial technologies; and
  7. Effectively communicate methodologies, results, and analyses through oral, written, and graphic media.
Geospatial Analysis and Mapping Lab

Finally, we offer a state-of-the-art, dedicated GIS lab (Geospatial Analysis and Mapping Lab), equipped with 21 computers with GIS/RS software, printers, a large format plotter, and large format scanner. In addition, we offer 10 iPads and GPS for student/faculty/community use!


If you should have any questions regarding admissions to the Certificate Program, course expectations, or career opportunities in the geospatial technology field, please contact the GAM Program Director.

GIS Certificate Program

Social Sciences Building
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