Masters of Science in Geospatial Analysis

Master of Science in Geospatial Analysis

The Master of Science in Geospatial Analysis (MSGA) program provides students with the advanced level skills required by companies and government agencies in careers associated with the spatial analysis of human and physical systems, biological and environmental planning, urban planning, design, and development, and business management.

Geospatial analysis integrates application software and theory from a field of disciplines that focus on the collection, management, scientific analysis, and display of spatial data – data that can be mapped. Three technology pillars are widely accepted as the foundation for geospatial analysis: Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS), and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). GIS is the core geospatial technology, the central pillar which enables other technologies to integrate relatively seamlessly across systems.

Geospatial Technology has been identified as a ‘high growth’ area by the Department of Labor.  Much of this growth in this employment sector is within UMW’s region; almost 15% of all geospatial jobs recently advertised across the nation were located in Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland.

MSGA Program Mission Statement

The MSGA program emphasizes instruction in theory and practical applications related to the capture, management, analysis, and display of spatial information.  The program provides students with a technical foundation and geographic knowledge base to apply geospatial applications and tools to a myriad of problems such as crime analysis, transportation engineering, urban planning, emergency preparedness, resource management, facilities management, climate change and marketing.  Theory and technical training will be integrated with the critical thinking, project management, and communication skills required by professionals in the geospatial fields.  This is a coherent, highly structured program designed to assure the mastery of specific knowledge and skills, such as programming within a geospatial environment, report writing, critical spatial analysis and solving problems. After completion of the program, students will be able to collect, map, manage, and analyze data from diverse fields.

Admission Requirements for the MSGA Program

Undergraduate Admission

Undergraduate students should apply for the MSGA Accelerated Degree Program in the second semester of their junior year (upon successful completion of 70 credits). Applications will be due on the Monday of the 6th week of that semester. Applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 2.7 or higher based on a minimum of 12 UMW credits, have completed at least two GIS courses each with a grade of B or higher, and supply a letter of recommendation from a UMW faculty member who teaches GIS. Once admitted, students will take MSGA 510 (Spatial Thinking) in the fall semester and MSGA 520 (GeoDesign and GeoVisualization) in the spring semester. These courses are not sequenced; 520 may be taken before 510.

On completion of the undergraduate degree, students may apply for formal admission to the graduate program, providing the forms and documents listed below. The two MSGA courses count toward both undergraduate and graduate programs if formal admission to the MSGA program is received within five years of the award of the undergraduate degree.

Continuance Requirements (Undergraduate)

To continue in the program, students must achieve a grade of B (3.0) or better in each of the graduate courses and must maintain a cumulative GPA higher than 2.7.

Graduate Admission

  • Earned bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Successful applicants typically have a GPA of 3.0 or higher from undergraduate course work. In addition, students are required to have successfully earned credits in at least two college-level GIS classes; in lieu of completed coursework, students can gain admission by providing documented evidence demonstrating they have worked with a GIS, such as ArcGIS, Grass, MapInfo, IDRISI, Intergraph – or the equivalent software – on a range of projects indicating competence in the topics typically covered in upper-level undergraduate GIS. Students may be considered for provisional admission without having previous GIS coursework or related work experience under the agreement that if they are admitted they must take GISC 200 and GISC 351 or GEOG 351 prior to beginning their graduate-level courses.
  • Non-native English speakers will provide evidence of proficiency in English.

Required forms and documents:

  • Completed application for admission. The application form is found online.
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • A statement of purpose outlining career goals.
  • Résumé, stating relevant work experience; applicants without completed coursework in GIS need to provide documented evidence demonstrating their proficiency with GIS.
  • Two letters of recommendation (on the application forms provided). One should be from a person who can attest to the applicant’s GIS or geospatial experience, if applicable.
  • Demonstration of English competency if English is not your native language. Any of the following is acceptable:
    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) – a minimum score of 88 on the Internet based test or a 570 paper-based score. TOEFL website:
    • International English Language Test system (ELITS) a minimum score of 6.5 on the academic exam. See ELITS website.
    • Certification of completion of the ELS Language Centers (ELS) Intensive English Program by completing Level 112. See ELS website.
  • If applicable, the International Student Application Supplement found online should be completed.

Following an initial vetting of applications by University Admissions, an interdisciplinary committee consisting of full-time UMW faculty familiar with the geospatial field will evaluate submitted documents. This committee will determine if students without undergraduate coursework in GIS have sufficient knowledge to succeed in the program.

Students are admitted for the fall or spring semester. Application Due Dates:

Fall Admission: June 1
Spring Admission: October 1

Deferred Enrollment. Accepted applicants may ask the College of Arts and Sciences for the option of deferring enrollment for up to two consecutive semesters. Each case is considered on an individual basis. Those who are granted deferred enrollment are subject to rules, regulations, and financial charges in effect when they actually enroll. Students who enroll at another institution before enrolling at the University of Mary Washington must reapply for admission. In cases involving military deployment, mobilization, or change in duty assignment, accepted applicants may request to extend the enrollment deferment for longer than two consecutive semesters. Any such requests will be considered on an individual basis. A copy of the person’s military orders must be provided to the Office of Admissions to support such a request.

MSGA Degree Requirements

Successful completion of all required courses or their equivalents with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher is required to earn the degree.

All students are also required to complete a 6-credit capstone project.  At least three (3) credits must be taken in the last semester of the program.  This independent project provides students the opportunity to pursue original research in their area of interest.  As a capstone project, it will provide a measure of GIS skills acquired from the program and will demonstrate the student’s ability to work independently.

In selected and approved cases, some students may propose that an independent study substitute for one of the required courses. Students proposing an independent study will work with a faculty sponsor to create a set of readings and assignments culminating in a project equivalent to the assignments in the course for which the independent study is a substitute. Substitution decisions will be based on an assessment of the student’s work history, publications and reports, interviews with faculty, and the appropriateness of the proposed independent study project.  An independent study may not be requested as a substitute for any course in the program other than MSGA 550 or 580.

All required course work must be completed within six years of matriculation into the program.

Completion of the Capstone. The capstone course (MSGA 595) is available for variable credit, from 1-6 hours. Students must complete 6 credit hours because of the scope and intensity of the effort expected; students are expected to do considerable independent work, averaging approximately 12 hours per week, if taking all 6 credits at the same time, and to report their progress to their course instructor on a weekly basis.

After completion of MSGA 510 and MSGA 520, students will be allowed to take anywhere from 1-3 credits prior to the completion of their other coursework.  The effort for these credits should be targeted towards the development of their proposal, literature review, and methodology.  The last 3 credit hours must be taken in the last semester of the program, and within 1 year of completing all other classes. Full-time students may complete the capstone during the 10-week summer session.

Transfer Courses

Ordinarily, a maximum of eight graduate credits can be transferred into the MSGA program. To be accepted for transfer credit, courses must have been taken from a regionally-accredited institution within the last six years with a minimum grade of B and must directly relate to one of the MSGA program courses. Transfer credit is not given for internship or practicum experiences.

Requirements for Continuance in the MSGA Program

All matriculated MSGA students are expected to maintain satisfactory academic progress in their graduate courses toward completion of the degree program. A cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher is required for graduation from the program.

Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) in each semester to remain in good academic standing, with no more than one grade lower than this benchmark per semester.  A student who earns a total of three Cs (including C+, C, or C-) or one F in a graduate course in the program (other than the capstone) will automatically be suspended from the program.

To earn the MSGA, students must earn a minimum grade of B for all capstone credits taken (MSGA 595). Students who fail to achieve this grade on the last three credits of the capstone will be offered the chance to repeat these credits one time. A student who again earns a B- or below in capstone credits will automatically be dismissed from the program.

Students who voluntarily interrupt their enrollment for one to three semesters should refer to the Leave of Absence policy in the “Admission and Enrollment” section.

Readmission to the MSGA Program

Students who have not attended the University for three consecutive semesters, excluding summer session, must apply for readmission through the Office of Admissions. Students who are readmitted are subject to the degree requirements in effect at the time of readmission. When a student is readmitted, the six-year limit from time of first admission is still in effect. Academic work that was completed more than six years before the date at which the MSGA is awarded may not be used to satisfy the degree requirements. If a student needs additional time to complete the degree, the student must apply in writing to the Program Director for an extension. Such requests must be received at least one month prior to the end of the student’s original six-year time limit.

A student who has been suspended from the program may apply for readmission after a lapse of three semesters. Applicants for readmission must meet current minimum admission requirements. Readmission to the program is not guaranteed.

MSGA Course Requirements (30 credits)

Introduction and Methods Courses (16 credits) — All courses are 4 credits

MSGA 510   – Spatial Thinking
MSGA 520   – GeoDesign and Geovisualization
MSGA 540   – Modeling and Spatial Statistics
MSGA 550* – Remote Sensing and Digital Imagery

Applications Courses (8 credits) — All courses are 4 credits

MSGA 570   – Geospatial Intelligence
MSGA 580* – Geospatial Data and Services on the Web

* Students with expertise and the appropriate background in either remote sensing (MSGA 550) or geospatial data management (MSGA 580) may petition the Program Director to substitute one of these courses with an independent study:  MSGA 591 – Independent Study (4 credits)

Capstone/Independent Research

MSGA 595 – Capstone Project (1-6 credits)**

**The last 3 credit hours must be taken in the last semester of the program.