What is a Geographic Information System (GIS)?

Fort Lewis College Google Earth image representing our GIS certificate A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a digital map database and set of software programs that include an integrated set of tools for storing, querying, analyzing, and displaying georeferenced information. GIS merges theoretical and practical aspects of spatial analysis across many disciplines, such as environmental biology, geology, archeology, agriculture, computer-aided drafting (CAD) and engineering, computer science, business administration, and, of course, geography. A GIS is used to build cartographic databases, create attributes for map information, and analyze and visualize complex spatial relationships in the mapped information. Students enrolled in the GIS Certificate Program take courses in which they gain valuable experience using industry-standard GIS software (ArcGIS Pro), as well as familiarity with various modern field mapping technologies, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) units. Surveying, remote sensing and programming and web mapping courses provide additional fundamental skills related to GIS. Completion of the GIS Certificate will provide the student with skills and experience that are in high demand in today’s workplace. For more information on GIS and its many different applications, visit the Esri’s What is GIS? web page.

GIS jobs and internships

There are many job opportunities in GIS. For more information, see the following websites:

Examples of recent GIS and Remote Sensing class syllabi:

What software do I get to use?

We have an Esri Higher Education site license for ArcGIS Pro (version 2.6), ArcGIS Desktop - ArcMap (version 10.8), and an ArcGIS Online organizational account. The desktop software is available on all Windows-based computer labs on campus.

How do I start the GIS Certificate?

Final outcomes include (1) a printed Certificate and (2) a line added to your official college transcript indicating date of completion of the GIS Certificate.


GIS Certificate Program Coordinator:

Dr. W. Scott White, Professor
Office: SFH 2794
Phone: 970-247-7475
Email Dr. White

GIS Instructors:

Requirements for the GIS Certificate

For course descriptions and prerequisites, refer to the current Catalog of Courses.

Required GIS Courses (4) Credits
GEOG 310 Intro to Computer Mapping and GIS [taught Fall and Spring semesters] 4
GEOG 315 GIS Programming and Web Mapping [taught Fall semester] 2
GEOG 350 Intermediate GIS [taught Spring semester] 3
GEOG 400 Advanced GIS [taught Fall semester] 3
Prerequisite for ENGR 205 Intro to Geomatics and Engineering Surveying (1)
Math 121 Pre-Calculus [taught Fall and Spring semesters] 4
Remote Sensing, Engineering/CAD and Surveying (Choose 1).
GEOG 325 Intro to Remote Sensing [taught every Spring semester] OR 4
ENGR 205 Intro to Geomatics and Engineering Surveying [taught every odd-year Fall semester] 4
GIS Capstone Course (Choose 1)  
GEOG 480 Internship in GIS OR 1,2, or 3
GEOG 499 Independent Study 1,2, or 3
Total Required Hours for GIS Certificate 17, 18 or 19


GIS Certificate Policies & Information

  • Although not required, it is strongly recommended that the student have an earned Bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) either prior to, or after completion of the GIS Certificate. This degree can be from any accredited college or university.
  • Official FLC Certificate Program Requirements for Undergraduates. Important requirements to keep in mind are:
    • A minimum "C" grade must be earned in each course applied toward the certificate program.
    • All coursework must be in graded courses. Pass/fail work will not be accepted toward certificate requirements.
    • At least 50% of the coursework toward the certificate must be earned at Fort Lewis College.

For more information about GEOG 480 or 499, including WebOpus registration details, download the informational PDF.

For full descriptions of GIS and related courses, go to the FLC Catalog of Courses website. For upcoming schedules of courses, go to the WebOpus Searchable Course Schedules website.