Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Geospatial Information Technology
Department of Geography, 221 Wallace Hall, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Contact this Certificate
Email Contact(s):
Web Resource(s):
Phone Number(s):
Santosh Rijal:

Certificate Overview

Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) includes collection and analysis of remotely sensed data, digital spatial and attribute data used by geographic information systems (GIS), and the application of related technologies such as the Global Positioning System (GPS).  Geographic Information Science is one of the leading careers in the United States today.
As depth of knowledge is important to careers in the industry, this certificate requires 12 hours of geospatial coursework.  Coursework is taken from one or two categories, beginning with up to two introductory topics if needed, and continuing through more advanced and specialized topics as best fit the student’s background and future goals.
How to Apply:
Fill out the online application for participation in the certificate program.
Upon processing of the application, you will be contacted
with information about the submission of additional
required materials. Thank you for your interest.

Admission Requirements & Procedure

Virginia Tech students accepted in any graduate program category: PhD., MS, MA, Commonwealth Campus, or Non-Degree can be admitted into the GIT program by completing the Graduate Certificate Application, and completing a plan for taking courses required on the course checklist below. Students should meet with an academic adviser familiar with the classes on the list below and submit the application form to Dr. Santosh Rijal for Certificate Program Approval signature no fewer than six months prior to completion of coursework.

Specific steps in the process are:
  1. meet with or discuss the choice of acceptable courses with an adviser knowledgeable of the GIT coursework on campus (suggestions are below in additional information),
  2. fill out and pass the certificate application form to Dr.Santosh Rijal for signature.  
  3. submit the signed form to the Graduate School no fewer than six months prior to completion of course requirements,
  4. complete 12 hours from the course requirements list below, and
  5. submit the completed course check sheet and an unofficial copy of the transcript along with the Application for Degree or Certificate Conferral form  to Dr.Santosh Rijal, chair of the Oversight Committee, for a signature, and then take Application for Certificate Conferral Form to the Graduate School.

Course Requirements

Below are the current courses approved for the certificate.  Each year additional courses are added in the departments and those will be considered for the certificate if you make a request on your course plan form.

A.  Introductory Courses:  (0 - 6 credits to cover prerequisites for courses below)
  • BSE 5344G - Applied Geographic Information Systems
    Conceptual, technical, and operational aspects of geographic information systems as a tool for storage, analysis, and presentation of spatial information. Focus on engineering applications in resource management, site selection, and network analysis. Laboratory work required. Graduate standing required.

  • CEE 5204 - GIS Applications in Civil Engineering
    Examination of data structures used in geographic information systems. Map projections and coordinate systems used in mapping. Database creation, maintenance, and integrity. Applications of GIS methods for solving civil engineering problems in land management and related areas.

  • FREC 5114G - Advanced Information Technologies for Natural Resource Management
    Course will introduce students to the theory and applications of database management systems (DBMS) and geographic information systems (GIS). Uses, challenges, and limitations of these technologies in natural resource management application will be discussed.

  • FREC 5254 - Remote Sensing of Natural Resources
    Philosophy and rationale of remote sensing as a part of the resource management process; comparisons of analogic and digital sensors; sensor selection and proper use; accuracy assessment; signature development; and identification of factors which affect the quality of remotely sensed information.

  • GEOG 5064 - Elements of GIS
    Foundations and applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS); geographic coordinate systems, Cartesian map projections, spatial data sources, efficient GIS data structures, map representations, and spatial applications of GIS. Pre: Graduate Standing.

  • GEOG 5354G - Advanced Remote Sensing
    Theory and methods of remote sensing. Practical exercises in interpretation of aerial photography, satellite, radar, and thermal infrared imagery. Digital analysis, image classification, and evaluation. Applications in earth sciences, hydrology, plant sciences, and land use studies. Field project and report. Review of current research literature. Graduate standing required.

  • LAR 5044 - Land Analysis and Site Planning
    Introduction to the concepts and methods of ecological resource survey and analysis at regional and site scales. Approaches to environmental problem solving with an emphasis on data collection, evaluation, and synthesis using applicable technologies such as geographic information systems. Interpretation of landscape resource data for the purpose of physical planning and design.

  • UAP 5114 - Computer Applications in Urban Planning and Management
    An examination of a wide range of computer-based techniques that are of value in analyzing urban and regional planning and management problems. Techniques include linear programming, goal programming; modeling of complex systems; and decision modeling. May be repeated with different content for a maximum of 12 credits. (cannot be repeated for credit in the certificate program)

B.  Advanced Courses:  (6 -12 credit hours)
  • CEE 5224 - Advanced GIS Applications in Civil and Environmental Engineering
    This project based course deals with both vector and raster Geographic Information Systems (GIS), network analysis, tracking applications, hydrologic applications, spatial analysis, web databases, and linking GIS to models with programming, specifically in the civil and environmental engneering arena. Pre: Any introductory GIS course, including CEE 5204, GEOG 4084, or BSE 4344. Pre: Graduate standing.

  • CEE 5244 - Advanced GIS in Hydrologic Analysis
    Advanced GIS course focusing on raster analysis with particular application to the issues associated with hydrologic analysis. Application and evaluation of algorithms for terrain analysis, watershed characterization, and hydrologic analysis and modeling as implemented in GIS. Digital elevation data sources and error assessment. Approaches to GIS/model integration and application. Pre:Graduate standing.

  • CS 6604 - Advanced Topics in Data and Information
    This course treats a specific advanced topic of current research interest in the area of data and information. Papers from the current literature or research monographs are likely to be used instead of a textbook. Student participation in a seminar style format may be expected. Prerequisite(s): CS 5604 (UG) OR CS 5614 (UG) OR CS 5604 OR CS 5614

  • FREC 5104 (GEOG 5104) - Seminar in Remote Sensing & Geographic Information Systems
    Interdisciplinary seminar devoted to current research in the fields of remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems, and related topics. Seminars, workshops, and presentations conducted by students, faculty, and visitors. Pre: Graduate standing.

  • FREC 5154 - Hyperspectral Remote Sensing
    Theory of spectroscopy and spectrometry from portable spectroradiometers to airborne and spaceborne hyperspectral sensors as relevant to natural resource applications, including vegetation species indentification and vegetative health, soil and peat properties, mineral and geothermal characteristics, and water applications. Practical investigation of research tools and techniques used to analyze hyperspectral data. Pre-requisite: Graduate Standing Required

  • FREC 6214 - Forestry Lidar Applications
    Theoretical underpinning of established and emerging research using light detection and ranging (lidar) technology for forestry applications including detailed terrain mapping and digital elevation models, canopy height modeling, prediction of forest biophysical parameters, forest physiology and the canopy light regime, watershed mapping and stream modeling, ecological modeling, landsca[pe classifications, and wildlife habitat. Advanced research tools and techniques used to analyze lidar data for different applications. Graduate standing required.

  • GEOG 5034 - Analysis of Spatial Data
    Methods of describing and analyzing spatial distributions, including spatial autocorrelation, quadrat analysis, trend surface analysis, and methods of map comparison. Applications to student research problems.

  • GEOG 5084G - Advanced Modeling with Geographic Information Systems
    Use of automated systems for geographic data collection, digitization, storage, display, modeling and analysis. Basic data flow in GIS modeling applications. Development of proficiency in the use of current GIS software. Pre: Graduate Standing.

  • GEOG 5114 - Geospatial Programming and Environmental ConservationCommon programming techniques with emphasis on application to remotely sensed and geospatial data. Input/output and formatting. Raster and feature operations from a command line using serial and parallel processing methods. Management and integration of large and varied datasets with emphasis on incorporating new data. Pre: Graduate standing

  • GEOG 5124 - Aerial Photointerpretation and Analysis
    Principles, history, and methods of aerial photographic interpretation. Introduction to photographic systems and application to aerial photography. Human dimension to photointerpretation. Applications to varied fields of knowledge such as land-use mapping, earth sciences, forestry, agriculture, history and archaeology, and military and strategic studies

  • GEOG 5314G - Advanced Spatial Analysis in Geographic Information SystemsTheory and application of geographic information systems. Spatial data handling and analysis to facilitate decision-making through the communication of geographic information. Development of such systems from existing data sources using both packaged and student produced software systems.
  • GEOG 5334G - Advanced Geospatial Information Technology for Land Change Modeling
    Analysis of the spatio-temporal patters of land use and Land Cover Change (LULCC) as observed in satellite images. Tropical deforestation, urbanization, and agricultural intensification. Rates and patterns of LULCC linked to biophysical and socio-economic drivers. Impacts of land change with respect to local climate, biodiversity, water yield and quality, and ecosystem services.

  • GEOG 5374G - Adv Remote Sensing & Phenology
    This course focuses on the analysis of the spatio-temporal of the vegetated land surface as observed in satellite images. Phenological events, such as the first openings of leaf and flower buds, are good indicators of the impact of local and global climate change. The focus of this course will beon satellite image time series used in the derivation of land surface phenology, the appearance and development of phenology other global regions, and the methods developed for the monitoring of phenology with satellite imagery. A major theme will be causes of spatio-temporal changes of phenological events and the effect of global climate change. Pre-requisite: Graduate Standing required

  • GEOG 5384 - Programming for Geographic Information Systems
    Computational methods of map analysis with the ArcGIS Geographic Information System. Scripting and Visual Basic.NET programming using Environmentatl Systems Research Institute's ArcObjects library for customization of GIS software to meet research and analytical needs for both the desktop and the web. Pre: 5084G and computer programing experience.

  • GEOG 5394G - Web Mapping
    Use of web mapping technologies for geographic data collection, storage, analysis, and display. Web mapping topics include history and context, spatial data infrastructures, hardware and software architectures, Open Geospatial Consortium standards, mapping API's, virtual globes, user-centric design, web cartography. Pre: Graduate standing.

  • GEOG 5404G - Advanced GeovisualizationAdvanced topics in digital and dynamic map production, emphasizing concepts in advanced cartographic design, information visualization, and human-computer interaction. Topics include cartograms, computer aided design, animation, lidar and photogrammetric point cloud visualization, Web Geographic Information Systems, terrain visualization, and virtual geographic environments. Pre: Graduate standing.
  • AAEC/FREC/GEOG 5544 - Remote Sensing in the Social Sciences. Principles on the use of remotely sensed (satellite) data in social science research, with key applications in environment, agriculture, and economic development. Basic scripting techniques to extract, visualize, and analyze satellite remote sensing data across the electromagnetic spectrum with cloud-based computing platforms. Development of social science research proposals based on review of seminal and current research articles. Pre: Graduate Standing. (3H, 1L, 4C) 

  • NR 6104 - Advanced Topics in Remote Sensing
    In-depth coverage of advanced topics in the field of remote sensing selected to cover emerging techniques and technologies. Examples of topics, which will differ each semester, include field data in support of remote sensing, accuracy assessment, and hyperspectral remote sensing. Critical assessment of the ways in which remotely sensed data and information are employed in varied scientific disciplines and by society.

  • STAT 5544 - Spatial Statistics
    Spatial data structures: geostatistical data, lattices and point patterns. Stationary and isotropic random fields. Autocorrelated data structures. Semivariogram estimation and spatial prediction for geostatistical data. Mapped and sampled point patterns. Regular, completely random and clustered point processes. Spatial regression and neighborhood analyses for data on lattices.

List of Potential Advisers and Departments

Advisers come from many Virginia Tech departments and they must sign off on your desire to work toward the certificate.  Most of these persons are in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, but there are many faculty who use GIS and remote sensing techniques in their research and they may advise you in appropriate courses for the certificate as part of their advising you in your research degree program.

For certificate aspirants who are non-degree students, Dr. Rijal will be your adviser.  His expertise will be in picking the four courses that best suit your career  interests in achieving the certificate.