Geographic information systems (GIS) is a geospatial technology that visualizes, analyzes, and transforms data into geographic knowledge. GIS can be used for so many things!  Examples include: 

  • modeling the population growth and distribution in cities, towns and regions  
  • identifying, modeling and mapping wildlife habitats, distributions and threats 
  • mapping crime patterns and statistics 
  • performing market demographic analyses and identifying the best locations for businesses  
  • developing aid distribution networks and evacuation plans for community disaster preparedness.  

GIS helps planners, nonprofit agencies, environmental scientists, biologists and business owners to make site location decisions and solve urban and environmental problems.  Moreover, the spatial thinking and analysis inherent in GIS are skill sets that are valued by many other disciplines including law enforcement, homeland security, public health, business and marketing, communications and media, political science, and history. 


GIS skills are highly-marketable today and our GIS Minor gives you the skills and hands-on experience you need to use GIS successfully in your future career. In 18 credits, the GIS minor prepares students to use the technology to address real-world problems and to communicate effectively complex information to a diverse audience.  Included in these credits are internship opportunities that students are often able to turn into full-time jobs after graduation. 

Topics Covered 

  • Core concepts underlying GIS 
  • Analytical techniques, software, and hardware used in GIS 
  • GIS applications across disciplines 
  • Discipline-specific applications (for Planning, Environmental Science, Criminal Justice, Political Science, or Business) 

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certificate

Our GIS Certificate includes a 12-credit course series to account for the diversity of backgrounds, needs, and computer experience of the students. The target audience is non-traditional students, e.g. professionals from the private and public sectors, educators, local town government officials, etc., with and without an academic degree. The GIS Certificate is also available for 'regular' students wanting 'formal' GIS training without completing our GIS Minor.

The GIS Certificate is awarded through Graduate & Continuing Education; however, coursework may be taken during the day or evening offerings. Some coursework from other institutions may be accepted in transfer after review by the Certificate Director.


Program Description

Geographic information system (GIS) is a geospatial technology that visualizes, analyzes and transforms data into geographic knowledge.  GIS links location to information (such as people to addresses, buildings to parcels, or streets within a network) and layers that information in order to reveal relationships, patterns and trends.  It is used to model population growth and distributions, manage wildlife habitats, map crime, perform market demographic analyses and develop distribution networks and evacuation plans for community preparedness.  GIS helps planners, environmental scientists, biologists and business owners to make site location decisions and solve urban and environmental problems.  A background in GIS provides opportunities in federal, state and local agencies such as the:

Fish and Wildlife Service Department of Homeland Security National Park Service National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Bureau of Land Management United States Forest Service Environmental Protection Agency Department of Transportation State Police Department of Public Works Department of Conservation and Recreation Department of Environmental Protection

The nonprofit and private sector employs professionals trained in GIS in database creation, sales and marketing, cartographic production, software and applications development, data collection & analysis and project management.  GIS professionals may be employed by utilities & communications firms, banking, retail, real estate and insurance companies, environmental engineering firms, regional planning agencies and conservation organizations.  GIS professionals hold the following titles: GIS Technician, GIS Analyst, GIS Specialist, GIS Manager, System/Database Administrator and GIS Software Engineer.

The GIS Minor is designed to introduce students to the fundamental concepts, analytical techniques, software and hardware used in GIS.  Upon successful completion of the minor, students will be able to understand the core concepts underlying GIS, how GIS is used in a wide variety of subject areas and apply geospatial concepts and GIS to solve real world problems and to communicate effectively complex information to a diverse audience. 

Minor in Geographic Information System (GIS) - 18 Credits

* Additional prerequisites are required.

For more information about the GIS minor, contact Dr. Timothy LeDoux (tledoux@westfield.ma.edu), Department of Geography, Planning and Sustainability, at (413) 572-5722.