Geographical Information Systems MSc

Geographical Information Systems, MSc

Introduction

Over 25 years of excellence in postgraduate teaching of remote sensing, GIS, visualisation, digital mapping and cartography.

This is a flexible programme which has been designed to suit the needs of all learners, with both full-time and part-time on-campus study options, plus part-time distance learning option. The degree also has both a September and January start date.

Key Facts

Duration
1 Year / 2 Years
Study Mode
Full Time / Part Time
Start Month
September / January
Learning Mode
On Campus Learning / Distance Learning

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Overview

Geospatial technologies are of increasing importance in many areas of commercial, industrial, and government employment, including nature conservation agencies, civil and coast engineering projects and marine and coastal zone management. As a result, the demand for courses in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and the related technologies has grown considerably.

A recent survey suggests that demand by employers for graduates with skills in the application of geospatial technology will continue to grow, particularly in areas where the practical application of spatial knowledge and understanding to environmental problems is important.

The Geographical Information Systems programme covers the fundamentals of techniques and tools for acquiring, storing, processing, classifying, analysing, and visualising spatially referenced data, and their application to the study of the Earth. This includes:

  • Spatial databases
  • Programming
  • Simulation and modelling
  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
  • Digital mapping and cartography
  • Airborne, satellite and UAV remote sensing
  • Digital image processing
  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
  • WebGIS and Internet atlases
  • Field data capture
  • Mobile GIS

What You'll Study

The information below applies to the 1 year full time / 2 year part time on campus learning MSc programme which runs in September. You will find information about other ways to study this programme in the next section on this page.

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

The History, Origins and Evolution of GIS (GG5049)

This module will introduce students to the literature, concepts, theories, knowledge and understanding of the origins, history, development, and evolution of Geographical Information Systems. This will include a timeline of key developments in GIS theory and practice; technological developments of GIS from its geographical origins to the commercial location-based technologies of today; the underlying geographical principles and fundamentals of GIS; discussion of GIS as a tool or technique, a discipline or science; and some of the major developments that have led to mobile location-based technologies. Finally, key future developments of this rapidly evolving technology with some example applications.

GIS Tools and Techniques i (GG5050)

This module will introduce students to a number of introductory and fundamental geospatial tools and techniques for displaying and analysing geospatial data. This will include: navigation, measurement, spatial queries, geocoding, scripting, buffering, digitsing, and overlay analysis. A number of ‘real world’ examples will be used to illustrate the application of the tools for data exploration, data capture, simple spatial analysis, mapping and visualisation. Emphasis will be placed on obtaining a sound understanding of the principles of each technique, as well as the importance of selecting the correct approach to a problem, analysing the data, and interpretation of the results.

People Management and GIS (GG5054)

This module will introduce students to the important role that people play in the successful development and implementation of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology and software. This includes consideration of the human element involved in the collection, input, storage and management of geospatial data for current and future applications in education, government and commerce. Students will consider some of the different backgrounds, skills and expertise required: by technical staff (e.g. programmers, and database engineers) involved in developing GIS software; by those responsible for developing software interfaces for the end-user community; in the development of new GIS products and new application areas; by those who are responsible for purchasing and implementing GIS and related technologies in the workplace; by current and future applications; and the knowledge and understanding required to make use of GIS as a desktop and mobile tool.

Optional Courses

Plus, either or;

Database Systems and Big Data (CS5097)

This course will be of interest to anyone who wishes to learn to design and query databases. The course aims to teach the material using case studies from real-world applications. You will develop a critical understanding of the principal theories, principles and concepts, such as modelling techniques used in the design, administration and security of database systems. You will also learn core theoretical concepts such as relational algebra, file organisation and indexing. At the end of this course you will be able to design and build Web and cloud-based databases and have a critical understanding of how database-driven applications operate.

Aspects of Digital Mapping & Visualization (GG5052)

This module will introduce students to elements of traditional cartography, digital mapping, and visualisation for the presentation and analysis of geospatial data and the results of spatial analyses. Emphasis will be placed on the development of an appreciation of the importance of traditional and electronic map design and the use of colour as a key to effective communication when producing maps from GIS, visualisation, and image processing software. This will include coverage of scientific visualisation and geovisualisation including animation, interactivity, electronic atlases, and multimedia visualisation. Practical experience of selected software will be gained e.g. MapViewer, Surfer, Voxler, ArcGIS and Fledermaus.

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Fundamentals of GIS & Spatial Analysis (GG5539)

Central to the application of Geographical Information (GI) in the 'real world' is the acquisition of a fundamental knowledge and understanding of the 'data into information’ pathway using GIS and the geospatial information technologies. This module introduces students to a number of examples of both theory and application of geographical data and information, and the relationships to remote sensing, cartography. visualisation, multimedia, global positioning systems (GPS), mobile GIS, and the Internet. A practical study of mobile GIS and Smartphone Apps for field data collection is included. A practical introduction to the Idrisi GIS software is used for the course.

Planning, Managing and Presenting A GIS Project (GG5555)

This course aims at progressing knowledge of spatial analysis tools in GIS. Map Algebra techniques will be applied to solve complex GIS projects. Part one is focussed on solving one complex spatial analysis exercise using commonly used GIS software emphasising how to best present results.

Part 2 focuses on optimising the planning and management of a GIS project. Attention is given to time management and potential sources of uncertainty when planning a GIS project. Through a series of practical exercises students will acquire the necessary skills for designing projects that address the needs of a target client or audience.

Current Applications of GIS (GG5540)

This module will examine some of the many different applications of the geospatial technologies. It comprises two sections: 1) invited lectures from external guest speakers on a selection of current GIS applications embracing academic, commercial and research topics on e.g. physical and human geography, planning, archaeology, geology, computer science, and specialist applications from amongst others: the renewable energy sector, oil and gas industry, offshore surveying, marine spatial planning, precision agriculture, environmental management, local authorities, and the business sector; 2) the execution of a practical-based mini GIS project chosen from a list of topics of specific interest to the student.

Uav Remote Sensing, Monitoring and Mapping (GG5059)

This module will provide students with an introduction to UAV, airborne and satellite remote sensing, digital image processing, and softcopy photogrammetry to extract environmental data and information from digital imagery, and a number of monitoring and mapping applications. Students will learn how to acquire UAV imagery, and to process it into information as part of a group practical mapping exercise.

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Dissertation Project in GIS (GG5910)

The student will select, undertake and complete a research-based dissertation project. In choosing and approving a suitable topic, consideration will be given to the student's background and skills, their career interests, suitable data availability, and the possibility of an external placement. Successful completion of the project requires reference to and integration of the various different taught elements, independent research, together with a general knowledge of all aspects of GIS and where appropriate different disciplines. The dissertation project is undertaken by the student with the guidance of a supervisor from the University and in some cases an external advisor.

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

Postgraduate Open Day

Our next Open Day will be on

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How You'll Study

Learning Methods

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials
  • Field Work
  • Field Trips
  • Research
  • Individual Projects
  • Group Projects

Assessment

Assessment is by a combination of written and practical assignments, presentations and laboratory reports as prescribed for each course and a dissertation, together with an oral examination and poster presentation.

Why Study Geographical Information Systems?

  • There are numerous opportunities to engage with industry throughout the programme and the skills and knowledge that you will develop will open up opportunities for you to work in a number of businesses. One example of industry engagement is the opportunity to visit and receive a case study presentation from Aberdeen Harbour Board, the UK oil and gas industry's key port.
  • You are encouraged to join a professional society such as the Association for Geographic Information (AGI), the Remote Sensing Society (RSS), the British Cartographic Society (BCS), the UK Hydrographic Society, and the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
  • You will study with like-minded people, both students and staff, which creates a very positive environment and establishes a close network of support during your studies and beyond.
  • The programme draws upon a wide range of international, national, and local expertise in: coastal and marine science, landscape ecology and landscape change, archaeology, integrated coastal management, offshore, hydrographic and underwater survey, renewable energy, geology and hydrocarbon exploration, environmental risks and hazards, marine and terrestrial spatial planning, precision agriculture and climate change.
  • Geography has a strong tradition at Aberdeen having been successfully taught here since the foundation of Marischal College in 1593 and established as a formal unit within the University in 1919.
  • The department, and its students, are at a distinct advantage being based in the north east of Scotland. The University is in close proximity to some of the most environmentally important and geographically varied landscapes in the whole of the UK, including the Cairngorms National Park.
  • Students have the opportunity to engage with industry in a number of ways, and we have developed close working relationships through research and teaching with key organisations, including Aberdeen Harbour Board, SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage, Cairngorms National Park, James Hutton Institute, Crown Estate.
  • Field trips are an integral part of all our degree programmes in the Department.
  • Our research is organised into three broad research themes: Sustainable Development and Transformation, Earth Surface Processes, Palaeoecology. We draw from social, environmental and geosciences to address local and global sustainability challenges and the impact of rapid environmental change on contemporary surface processes.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

For international students entering in 2017/18, the 2017/18 tuition fee rate will apply to all years of study.

Fees and Funding Table for HOME, EU, RUK and International Students
Nationality Status Amount
Home / EU / RUK Students Tuition fee for main award £5,600
International Students Tuition fee for main award £15,400
  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trip courses. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Funding

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

Entry Requirements

Motivation and understanding of this degree is an important factor in securing admission. Your personal statement/statement of purpose should focus on providing answers to the following questions:

  • What is your background in the geospatial technologies?
  • What specific aspects and areas of the geospatial technologies are you interested in?
  • What applications of the geospatial technologies would you like to pursue whilst in Aberdeen? and why?
  • How do you think your background (both academic and work related) is relevant to the study of the geospatial technologies?
  • How do you see a qualification in the geospatial technologies helping your future career?

Qualifications

The normal minimum entry requirement is a 2:2 (lower second class) honours Degree or equivalent, in Archaeology, Agriculture, Computing Science, Ecology, Engineering, Environmental Science, Forestry, Geography, Geology, Geomatics, Marine Science, Physics, Planning, Plant Science, Soil Science or Zoology.

Language Requirements

All students entering the University must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study effectively at the University of Aberdeen.

Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the College of Physical Sciences Postgraduate Standard level of English proficiency.

If you have not achieved the required scores, the University of Aberdeen offers pre-sessional English courses. Further details are available on our Language Centre website.

Nationals of some English-speaking countries or those who hold degrees from some English-speaking countries may be exempt from this requirement. Details of countries recognised as English-speaking can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages.

Document Requirements

  • Degree Transcripta full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
  • Personal Statementa detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
  • Degree Certificatea degree certificate showing your qualifications
  • CVan up-to-date CV/Resumé
  • Association for Geographic Information (AGI)

    Association for Geographic Information (AGI)

    Become a student member of the AGI. Each year, the AGI sponsor a student dissertation prize.

    Find out more
  • GIS Industry visits

    GIS Industry visits

    Industry visits and field-trips are an important part of the degree. Opportunities change each year but we can guarantee and excellent and relevant experience.

Careers

The GIS programme continues to have a very successful employment record in the commercial sector, environmental agencies, local and national government, research, and academia. Graduates have gone on to work in a variety of roles, including; project officers, programmers, sales managers, GIS engineer, senior consultant GIS specialist and project managers.

Career opportunities are highlighted through site visits, field trips, guest lectures, and chances to work with organisations as part of the MSc Dissertation. This programme focuses students on the acquisition of practical experience, specialist knowledge and understanding, and problem-solving skills to pursue careers in any of these fields. In addition, there is the possibility of industry suggested projects, dependent upon minimum academic requirements, and industrial input and contact with geospatial practitioners.

Industry Links

The programme is also supported and developed by our Industry Advisory Board which is made up of experienced individuals from across a number of key industries - oil and gas, local authority etc.

  • Martin Berry - Fugro (Offshore Survey)
  • Marshall Halliday - Esk Rivers & Fisheries Trust (Trust)
  • Damian Ling - Chevron (Oil and Gas)
  • Aftab Majeed - Aberdeen City Council (Local Authority)
  • George Ritchie/Neil Sutherland - Positioning Resources (Mobile GIS/GPS)

Hear from Business

  • Aberdeen Harbour Board

    Aberdeen Harbour Board

    Students visit the harbour and are given a presentation on “Hydrographic Surveying” at the Marine Operations Centre and a look over their multi-purpose craft “Sea Herald”. This is just an example of one industry that relies on GIS technology.

Our Experts

Programme Coordinator
Dr David Green

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

What our Alumni Say

  • James Watt, at

    James Watt

    Graduated
    I really enjoyed the course which provided me with an excellent understanding of the tools and techniques required for sourcing, organising, manipulating and analysing spatially referenced data within a GIS environment.
  • Aapo Jaakkola, Processing Supervisor at

    Aapo Jaakkola

    Job Details
    Processing Supervisor
    Graduated
    I wanted to study GIS and the related technologies as I had already undertaken some basic GIS courses previously. I was also interested in GIS as it is an expanding area with good employment opportunities.
  • Bader Almutairi, at

    Bader Almutairi

    Graduated
    I loved the fact that the course is taught in a varied and interesting way, with regular field trips such as Stonehaven and Knock Farm. I have learned a lot, from the basics of GIS & RS to specific topics. It was a very challenging experience.
  • Gameli Kormla Agboada, Geomatic Engineer at

    Gameli Kormla Agboada

    Job Details
    Geomatic Engineer
    Graduated
    My choice of the University of Aberdeen has been informed by its reputation in academic excellence.
  • Robert Watret, at

    Robert Watret

    Graduated
    The MSc in GIS has expanded considerably my practical knowledge and even more so my theoretical/technical knowledge.
  • Ryan Peck, at

    Ryan Peck

    Graduated
    During the course I was not disappointed and managed to meet several industry experts from a variety of areas such as environmental surveying, oil and gas and offshore planning.

Contact

Address
College of Physical Sciences Graduate School
University of Aberdeen
Fraser Noble Building
King's College
Aberdeen

AB24 3UE
Email
Phone
+44 (0)1224 272515
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