Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence

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GI Certificate

The USC online Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT certificate) provides state-of-the-art education and training in the scientific concepts, analytical methods and key core geospatial technologies used to address issues of human security worldwide, including natural disasters, humanitarian crises, environmental risks, military operations, terrorist attacks, genocide, political violence, public health issues and food/resource accessibility challenges.

In 16 graduate units, you can gain the knowledge and practical skills to inform effective decision making, utilizing multiple “post-TCPED” (tasking, collection, processing, exploitation and dissemination) approachs to understanding human security risk through the analysis of geospatial data.

As a full-time student, you can complete this certificate in two semesters.  This program operates continually throughout the year in fall, spring, and summer semesters.  All USC GEOINT graduate certificate units apply towards the USC online M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) degree, making the GEOINT certificate a viable “stepping stone” towards a USC GIST master’s degree.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the graduate certificate, you should be able to:

  • develop critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills;
  • understand surveillance, targeting and navigation needs;
  • design and implement strategies for capturing or sourcing geospatial data and any accompanying metadata;
  • critically evaluate potential impacts of data quality on spatial analysis and decision making;
  • master the theory and protocols of radar interpretation, infrared and multi-spectral imagery, full motion video, legacy maps, digital geospatial datasets and social media feeds; and
  • prepare and present intelligence reports tailored to a variety of human security applications.

Cutting-Edge Curriculum

Start with the core course:

The unique characteristics and importance of spatial information as they relate to the evolving science, technology, and applications of Geographic Information Systems.


Then choose two electives (8 units) from among:

Provides the knowledge and skills necessary to investigate the spatial patterns which result from social and physical processes operating at or near the Earth’s surface.
Provides the knowledge and skills necessary to deploy spatial models to learn about social and environmental systems and make predictions about unmeasured processes and patterns.
Principles of remote sensing and satellite systems and the role of remote sensing data in GIS applications.  Recommended preparation: SSCI 581.
Principles of visual perception, spatial cognition and cartographic design and their contributions to the maps, animations, virtual reality and multimedia displays produced with modern GIS.  Recommended preparation: SSCI 581.


Conclude with the capstone course:

Typical geospatial intelligence tasks and their use in military operations, national and homeland security, international relief work and disaster management.

In every course, students can take topics or themes from current professional work or from potential future career opportunities for development in individual and small group projects, providing “take-away” value.

This online graduate certificate is offered by the USC Spatial Sciences Institute, housed in the David and Dana Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences of the University of Southern California, recognized as an “R-1” top-ranked university.  The Spatial Sciences Institute is a renowned center for research, innovation and teaching, providing a strategic “home base” for your online graduate GIST studies.

Distinguished Faculty

Each member of the faculty in the Geospatial Leadership graduate certificate program, as well all other graduate geospatial degree and certificate programs offered by the Institute, holds a Ph.D. and is an expert in GIS and related fields.

A Robust Graduate Online Community

Students benefit from the resources of and support for all online graduate programs within the Institute, which includes a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology, a M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology degree, a graduate certificate in Geospatial Leadership and a GeoHealth track in the online USC Master of Public Health degree offered by the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Leading-edge Resources

USC students enjoy access to software, hardware, data, geoprocessing and Web services, as well as online access to USC libraries, which provide access to full-text journals and other library services.  Students work from virtual desktops and servers supported by an in-house Cloud computing infrastructure.

Diverse Student Body

Founded on the premise of diversity and acceptance for all students who have the passion to learn, USC enrolls more international students than any other U.S. university.

Research-based Epicenter

As a leading research institution in Los Angeles, USC has leveraged its location to establish professional and academic relationships with fellow institutions throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim, as well as around the world.

The USC Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence is accredited by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). The Spatial Sciences Institute is a member of the USGIF.

The Institute also is the only North American member of the UNIGIS International Association, a global network of higher education institutions dedicated to recognizing international standards in the design, development and delivery of distance learning Geographic Information Science and Systems (GIS) programs.

As a designated Esri Development Center (EDC), the Institute is one of a small number of university entities that Esri recognizes as having exemplary programs focused on educating students in ways that promote the design and development of GIS applications using Esri’s web, mobile and desktop geospatial technologies.

Who should apply?

This graduate certificate is for anyone who desires to work in or who already is working in GEOINT fields, such as disaster response, environmental change, business or national security.  This certificate is especially relevant to individuals in:

  • Military geospatial units and those working in signals intelligence (SIGINT), imagery and targeting and Battle Damage Assessment (BDA)
  • Domestic and international humanitarian agencies and NGOs working within geopolitical areas assessing and forecasting potential conflicts
  • First-response on local, regional, state, federal and international levels
  • Disaster relief agencies and organizations, including charitable ones such as the International Red Cross or Catholic Relief Services
  • Defense contracting firms
  • Land-change sciences and assessment of changes in earth conditions (drought impact, fire, insect damage, coastal/marine conditions, tsunami impact, hurricane impact elevation changes)
  • Federal agencies such as the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of State, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense

This certificate also is relevant for those who use or need to know:

  • Geospatial Intelligence Preparation of Environment (GPE) methodology and Structured Geospatial Analytic Method (SGAM)
  • Geospatial technologies such as GIS, GPS, photogrammetry, remote sensing and senor networks for intelligence problem-solving
  • Those who work with or develop “big data” sets used by the individuals identified above

Information for Military and Veterans

Learn more about USC resources for veterans offered by the USC Office of Veteran Affairs and about USC Student Affairs support for veteran students at USC.