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University of Texas at Dallas

School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences

800 W. Campbell Road

Richardson, Tx 75080-3021


972-883-6297 (fax)



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in

Geospatial Information Sciences


A research degree focused on advancing our understanding of spatially-referenced information, and on developing new technologies

Download brochure in pdf format (8.5"x14")

The mission of the Doctor of Philosophy in Geospatial Information Sciences is to cultivate innovative researchers capable of  advancing the frontiers  of knowledge in the geospatial information sciences through improved theories, new technologies, innovative  methodologies, sophisticated quantitative analyses, and integrative applications.

The Ph.D. degree is jointly offered by the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (specifically in the Department of Geosciences) and the Eric Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. This unique structure reflects geospatial information science’s origins at the confluence of work in multiple disciplines including geography, computer science, engineering, geology, and various social, policy and applied sciences.

Unlike programs at other schools in which geospatial information sciences is offered as a concentration within traditional geography, geology, environmental science or engineering programs, the degree at UTD is  devoted solely to GI Science, focusing on advancement of the technology, its associated theory, and the enhancement of its application in a variety of substantive areas. As such, it provides a unique option for students wishing to concentrate in this inherently cross-disciplinary area.

Students will find employment in the burgeoning geospatial technology industry, in research departments of public and private organizations,  and in major academic institutions because of their ability to build bridges to other areas.

It is anticipated that many students will enter the program with a bachelor’s or master’s degree (and/or work experience) in an application area (such as public administration, geology, or economics) or in a technical specialization (such as engineering, computer science, or statistics) with the intent of advancing existing practice with geospatial information sciences in that application area or expanding the technological or theoretical base for geospatial information sciences


The program requires a minimum of 90 hours of graduate work beyond the Bachelor’s degree in courses numbered 5xxx or above at UT-Dallas or their equivalent elsewhere, of which 42 hours are in formal, organized classes. No more than 36 hours of this work may be transferred from another institution. In the process of completing the  Ph.D. from the baccalaureate level at UTD,  a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems, a Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing and a  Master of Science in Geospatial Information Sciences or a Master of Science in Computer Science or a Master of Science in Geoscience may also be obtained.

To receive the PhD in Geospatial Information Sciences, students must complete the Geospatial Science Core (15 SCH) to achieve a mastery of GI  Science technologies and theory, have a Geospatial Specialization Area (15 SCH), have a  Specific Application area or Technical field (12 SCH), evidence research skills through successful completion and defense of a Ph. D. dissertation, and take  related electives as necessary  for a total of 90 semester credit hours. In addition, students must satisfy a set of exams and qualifiers. Other courses may be substituted for those listed below with the written permission in advance of the Director of the GIS Doctoral program.

Geospatial Science Core (15 credit hours)

GISC6381 GIS Fundamentals
GISC6382 Applied GIS
GISC6384 Spatial Analysis and Modeling
GISC6385 GIS Theories, Models and Issues
GISC6387 Geographic Information Systems Workshop

Geospatial Specialization Area (select from one, with a minimum of 15 credit hours)

Geospatial Computing and Information Management
CS 6378 Advanced Operating Systems
CS 6359 Object Oriented Analysis and Design
CS 6360 Database Design
CS 6V80

Spatial Data Management

CS 6364 Artificial Intelligence
CS 6366 Computer Graphics
CS 6384 Computer Vision
CS 6381 Combinatorics and Graph Algorithms
CS 6375 Neural Nets and Machine Learning
GISC 6383

GIS Management and Implementation

GISC 7363

Internet Mapping and Information Management 

GISC 6488 GIS Application Development
*MIS 6326 Database Management Systems
Spatial Analysis and Modeling
POEC5313 Descriptive and Inferential Statistics
POEC5316 Advanced Regression Analysis
POEC5313 Econometrics
GISC7360 GIS Pattern Analysis
GISC7361 Spatial Statistics
GISC7362 GIS Network Modeling
GISC7364 Demographic Analysis and Modeling
GISC7368 Spatial Epidemiology
GEOS5306 Data Analysis for Geoscientists
GISC7364 Advanced Raster Modeling
CS 5343 Data Structures
Remote Sensing and Satellite Technologies
GEOS5425 Intro to Remote Sensing
GEOS5329 Applied Remote Sensing
GEOS5326 Remote Sensing Digital Image Processing
GEOS5328 Radar Remote Sensing
GEOS5422 GPS Satellite Surveying Techniques
GEOS5423 GIS Applications to Geoscience
GEOS7327 Remote Sensing Workshop
EE 6369 Digital Signal Processing
EE6363 Digital Image Processing
Customized Geospatial Specialization
  Identified by the student with approval in advance by the Director of  the GIS Doctoral Program.

Application Area or Technical Field (12 SCH)

Twelve semester-credit hours of specialized course work in an application area or technical field relevant to GIScience.  Normally, these will derive from the student’s masters degree. These hours may be transferred from another institution, or taken at UTD in an existing master’s program area and may be applied toward a master’s in that area.

  • Application area examples: planning, public affairs, criminal justice, health and epidemiology, geoscience, forestry, hydrology, marketing, real estate, economics, civil engineering, etc..
  • Technical field examples: statistics, computer science, software engineering, management information systems, image analysis, operations research, instrumentation, etc...
  • Research and Dissertation (24-48 credit hours which could include)

    GISC7389 GIS PhD Research Qualifier
    POEC 5310 Research Design I
    POEC 6342 Research Design II
    GISC 7387 GIS Research Design
    GISC 8V29 Research in GIS
    GEOS 6205 Geoscience Presentations
    GISC 8V99 Dissertation
    GEOS 8V99 Dissertation
    CS 8v99 Dissertation

    Other Related Electives  (0-24 credit hours)

    Students may choose up to 24 SCHs in related electives with consent of the GIS Program Director.

    * May not be used in conjunction with certain other courses. Consult GIS Program Director

    GISC: Geospatial Information Sciences
    CS: Computer Science
    (br> GEOS: Geoscience.
    POEC: Political Economy, the designation for interdisciplinary graduate courses in the School of Economic, Political and Policy sciences.
    MIS: Management Information Systems

    Exams and Qualifiers

    1. Ph.D. Research Project Qualifier

    All doctoral students must register for and complete GISC 7389 GISciences PhD Research  Project Qualifier. This requires completion, according to uniform guidelines established by the GIS program, of a GIS Research draft proposal and its evaluation by  a committee of at least three GIS faculty, two of whom are chosen by the student with approval of the Director of the GIS Doctoral Program, and the third is appointed by the Director of the GIS Program and represents the program. The committee will judge the quality of the project as it exemplifies the student’s potential to conduct original research (including their ability to define their research objective, survey literature, develop an appropriate design, etc.) and the strength of the student’s course record to date, and make a determination of the  student’s suitability to continue toward the PhD degree. The student must receive a PASS. If a FAIL is recorded, the course may be repeated one time only in the immediate following semester, including Summer. This course will normally be taken after the student has completed between 15 and 30 hours. A student must register for GISC 7389 in the semester immediately following the one in which he/she first accumulates 42 or more hours.  GISC 7389 GIScience Research Project Qualifier can substitute for GISC 6389 GIScience Master’s Project, but not the reverse unless a special petition is presented and granted.

    1. Grade Point Qualifier

    Students must normally have a GPA of at least 3.25 and preferably 3.5 in courses taken at UT-Dallas at the time they register for GISC 7389 Ph.D. Qualifier. Students may petition the GIS faculty for an exemption for extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control.

    1. Qualifying Examination and Defense of Proposal

    At a point in time after meeting the Research Project Qualifier,  the student must demonstrate through a general examination  his/her competency in the area chosen for their dissertation. Normally, this examination will  be written and based  upon the GIS Research draft proposal prepared  as a part of the GISC 7389 GISciences PhD Research  Project Qualifier course   and conducted by the same committee. The general examination will test the student’s (i) mastery of  basic principles  in geospatial information science, (ii) mastery of the technology(ies) and methodologies to be used in the dissertation, and (iii) thorough knowledge of the application area for the proposed research.  Following the successful completion of the  Qualifying exam the student must successfully  present in public and defend a dissertation proposal through an oral examination. The proposal defense will  evaluate  the viability of the proposed research and its contribution to knowledge.   Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination and the proposal defense, the student is officially “advanced to candidacy” for the Ph.D. degree and a dissertation committee of at least four faculty is formally constituted to oversee the research. 

    1. Defense of Dissertation

    A dissertation must be prepared and defended successfully following the procedures established by the Dean of Graduate Studies.


    General information, including an on-line application (Texas Common Application), is available here.  Applicants for the Ph.D. in GISci are advised to pay particular attention to the required  Narrative/Personal Statement and follow the guidelines here. The PhD program in GISci seeks applications from students with a baccalaureate, Master of Arts, Master of Science or professional masters-level degree in any field relevant to geospatial information science including, but not limited to, geography and the social sciences, geology, computer science, management information systems, statistics, economics, marketing, city and regional planning, or natural resource management. A grade point average of at least 3.25 in undergraduate and master’s work, and a combined verbal and quantitative score of 1150 or more on the GRE are desirable. Decisions cannot be made on PhD applications until a GRE score is available. Ph.D. students normally begin their program in the Fall. Applications should be received by  July 1 (US residents) or May 1 (international). If you are seeking financial support, to maximize your chances, all application materials should be received at UT-Dallas by February 15th


    The following pre-requisites/co-requisites will also be required for admission to the PhD program: (i) college mathematics through calculus, (ii) competence in at least one modern programming language equivalent to GISC 5317 Computer Programming for GIS, or CS 5303 and CS 5330 Computer Science I & II or MIS 5321 Computer Programming or MIS 6322 Visual Basic or MIS 6323 Java, or their equivalents, and (iii) at least one course in inferential statistics through to regression analysis equivalent to POEC 5313 Descriptive and Inferential Statistics or GEOS 5306 Data Analysis for Geoscientists. Graduate courses taken at UTD to meet these pre-requisites may be counted as electives toward the 90 credit hours for students entering the Ph.D. program directly from a B.A. or B.S. degree, but they shall not be considered substitutes for any of the other specified courses below.


    Financial Support

    Financial aid is a separate decision from admission. University financial support is EXTREMELY competitive.  Nevertheless, there are support opportunities for the exceptional student. Detail is available via the
    financial support sidebar link.

    Information and Program Administration

    For further information, send e-mail to the director of  GI Science programs, Dr Ronald Briggs [email protected], or contact the School of Economic, Political and Policy sciences (which has administrative responsibility for the program) as follows:

    Director, GIS Programs 
    School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences 
    P.O. Box 830688 GR31
    Richardson, TX 75083-0688 
    Phone: (972) 883-2720 
    E-mail: [email protected]
    World Wide Web: 

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