Geographical Information Science MSc
Study modes: Full-time
Programme website: Geographical Information Science
The programme not only encourages collaboration of students but also promotes the exchange between students, staff and industry partners. It was here I met a fellow student and a senior lecturer of the programme with whom I went on to found the start-up “Earthwave”. The MSc has provided me with the background skills needed to work on the different research projects Earthwave carries out for the European Space Agency but also prepared me to face the daily challenges of running my own business.
Geographical Information Science (GIS) provides powerful solutions to real-world problems using a range of the world’s most advanced technologies.
GIS captures, stores, manages and displays data related to positions on the Earth’s surface so you can better understand spatial patterns and relationships.
Every day around the world, GIS is used to solve complex problems. As a result, it is becoming integrated into almost every discipline.
From population dynamics, estate planning, logistics management, public health surveillance, and telecommunications to tracking deforestation, environmental management and predicting climate change - GIS is changing the way the world works.
Our successful MSc Geographical Information Science was the first of its type in the world.
It has a heritage of over 30 years and approaching 1000 graduates. Nevertheless, we continually refresh the programme to keep you abreast of the latest technological changes and industry trends.
You will gain critical theoretical knowledge, develop strong practical skills and undertake supervised independent research, all under the guidance of our internationally recognised staff.
In addition, you will become part of our unique Edinburgh Earth Observatory Seminar Series. We run these events in association with AGI-Scotland (Association For Geographic Information). The events will enable you to meet a range of professionals and become exposed to new ideas, together with educational and job opportunities.
Is the MSc for me?
This programme reflects on the use of geospatial technologies in the detection and mitigation of climate change, sustainability and social responsibility.
Our MSc is one of the largest masters programmes in GIS in the world. We offer foundation courses if you are new to the field and advanced courses if you want to specialise in particular areas.
You can flexibly choose optional courses to customise your learning in areas you are most passionate about.
So whether you want to build apps for your smartphone or solve some of the most significant environmental problems on the planet, this programme is for you.
Reputation, relevance and employability
A significant number of staff contribute to our programme and benefit from international reputations. We are often invited to engage with other academic institutions, organisations and companies around the world.
Our students’ research projects are often published in academic or professional journals.
Through our alumni network of past graduates, you will have unrivalled opportunities to connect with GIS professionals during your studies, helping you make contacts in the industry. In addition, as part of your dissertation research, options are available to work with various organisations, including the significant ecosystem of companies in Edinburgh, the government and the third sector.
We maintain close contacts with professional organisations such as The Association for Geographic Information, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and are ideally placed to make connections on your behalf.
Our programme has an excellent reputation amongst employers. In addition, former students will often look first to our graduates when employing new staff. Many of our graduates run their own businesses or work at the most senior level in various companies, often contributing to emerging sectors such as data-driven innovation and the green economy.
Our alumni network is uniquely active, with alumni regularly contributing to teaching. We also organise an annual conference for alumni, staff and current students. This event often acts as a conduit to employment. For these reasons, many of our students gain employment by the time they graduate.
This MSc is the complete package. The variety of the lectures and practicals provided an academic challenge, while the dissertation gave me confidence in the technical aspects, which I really enjoyed. In addition, the University proactively fosters a strong alumni network, meaning another big benefit was realised after the programme had finished with plentiful job opportunities. Rob Dunfey, MSc Geographical Information Science
What’s it really like to study here?
Visit our blog, where students in the School of GeoSciences share their experiences of postgraduate study, living in Edinburgh and everything in-between.
When to apply
Please note: Due to high demand for this programme, we operate on a series of early application deadlines.
We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.
For dates and details, please refer to 'Application Deadlines' and 'How to apply' on the right panel of this page.
You should also avoid applying to more than one degree. Applicants who can demonstrate their understanding and commitment to a specific programme are preferred.
If you plan to apply to more than one programme, you should discuss your choices with us before you submit your application.
Where possible, we may make an alternative programme offer if you have been unsuccessful in your chosen programme.
(Revised 16th February 2022 to add more information on the application process.)
The MSc Geographical Information Science is accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
RICS seeks to ensure that graduates have a stimulating and challenging education, preparing them well for their professional careers.
RICS’s external quality assurance system monitors our curriculum, programme resources, the standard of our graduates and their employability annually to ensure our programme is relevant to industry and maintains professional standards.
A RICS accredited degree is synonymous with the highest quality of education, benchmarked against international standards, and therefore valued by companies. As RICS’ standards and qualifications are recognised worldwide, it will mean you will hold an internationally recognised qualification.
If you are considering a career in geomatics or surveying, this accredited degree fast-tracks you towards Chartered status.
After graduating, you can complete your required Assessment of Professional Competence after just two years of structured workplace training, compared to five years from non-accredited degrees.
This MSc programme comprises:
- compulsory and option courses
You will be taught by leading experts in the field, including both university academics and professional colleagues with many years of experience in GIS.
You will also have opportunities to attend professional seminars and conferences to understand more about the GIS industry.
Throughout your studies, we will work with you to prepare you for the dissertation project. This will be your opportunity to explore a topic of your choice in relation to the programme and prepare a dissertation that you can use to demonstrate your work to potential employers.
As we are committed to helping people into education while continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments, you may study this programme part-time.
How will I learn?
You will experience a range of learning styles while studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking.
You can view each relevant course for teaching and assessment methods through the ‘Programme Structure’ link under compulsory and option courses below.
Changes to teaching and learning We are committed to offering high-quality education to all our students. However, please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery, including due to Covid-19. Decisions are made to safeguard student, staff, and community health and safety and ensure we can maintain the highest standards for your educational experience.
Although we endeavour to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from, these can be subject to change or cancellation at short notice. Places on optional courses can be limited due to course capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.
Find out more about compulsory and optional courses
We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative. We will continue to update you on the teaching you can expect throughout your application process.
By studying the MSc Geographical Information Science, you will be able to:
- understand the range of methods used to acquire, store, analyse and display spatial and attribute data in the context of geographical information systems;
- understand the concept of database management and its implications;
- demonstrate skills in quantitative techniques, spatial data analysis and data visualisation;
- critically review available GIS technologies, assessing their merits and shortcomings;
- predict future developments and understand the implications of standardisation efforts;
- be aware of a range of applications of GIS and Earth Observation;
- develop intellectual skills in critical analysis and synthesis of information;
- access relevant literature, from both traditional and electronic media, to extend your understanding of a topic;
- develop reasoned arguments firmly grounded in the published literature;
- generate new knowledge through the advancement of previous studies;
- plan and write assignments within the specified parameters and to a professional standard;
- take responsibility for your own learning through reading and the preparation of assignments, and reflect upon your learning experience;
- develop transferable skills in written and verbal communication, group and teamwork, computing, programming and numeracy, time and project management;
- work as an independent researcher and as part of a team.
Demand for GIS expertise continues to develop at an unprecedented rate.
The proven ability of our graduates means our internationally recognised programme is held in high regard by our employers. The vast majority of our students gain employment before completing the programme or within a few months of graduating.
The expertise gained on this programme will enable you to pursue a career in many fields, including:
- illustration and 3D visualisation
- digital archiving
- heritage management
- terrain modelling
- database management
- IT consultancy
Our graduates have been very successful in gaining employment worldwide in a variety of public and private sector organisations.
Types of roles include:
- GIS analysts
- data managers
- product development engineers
- geomatics specialists
Our programme has excellent relationships with relevant employers as well as a diverse alumni network.
We provide a dedicated GIS Careers event, with contacts in industry giving you valuable information on the current market and an insight into potential employment opportunities.
Examples of organisations our graduates are employed by include:
- General Electric Aerospace
- The World Bank
- British Antarctic Survey
- The World Conservation Monitoring Centre
- British Airways
- Forestry Commission
- Environment Agency
- Clean Earth Energy
- Scottish Government
- Scottish Water
- Green Highland Renewable
- Historic Environment Scotland
- local, city and federal governments around the world
While the MSc gives candidates a great foundation in geospatial theory and practical skills; it also pushes candidates to be creative and resourceful in developing solutions. This is a mindset that I've still taken with me five years into my GIS career. It is especially valuable for me in applying GIS in resource-limited contexts within the non-profit sector." Rica Duchateau, MSc Geographical Information Science
Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:
- tailored advice
- individual guidance and personal assistance
- internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
- access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network
We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.
As part of the programme, you will have the opportunity to undertake a residential field course. Our field trips usually take place in the world-famous Scottish Highlands.
During the course, you usually work together with other students in small groups to conduct a small-scale GIS project. You will receive guidance and support from our academic supervisors and experienced professionals.
The field course will enable you to experience the challenges of managing and executing a ‘real-world’ GIS project, including within time and resource constraints.
There are no additional charges for compulsory field trips.
Changes to field trips Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including due to Covid-19. Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled. We will also look at alternative arrangements that will ensure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree.
Changes will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and communities, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for your educational experience. We will announce any changes as soon as possible.
Facilities are an essential asset for our research and teaching.
Computing-intensive research in Geographical Information Systems (GIS), meteorological and climate modelling, geophysics, and analysis of space and satellite data is supported by access to our well-equipped in-house GIS suite with a broad range of software licences and the Edinburgh Computer and Data Facility parallel computing and DataStore facilities.
Specialist training in the use of these facilities will be provided.
You will also have access to national and international supercomputing, laboratory, experimental and field facilities.
Finally, we use field stations and facilities worldwide for research projects in the Antarctic, Arctic and tropics, on research ships in the world’s oceans, through aircraft sampling the atmosphere and remote sensing data from satellites.
You can explore some of these facilities on our website:
These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.
A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent.
We may also consider a UK 2:2 honours degree, or its international equivalent, with relevant industry experience.
We also welcome applications from applicants without a degree but who are working as geospatial professionals in the UK Armed Forces and who have undertaken relevant training.
Please provide information on any relevant industry experience or training in your personal statement when you apply.
Students from China
This degree is Band C.
Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:
English language requirements
You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.
English language tests
We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:
- IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component.
- TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
- C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
- Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
- PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.
Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)
Degrees taught and assessed in English
We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:
We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.
If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.
Find out more about our language requirements:
If you receive an offer of admission you will need to pay a deposit to secure your place.
- £1,500 (this contributes towards your tuition fees)
Find out more about tuition fee deposits:
Field trips and field courses
We do not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses. The programme fees will cover costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips. However, you must pay for incidental or personal expenses.
You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.
School of GeoSciences scholarships
Scholarships and student funding
You can find funding opportunities, tuition fees and costs of living for prospective UK and international postgraduate students on the University website.
You are also encouraged to undertake your own research into the range of potential scholarships and other funding outside the University for which you may be eligible.
Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:
- Admissions Contact
- Phone: +44 (0)131 650 5737
- Contact: College of Science & Engineering Admissions Enquiries
- School of GeoSciences
- Institute of Geography
- Drummond Street
- Central Campus
- EH8 9XP
This programme is not currently accepting applications. Applications for the next intake usually open in October.
Start date: September
Awards: MSc (12 mth FT)
Due to high demand for this programme, we operate on a series of selection deadlines.
We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications may close earlier than the published deadlines if there is exceptionally high demand.
We may make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis. However, the majority of applications will be held until the advertised deadline.
We aim to make the majority of decisions within six weeks of the selection deadline.
If we have not made you an offer by a specific selection deadline this means one of two things:
- your application has been unsuccessful, in which case we will contact you to let you know
- your application is still being considered, it will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline, and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made
The final deadline may be extended if any places remain on the programme.
|Round||Application Deadline||Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline|
|1||31 January||15 March|
|2||31 March||15 May|
|3||31 May||15 July|
Failure to submit all required documents will prevent the Admissions team from considering you for a place on the programme. It may also delay the decision on your application beyond the stated deadline.
We advise you do not apply to more than one programme. Where possible, we may make an alternative programme offer if you have been unsuccessful in your chosen programme.
More details are available on the College website: School of GeoSciences deadlines
Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:
- Admissions Contact
- Phone: +44 (0)131 650 5737
- Contact: College of Science & Engineering Admissions Enquiries
- School of GeoSciences
- Institute of Geography
- Drummond Street
- Central Campus
- EH8 9XP