Postgraduate study

Geographical Information Science MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time


Funding opportunities

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.

Livia Jakob MSc Geographical Information Science
Livia Jakob               MSc Geographical Information Science

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 and being integrated into almost every discipline.

From population dynamics, estate planning, logistics management and telecommunications through to tracking deforestation, environmental management and predicting climate change - GIS is changing the way the world works.

What will I learn?

Our successful MSc Geographical Information Science was the first of its type in the world and has a heritage of over 30 years.

The MSc is continually refreshed 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.

Is the MSc for me?

Our MSc is one of the largest masters programmes in GIS in the world, offering both 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 largest environmental problems on the planet, this programme is for you.

Reputation, relevance and employability

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. For this reason, many of our students gain employment by the time they graduate.

Find out more from our students

Visit our student blog, where students in the School of GeoSciences share their experiences of postgraduate study, living in Edinburgh and everything in-between.

The MSc has been a great experience for me. I already had some commercial experience working with GIS in Malaysia, but the course expanded my theoretical knowledge and my practical skills in new directions. The staff are all really helpful, patient and supportive, and really take an interest in looking after all their students. And it was great to have such a diversity of classmates. A big 'terima kasih' (thank-you) to you all!

Fatin Abdilah, MSc Geographical Information Science


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, which prepares them well for their professional career.

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 2 years of structured workplace training, compared to 5 years from non-accredited degrees.

This MSc programme comprises:

  • compulsory and option courses
  • dissertation

You will be taught by leading experts in the field, including both university academics and professional colleagues with many years of experience in the field of GIS.

You will also have opportunities to attend professional seminars and conferences to understand more about the GIS industry.

Throughout the programme, your teaching team will work with you to prepare for the dissertation project.

This will be your opportunity to explore a topic of your choice in relation to the programme.

Teaching methods

You will experience a range of teaching styles while you are studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking.

Courses can be delivered through a mix of teaching and learning styles including:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • computer-based practicals
  • group work
  • fieldwork

Please view each relevant course for teaching and assessment methods.

Changes to teaching and learning

We are committed to offering a high-quality education to all our students. Please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery, including due to Covid-19.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for 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.

Part-time study

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.

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.

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:

  • surveying
  • illustration and 3D visualisation
  • digital archiving
  • heritage management
  • terrain modelling
  • database management
  • geomatics
  • IT consultancy

Our graduates have been very successful gaining employment around the world in a variety of public and private sector organisations.

Types of roles include:

  • GIS analysts
  • data managers
  • product development engineers
  • conservationists
  • geomatics specialists


The 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 informative information on the current market and an insight into potential employment opportunities.

Our graduates

Examples of organisations our graduates are employed by include:

  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • IBM
  • Oracle
  • General Electric Aerospace
  • ESRI
  • The World Bank
  • British Antarctic Survey
  • The World Conservation Monitoring Centre
  • Deloitte
  • British Airways
  • the Forestry Commission
  • the Environment Agency
  • Clean Earth Energy
  • ARUP
  • Scottish Government
  • Scottish Water
  • Green Highland Renewable
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • local, city and federal governments around the world

This MSc was ideal for me. I was able to select from a wide range of courses and specialised in remote sensing. This led to a dissertation looking at the evolution of surface lakes on top of an Antarctic ice shelf - a very rewarding experience that has set me up well for my next venture - a PhD with the British Antarctic Survey. I found my lecturers were knowledgeable and encouraged me to succeed.

Bryony Freer, MSc Geographical Information Science

Careers Service

Our Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, offering a range of tailored careers and personal development guidance and support.

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead, while at university and after graduation.

Field trip

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 to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience.

Any changes will be announced 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 via remote sensing data from satellites.

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.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

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

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 20 in each module). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

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 or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

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:


You will need to pay this deposit if you receive an offer of admission (either unconditional or conditional).

  • £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.

Costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips will be covered by the programme fees. However, you must pay for incidental or personal expenses.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

School of GeoSciences scholarships

Browse funding opportunities

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

You are also encouraged to undertake your own research into the range of potential scholarships and other funding for which you may be eligible.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines.

We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection 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, or
  • your application is still being considered, will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline
1 31 January 2021 15 March 2021
2 31 March 2021 15 May 2021
3 30 June 2021 15 August 2021

(*Revised 9 March 2021 to add information on decision timescales.)

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP