Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Geographical Information Science MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Accreditation

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 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 how the world works.

Always innovative

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 detecting and mitigating 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 worldwide.

We have staff who are part of teams for the Association for Geographic Information and the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research, who can share their knowledge with you.

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. Our students’ research projects are often published in academic or professional journals.

We also maintain close contacts with professional organisations and are ideally placed to make connections on your behalf. For example:

  • The Association for Geographic Information
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

What is it really like to study with us?

No one knows what it is like to study here better than the students themselves. Our students are sharing their experiences - from studying to living in Edinburgh and everything in between. Get social with us:

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.

Accreditation

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
  • dissertation

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.

Dissertation

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.

We also work with our wide network to find opportunities for dissertation projects with external organisations, enhancing the real-world relevance of your degree.

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. All decisions are made to ensure we can provide 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.

Part-time study

You may study this programme part-time as we are committed to helping people into education while continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments.

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.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScGeographical Information Science1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScGeographical Information Science2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScGeographical Information Science3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24

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 grow at an unprecedented rate.

The proven ability of our graduates means our internationally recognised programme is held in high regard by our employers. Most of our students gain employment before completing the programme or within a few months of graduating. You will benefit from our proven track record in helping students progress to roles with a diverse range of employers in public, private and third sectors.

The expertise gained in 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

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

Types of roles include:

  • GIS analyst
  • Data manager
  • GIS developer
  • Conservationist
  • Geomatics specialist
  • intelligence officer

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
  • Forestry Commission
  • Environment Agency
  • Clean Earth Energy
  • ARUP
  • Scottish Government
  • Scottish Water
  • Green Highland Renewable
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • local, city and federal governments around the world

Networks

Our programme has an excellent reputation amongst employers.

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.

We also have a diverse alumni network. 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.

Edinburgh Innovations – start-up opportunities

Several of our alumni have launched their own successful start-ups, such as 'Earthwave'.

We have fantastic resources through the University department' Edinburgh Innovations' to help you successfully nurture your entrepreneurial ideas and launch your own enterprise.

Careers Service

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.

Field trips

As part of the programme, you will have the opportunity to undertake a residential field course.

During the course, students usually work together in small groups to conduct a small-scale GIS project. Previous examples include:

  • assessing the role of green space in mitigating flooding risk
  • whether green space exposure is beneficial for health

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.

Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation.

Our field trips usually take place in the world-famous Scottish Highlands. We strive to deliver a low-carbon experience that also supports the local economy.

Changes to field trips Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including the health and safety of our students, staff and communities, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for your educational experience. 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. We will announce any changes as soon as possible.

Accessibility on field trips We are committed to making our degree as accessible and inclusive as possible. In the event that you cannot attend a fieldwork trip, we will provide alternatives with comparable learning outcomes where necessary.

Facilities

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 are all 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.

Dedicated computing labs are provided in the Central Campus area, although some courses or specialised activities may occur on other University sites (for example, if you are working with drone data.)

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.

Edinburgh hosts the UK’s national supercomputing centre and these facilities can be used for research projects. In addition, you will benefit from access to projects that involve the use of equipment such as survey-grade GPS and Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

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:

Where you will study

You will have access to the University's facilities across all University sites.

For example:

  • laboratories
  • libraries
  • study spaces (some of which are open 24 hours)
  • computing facilities
  • social spaces
  • leisure facilities

Most courses within this programme are taught within the Central Campus.

Depending on the option courses you choose, you may study at various campus locations in Edinburgh, including Kings Buildings Campus.

Students in this MSc will have access to the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI) Masters Hub.

Edinburgh Climate Change Institute

This programme is linked with the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI). You will have access to the shared 'Masters Hub' study space in ECCI as well as the café and shared working spaces on the ground and first floors. Some of your teaching will take place in the ECCI.

ECCI is also close to many teaching spaces and facilities within the Central Area campus. For example, the Main Library and gym.

King's Buildings campus

The King's Buildings (KB) is the main campus of the College of Science and Engineering.

The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh. It is easily accessible by bus. You can also cycle (10 minutes) or walk (25 minutes) from the central area.

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of GeoSciences and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Discover our city's landmarks, our campuses, accommodation and get video tours - all in one place.

Edinburgh is your ideal base

Edinburgh is ranked 2nd in the UK and 10th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2023.

Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in - it is the perfect location to study the subject you're studying. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life. We have rich environmental locations to explore right on our doorstep. Immerse yourself among rugged coastlines, misty mountains, forest glens and sparkling freshwater lochs.

It is no surprise we are regularly voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world!

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

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 B.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

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.

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 (non-MESC).

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:

Deposit

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. This may include suitable outdoor clothing and footwear.

Living costs

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

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScGeographical Information Science1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScGeographical Information Science2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScGeographical Information Science3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

(Revised 05 February 2024 to add 'ScottishPower Master Scholarships' to the featured funding section)

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:

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

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 eight weeks of the selection deadline. Sometimes it may take longer than eight weeks to complete our decision-making and when this is the case we will contact applicants directly to provide an updated timeline for decision-making.

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.

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline
1 15 December 1 March
2 31 March 31 May
3 31 May 31 July

You must submit one reference with your application.

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.

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