Geographic Information Systems Professional Concentration | UC Davis Extension

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Geographic Information Systems Professional Concentration

Learn to use GIS to Analyze, Manage and Display Data
Geographic Information Systems is a growing industry. Nearly all industries utilize GIS in some capacity, from environmental, agricultural and natural resource management to engineering, city planning and public health, making a practical understanding of GIS technology crucial.

The Geographic Information Systems Professional Concentration focuses on how to analyze and model the built and natural environments in order to inform resource management and policy decisions. Whether you want to advance your career by adding GIS to your skill set, or you’re a manager looking to increase the capacity of your office by bringing GIS to your organization, this foundational program provides a practical understanding of GIS technology and its application, focusing on Esri’s ArcGIS software package. Students explore a range of GIS topics and gain hands-on experience.

Acquire a better understanding of GIS tools and capabilities. Designed for working professionals, our program features: 

  • Expert Instructors – Learn from experienced GIS practitioners from a variety of disciplines
  • Career Flexibility – GIS skills are in high demand across many industries, giving you flexibility in the job market
  • "Real-world" Learning – Class projects, conducted in a UC Davis computer lab, offer relevant, hands-on learning opportunities that you can put to use immediately
  • Exceptional Networking Opportunities – Build critical networking relationships with instructors and peers
  • High-Quality Program – Courses are approved by UC Davis and can be counted as elective credits toward the Land Use and Environmental Planning Certificate Program

About the Program:

The Geographic Information Systems Professional Concentration can be completed in one year. It consists of four required courses and three elective courses, with curriculum structured to build upon and reinforce your learning from previous classes. 

Professionals in fields such as land use and environmental planning, water resources, hazard management, fish and wild life, information technology, public administration or policy analysis can benefit from GIS knowledge.

You’ll complete the program with a clear understanding of GIS technology and terminology and the training and expertise to put them to use, including: 

  • GIS terms, available systems (focusing on ArcGIS), data sources and GIS policy decisions
  • Spatial analysis, including working with ArcGIS tools such as, Spatial Analyst, ArcToolbox and ModelBuilder 
  • GIS database design philosophy and maintenance 
  • GIS techniques for watershed analysis
  • Python programming for GIS applications
  • How to manage sustainability projects using GIS applications
  • GPS and Global Navigation Satellite Systems--knowing where data comes from
  • Cartographic design, including choosing appropriate symbology and using scale-dependent rendering

Courses Approved By:

The UC Davis Extension Geographic Information Systems Professional Concentration is approved by the UC Davis Department Environmental Science & Policy.

Estimated Cost:

Tuition for the entire Geographic Information Systems Professional Concentration is $4,370-$4,545, depending when you enroll. The certificate application fee ($125), textbooks and parking are not included in the tuition.

Program Requirements:

You must complete nine units of required coursework and three elective courses with grades of "C" or better.


"GIS is foundational to my work and my colleagues' work, as well as to business, research, governance and recreation worldwide. I enjoy working with GIS and sharing my expertise with others."

— Nick Santos, UC Davis Extension instructor and research staff for UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

Quarterly schedule of courses

F=Fall W=Winter SP=Spring SU=Summer; Schedules subject to change.
O = Online C = Classroom OC = Online and Classroom H = Hybrid

Elective Courses

2.0 quarter units academic credit 2.0
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an exciting set of technology tools used in almost every field imaginable. Knowledge of GIS and experience with spatial analysis will enhance your resume and allow you to analyze and manage your data more effectively than ever before. Gain an overview of GIS in this hands-on workshop. Learn about terms and concepts, available systems, data sources and design and policy decisions that must be addressed prior to implementation of a GIS project. By combining lectures and hands-on experience working with ArcGIS, this course will provide you with a basic working knowledge of GIS and a concrete sense of the planning and design work involved in using GIS.
Sections of this course open for enrollment:

In this intermediate-level class, learn the theoretical background of watershed analysis within a Geographic Information System to develop a familiarity with common methods, tools and frameworks for investigation. Through extensive hands-on training, gain practice with diverse components of ArcGIS 10 series software and related tools. Exercises explore basic skills for working with watersheds and raster data types using tools such as Spatial Analyst, ArcToolbox and Model Builder.

Students will gain experience with fundamentals related to performing raster queries and calculations and discover how to use Digital Elevation Models to derive slope and drainage area parameters for watersheds, and create vector hydrography. The course covers basic automation using modelbuilder and also guides students in developing their own algorithms and where to look for future learning.

It is strongly recommended that students have prior training in ESRI (ArcGIS) or similar software. Completion of "GIS for Resource Managers and Professionals" or "Introduction to Geographic Information Systems" is sufficient for success in this course. Advanced students may skip directly to GIS for Watershed Analysis: Advanced, but the courses are complementary and together provide a strong foundation for GIS-based watershed analyses.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

This hands-on GIS workshop will give researchers, planners and land/resource managers the spatial analysis skills they need to integrate field data with watershed-scale variables and gain a better perspective of the upstream processes and circumstances that may be driving observed conditions. As an advanced-level course using ESRI's ArcGIS software, learn how to perform advanced raster queries and calculations and how to conduct advanced manipulation of terrain data through Python programming. Students will generate and assess their own digital elevation models from field collected LiDAR data and will classify and analyze Landsat satellite imagery to assess drought conditions. Implementation of workflows will focus on watershed generating algorithms and the attribution of vector data from raster analysis. By the end of the workshop, students will be able to generate watershed boundaries and stream networks, as well as stream order, in a semi-automated fashion. Additional exercises will focus on the integration of reach-level habitat inventories, fish and macroinvertebrate surveys, and water quality parameters into a watershed GIS. Students will also become familiar with the implementation of various ArcGIS tools and extensions, complementary software packages such as Geospatial Modelling Environment, and advanced concepts in watershed analysis.

Students enrolling in this course should be comfortable in ArcGIS and understand raster and vector concepts, but no prior programming experience or experience with Spatial Analyst is required. GIS for Watershed Analysis: Intermediate is a recommended, but not required, prerequisite for those who are less comfortable with basic ArcGIS operations.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

This hands-on GIS workshop will introduce students to the fundamental programming and GIS principles commonly used in the GIS industry. Students will learn how to automate geoprocessing tasks such as querying data, creating and saving data, connecting data, as well as learning how to automate map production tasks. By the end of the course, students will be able create, modify and troubleshoot Python code.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.
This course will identify opportunities to promote, implement and manage sustainability projects through the use of GIS. Students will review real-world case studies of GIS application in solving energy reduction mandates. Students will learn how to match GIS tools to specific sustainability challenges, including site selection, preservation efficiency evaluation, land use compatibility analysis and green marketing techniques. In addition to structured hands-on exercises, students will be able to complete a small GIS sustainability project of their own choice. Attention will be given to local and global efforts, including the application of GIS in monitoring California Senate Bill SB 375 and Assembly Bill AB32.
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS), or more currently, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are increasingly used in every aspect of field data acquisition and operations. This course is designed for professionals in science and management who seek condensed exposure to GNSS hardware, software and techniques beyond the basic capabilities of smartphones and recreational-grade GPS. Lecture topics include accuracy/precision theory, cost functions, error sources and their mitigation, real-time and post-differential correction, and virtual reference networks. Field exercises include customizing field data collection platforms, actual field data collection, post-processing and error assessment.

It is strongly recommended that students have prior training in ESRI (ArcGIS) or similar software. Completion of Introduction to Geographic Information Systems is sufficient for success in this course.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Learn how to use UrbanFootprint the new generation of land use scenario creation and analysis tools. Gain hands-on experience with creating, editing and analyzing scenarios. Learn how the tool treats land use, and how it analyzes the scenarios to better understand how land use and transportation interact and how the land use decisions made now will impact natural resources, energy use, and fiscal health in and around communities.

UrbanFootprint is based on advanced server technologies and enables users with a web browser and internet connection to edit land use scenarios and conduct analysis across a wide range of performance measures. Written entirely using open source software, UrbanFootprint enables Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and other city, county, regional, and state governmental organizations to use a common platform for land use, transportation, and resource scenarios. Because of the open source nature of UrbanFootprint, non-profit and other non-governmental organizations will be able to use the software to develop and compare scenarios either independently or collaboratively.

UrbanFootprint is the formal name for the urban footprint modeling software created by Calthorpe Analytics.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

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