MSc Geographical Information Systems - University of Portsmouth

Geographical Information Systems

Part Time2yrs

Full Time 1yr

Use ultra-modern equipment in our GIS and photogrammetry labs

Course Overview

Why take this course?

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) has grown rapidly to become a major component of information technology, creating distinctive methods of data analysis, algorithms and software tools.

This course emphasises the acquisition of practical GIS skills. We use a wide range of industry-standard software tools and a structured approach to the analysis of spatial data through project work.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Get hands-on experience of using instruments such as GPS, Total Stations and 3D laser scanners
  • Be taught by experts, who have extensive industrial and consultancy experience and strong research portfolios
  • Practise your GIS data collection skills in a range of environments

What opportunities might it lead to?

The wide range of career opportunities across public and private sectors and in university-based research, coupled with the rapid rate of technological change, mean that major organisations and industrial firms are finding it essential to update their skills through advanced study. We therefore aim to meet this demand by tailoring our course to the needs of both regional and national markets.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

  • environmental consultancies
  • geographical information science specialists
  • working for the Environmental Agency
  • working for the Ordnance Survey


Jon Butland, geography student

I discovered many work colleagues in the industry, and lecturers from other universities, hold Master’s or Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Portsmouth and recommended Portsmouth to me.

Jon Butland, geography student

Back to top

Structure & Teaching

You can opt to take this course in full-time or part-time mode. The programme consists of four core
units and one option.

The core units are:

  • Principles of Geographic Information Science: You will be introduced to the fundamental principles of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), its data models and modelling capabilities.
  • GIS and Database Management Systems: The major focus on this unit is the use of industry-standard methods and tools to develop competence in the successive stages of database design, development and implementation. The unit also explores recent developments in GIS, concentrating on emerging technologies and trends in the GI world.
  • Image Processing and Spatial Data Analysis: This unit focuses on the use of image processing and spatial analysis techniques to manage, manipulate and analyse spatial data. You will also undertake analysis of routine sources of spatially referenced data from secondary sources (e.g. government surveys and the UK Census) using statistical software packages.
  • Dissertation: This provides you with an opportunity to study a topic of your choice related to GIS in the form of a research paper targeted at a particular journal. This unit will introduce you to the basic principles of research design and methods.

Options to choose currently include:

  • Applied Geographic Information Systems: This unit examines GIS in the workplace by visiting various organisations in the local area including Ordnance Survey, Office for National Statistics and the Royal School of Military Survey. Field work is also used to provide you with experience of using land surveying equipment and techniques.
  • Coastal and Marine Resource Management: You will examine the theory, concepts and frameworks of coastal and marine management, and use topical issues as examples of practical application.
  • Hazard Modelling and Risk Assessment: This unit is designed to provide an advanced understanding of hazard and risk assessment techniques using spatial analysis tools, simulation and software development, qualitative and quantitative methods and their application to the identification, delineation and assessment of different types of geological and environmental hazard processes.

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.

Teaching and Assessment

The course provides a balanced structure of lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops. You will learn through hands-on practical sessions designed to give you the skills in laboratory, computer and field techniques. The course also includes field work designed to provide field mapping and data collection skills.

How are you assessed?

The majority of assessment takes the form of practical exercises and project-based activity. This enables you to become familiar with industry-standard software systems and develop your skills by applying your newfound expertise in areas that particularly interest you.

Tutor's view


Dr Alastair Pearson

There has never been a better time to study GIS. Spatial information drives so much of what we do in our everyday lives and there is so much spatial data available. Yet public and private sector organisations across the globe are looking for people who are skilled at handling and analysing spatial information. This course enables students to pursue a rewarding career that exploits the potential of this exciting technology.

Back to top

Facilities & Features

We offer fully equipped physical geography and GIS labs and a comprehensive range of current land survey equipment.

  • Access to industry standard GIS and remote sensing packages
  • High precision real-time kinematic differential (RTK) GNSS (GPS)
  • Total stations including a scanning Leica MultiStation
  • A land survey multi-rotor drone
  • An environmental simulation cabinet

The University holds a Permission for Commercial Operations from the CAA for use of the multi-rotor drone and Geography have a qualified drone pilot to operate survey flights.


We aim to provide you with as much support as possible. There are tutors available to support your studies via online tutorials, email and telephone conferencing. You will also be assigned a personal tutor who will offer support and guidance throughout your studies.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There may be extra costs arising from your studies which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Some are common costs to all courses of study. These may include the cost of study texts, reference books, photocopying and computer supplies. Others relate to specific courses and may include field trips, materials and specialist equipment.

Back to top

Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

GIS technology is now very widely deployed in many organisations ranging from utility companies, telecommunications networks, civil engineering, retailing, local and national government, international charities and NGOs, the National Health Service, environmental organisations, banking and finance, and insurance. GIS has become an essential part of the world's information infrastructure.

You can expect to go on to find work in organisations such as local authorities, health authorities, conservation organisations, banks and insurance companies, amongst others. Many of our previous graduates are now employed all over the world, working on a whole variety of GIS-related projects in a very wide range of different organisations and industries.

Career planning

One of the benefits of studying at Portsmouth is the support that we provide to our Master's and Research Degree students in career planning. Our careers and recruitment service can assist you in career research and finding employment opportunities. Help is also available if you wish to find a part-time job while studying your degree.

We offer our postgraduate students and alumni one-to-one appointments with a careers adviser, or an online service for those not able to travel back to the University. Our alumni can call on our career services for five years after graduation.

In addition, regular employability events offer you the chance to meet employers, find out about different career sectors and improve your applications or CV. The Graduate Summer Programme provides a range of guidance and employability seminars and workshops.

Benefits of Postgraduate Study

Regardless of whether you are seeking to build on your studies, further your career or pursue a career change, a postgraduate qualification adds to your achievement record.

  • Postgraduate study may greatly improve your chances of getting that first break.
  • Many graduate employers prefer the higher intellectual rigour displayed in postgraduate students.
  • Recruiters for roles requiring specialist knowledge or research particularly target those with higher level qualifications.
  • Postgraduate study shows you can take the challenge of in-depth study; acquiring transferable skills in team working and problem solving techniques.
  • If you have a passion for a particular subject, postgraduate study can also be something undertaken as part of your own development at an appropriate time in your life.

Back to top

Apply now or visit us

Online application form

Apply direct using our online form

Your application will be received by the University Admissions Centre for consideration.

Postgraduate Open Evenings

Our Postgraduate Open Evenings are taking place between February and April. Lecturers and support staff will be available to discuss your options. You'll also find out more about your chosen course and subjects that interest you.

Booking will open soon but in the meantime, watch our Postgrad Live series to hear from our staff and students about what it's like studying at Portsmouth. 

Other opportunities to visit

Download our free walking tour PDF for a self-guided tour of the University.

We have an open-door policy so you will be able to take a look in our buildings, speak to some of our support services and get a feel for the campus.

Find out more about our self-guided walking tours.

Can't get to Portsmouth?

If you can’t make it to Portsmouth, come and see us at one of the events we attend around the UK.

If you would like to speak with a member of staff about any courses you are interested in, please email and we will arrange this for you.

Staff from the University of Portsmouth Global office also regularly attend overseas exhibitions. To find out more about these and our visits to your region see our exhibitions page.

Fees and Funding

Find out more about fees and funding available to you at Portsmouth.

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

University of Portsmouth
University House
Winston Churchill Avenue
Portsmouth PO1 2UP

T: +44 (0)23 9284 8484