Geographical Information Systems

Use ultra-modern equipment in our GIS and photogrammetry labs

Star 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, MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards 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

Key Facts

1 year full time, 3 years part time
2018 entry requirements
A 2:2 honours degree or equivalent in Geography or a related subject. Professional experience in a relevant area and other qualifications may be taken into consideration for applicants not meeting this requirement. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

UK/EU/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students
2017/18 entry: full time: £5,200 part time: £1,730 p/a* (3 years)

International students
2017/18 entry: full time: £12,600 part time: £4,200 p/a* (3 years)

Full-time course is eligible for Government Postgraduate Loan
Part-time course is not eligible for Government Postgraduate Loan

*Tuition fee is subject to annual increase.

View tuition fee terms and conditions
View additional course costs

+44 (0)23 9284 5566
Department of Geography
Programme specification

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Light bulb Structure & Teaching

You can opt to take this course in full-time or part-time mode.

The academic year is divided into two parts. The first part comprises the lecture, workshop, practical and field work elements of the course, followed by a dissertation which will take approximately five months to complete. The course is a mixture of taught units covering the theory and practice of GIS including database methods, spatial analysis and photogrammetry.

Here are the units you will study:

  • Principles of Geographic Information Science: Beginning with an overview of the development of GIS, the first part of this unit examines data sources and data capture, as well as hardware and software tools. The second part deals with vector-based data structures and data management, followed by vector GIS operations, such as overlay and buffering. You will undertake a project to create a GIS of your own, which may be presented as a seminar session. Practical exercises are undertaken using MapInfo. You will then go on to develop an understanding of raster-based approaches to GIS, cartographic modelling and related areas of image processing which are often applied in remote sensing. Topics include raster data models and data compression techniques, raster GIS and cartographic modelling, imaging systems and image processing, geometric correction techniques and GIS/remote sensing integration in the raster domain. Practical work uses MapInfo, ArcGIS - ArcMap and ERDAS Imagine.
  • GIS and Database Management Systems: Your major focus on this unit will be the use of industry-standard methods and tools to develop competence in the successive stages of database design, development and implementation. You will have an introduction to data analysis techniques, followed by an examination of alternative types of database system and the rules of relational database design. There is extensive treatment of the SQL query language in standard databases and for attribute query within a GIS. You will be introduced to advanced topics including database programming and computer-aided database design. You will also consider the Object-Relational databases and spatial data types, explore the use of spatial queries using the ORACLE relational database management system and examine procedural database programming and web database connectivity. Practical work for this unit uses the ORACLE relational database management system, running in full client-server mode.
  • Applied Geographic Information Systems: On this unit you will develop a general, inferential, model-based approach to the analysis of quantitative data within a geographical framework. You will examine a range of underlying concepts including model specification, bias, linearity, robustness and spatial autocorrelation. You will subsequently develop these in the context of a unified framework for analysis. Practical work is based on ArcGIS - ArcMap.
  • Research Methods and Design: This unit will introduce you to the basic principles of research design and methodology, enabling you to develop a critical approach to the selection and evaluation of appropriate methods for different types of research problem.
  • Modelling and Analysis and the Web: This unit gives you the chance to consider the use of GIS technology for creating terrain models and explore the basics of photogrammetry, as well as analytical and digital techniques for photogrammetric data capture. You will also look at Orthophotography, LiDAR and RADAR systems. ArcGIS is used for spatial analysis, such as buffering and overlay techniques. You will also explore and exemplify data transfer between GIS software systems and technologies for internet-based GIS.
  • Dissertation: This provides an opportunity for you to pursue a particular topic to a greater depth than is possible within the taught syllabus. It can take a variety of forms, for example GIS-based analysis of original data sources and digital datasets, case studies of GIS adoption in public or private sector organisations, the development of new software tools/applications or the design of GIS algorithms. The final submission takes the form of an extended written report or dissertation of a maximum of 15,000 words.

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 extensive 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.

Dr Dominic Fontana

Tutor's view

Dr Dominic Fontana

This MSc is great for anyone interested in maps. It's a global business and also very employable, with our graduates now working all around the world. GIS is extremely diverse and students’ projects encompass all sorts of topics, from environmental management to mobile telecommunications. It's enormous fun to teach and, although it's hard work, our students really enjoy the challenge.

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Monitor Facilities & Features

Specialist Software and Equipment

We offer fully equipped physical geography, GIS and photogrammetry labs. Brimming with ultra-modern equipment, you’ll have access to specialist equipment available in no other British geography department. Here’s a taste of what you have to work with:

  • laser survey technology including high resolution non-contact 20 micron 3D digitizing laser scanner
  • photogrammetry equipment with BAE Systems SOCET SET and a Leica Photogrammetry Suite (LPS)
  • high precision real-time kinematic differential (RTK) GPS
  • an environmental simulation cabinet


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.

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Mortarboard 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.

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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 Information Days

We will confirm the dates of events related to 2018 entry soon. Visit the link below to get a reminder when booking opens.

Get a reminder

Other opportunities to visit

Download our free walking tour PDF for a self-guided tour of the University. You can visit Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 4pm.

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 speak with us about the courses we offer and life and study in Portsmouth at one of the events we attend around the UK.

Staff from our International Office also regularly attend overseas exhibitions. To find out more about these and our visits to your region see our International Office exhibitions page.

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.

Fees and Funding

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