Stage 1

Stage 1 of the MGISA program is virutually identical to the Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications program. For specific questions about Stage 1, including the differences between the Face-to-Face versus Online versions, please consult the ADGISA Frequently Asked Questions list.

Stage 2

  1. What do I get from this program?
  2. Is this program accredited?
  3. How is VIU’s Master of GIS Applications unique?
  4. How much background do I need?
  5. Can I have some courses waived if I have previous GIS knowledge?
  6. Can I have some course materials to see what the program is like?
  7. What computer hardware will I need for this program?
  8. Can I use a Mac computer for this program?
  9. What software will I need for this program?
  10. What additional equipment will I need for this program?
  11. What texts will I need for this program?
  12. Can I use MGISA courses as regular Geography courses for credit in my Major?
  13. I don’t have one of the prerequisites for the MGISA program. Are any alternatives available?
  14. What else can I expect from Vancouver Island University’s Master of GIS Applications?
  15. Is funding available?
  16. What are your employment statistics and opportunities for graduates of this program?
  17. Where do I go to find out more about the field of GIS?
  18. Where do I go to find out more about job opportunities in this field?
  19. I’m working in the field of GIS and I just want to take one course in your program – would I be able to do this?
  20. I understand that I will have the use of the ESRI software while I am a student in the MGISA program. Can I use the ESRI software after the course is over?
  21. What is the normal starting salary for graduates from your program?
  22. What if I need to take a break from the program for personal reasons?
  23. What if I cannot complete the research project before August of Year 2?
  24. If I already have a recognized Post-Graduate Diploma in GIS, am I eligible for Advanced Placement into the MGISA?

1) What do I get from this program?

You receive comprehensive exposure and experience in the use of geographic information system software. You will learn how to use GIS as a information management and problem-solving tool. Content is equally divided between developing hands-on competency in GIS technology and using GIS as a tool in solving geographic problems. Students in the program will be well-positioned to secure employment upon graduation.

2) Is this program accredited?

The Master of GIS Applications is a university-accredited program approved by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education.

3) How is VIU's Master of GIS Applications Unique?

The intensive 8-month Stage 1 face-to-face program is broken into two distinct halves. In the first four months, students acquire hands-on GIS skills training with a focus on GIS applications to a variety of geographic or spatial problems. In the second four-month period, students apply the GIS skills they've learned as they undertake a special GIS applications project in the workplace. Projects are developed in consultation with instructors and sponsors in the private or public sector of the local or regional economy. Each student has a faculty advisor during this project work.

The 16-month online version of Stage 1 has been designed to accommodate students from anywhere in the world who are currently employed or who cannot relocate to Nanaimo. Students in this program option acquire the same range of skills as those in the face-to-face option. The application of those GIS skills is embedded in the delivery of individual courses, as opposed to being applied in a work-study practicum.

Upon successful completion of either program option, graduates will be able to secure employment as a GIS Technician or GIS Analyst.

4) How much background do I need?

The ideal student will hold:

  • A bachelor's degree from an accredited university, college or institute.
  • An introductory course in Geographic Information Systems (equivalent to VIU's GEOG 328).

Because every student is an individual, unusual combinations of training or experience may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

5) Can I have some courses waived if I have previous GIS knowledge?

This can be determined on an individual basis by GIS faculty, once they have transcripts and/or course syllabi for the courses that you have taken. Because the field of GIS is advancing so rapidly, this option is generally only available to students who have taken an equivalent course to one offered in the MGISA program in the past 18 months.

6) Can I have some course materials to see what the program is like?

Course descriptions of each course offered in the program can be found on the MGISA Program Calendar page.

7) What computer hardware will I need for this program?

Students are expected to provide their own computers. Please see the Equipment and Texts page for details of the different equipment that is required for the Face-to-Face and Online programs.

8) Can I use a Mac computer for this program?

Yes, you can. Please see the Equipment and Texts page for how a Mac can be used in the Face-to-Face and Online programs.

9) What software will I need for this program?

Students in both the Face-to-Face and Online programs will have free access to the full suite of ESRI ArcGIS software during the program, including the off-campus GIS project work. Students will also require access to the Microsoft Office suite of software to complete assignments. Please see the Equipment and Texts page for more details.

10) What additional equipment will I need for this program?

Students are required to purchase their own GPS (or GPS+GLONASS) capable tablets for the Online version of Stage 1 only. Please see the Equipment and Texts page for more details.

11) What texts will I need for this program?

There is only one required text for the program. Please see the Equipment and Texts page for more details.

For students on or near the Nanaimo Campus, the VIU Library in Nanaimo has a large collection of GIS books available for loan. All students have access to VIU's extensive collection of online journals.

Some students on a training budget will be expected to buy additional texts above what is recommended. Please speak to your instructor when you start the program for a list of texts to meet your needs.

12) Can I use MGISA courses as regular Geography courses for credit in my Major?

No, the MGISA courses run on a different schedule from regular Geography courses, which makes it impossible to take these courses at the same time as other Geography courses. Furthermore, these courses are graduate-level, which means that you must already have a BA or BSc. before you are eligible to take these courses.

13) I don't have the prerequisite GIS course for the MGISA program. Are any alternatives available?

There are various alternatives that are accepted as equivalencies to the stated prerequisites. Please see the Prerequisite GIS Courses page for more details.

14) What else can I expect from Vancouver Island University's Master of GIS Applications?

For students taking the face-to-face program, VIU offers:

  • A group of dedicated GIS instructors (most of whom have their Ph.Ds) both within and outside the GIS faculty.
  • Small class sizes with highly personalized instruction from highly qualifed instructors (VIU has no Teaching Assistants).
  • Focused special projects with practical applications.
  • Practical project experience under sponsorship in the workplace.
  • An intensive classroom program in a relatively short period of time.
  • An opportunity to study in a small-scale university environment in one of Canada's most vibrant and livable west coast cities, noted for its temperate climate and friendly people.

For students taking the online program, VIU offers:

  • An excellent track record in offering accredited online college and university programs and courses.
  • Instructors with years of experience in both GIS and delivering online curricula.
  • Small class sizes with highly qualified instructors, most of whom have Ph.Ds.
  • Special GIS-based projects that have distinct practical applications.
  • A paced delivery that meets the needs of employed or distant learners.
  • Responsive, helpful, and direct answers from the faculty who developed the program.

15) Is funding available?

There are a number of  different sources of funding available.  See the Financial Assistance page for more details.

16) What are your employment statistics and opportunities for graduates of this program?

Over 90% of the graduates of VIU's advanced GIS diploma have successfully secured full-time jobs in the field of GIS. The addition of a Master's credential will strengthen one's ability to access positions of more interest and responsibility.

Your previous education and experience will play into what sort of prospects might be available in a given area. For example, someone with a municipal planning background and a GIS diploma will find several municipal governments and perhaps a smaller number of regional districts even in a fairly rural area. However, someone seeking to combine economics and GIS, or archaeology and GIS, might be forced to look at larger urban areas in order to find a consulting firm that specializes in such a narrow area of study. Specializations such as forestry or oil and gas would again have regions where there is more or less such activity.

The job market is tight on Vancouver Island, as it is most places these days. If you can get your foot in the door with an organization during the practicum, if they end up hiring, it's very likely that your resume will stand out from the other applications simply because you're a known quantity (they know you and know what you're capable of). 

17) Where do I go to find out more about the field of GIS?

Some good resources can be found on our Have a Look at GIS page.

18) Where to I go to find out more about job opportunities in this field?

Have a look at the Career Opportunities page for more information.

19) I'm working in the field of GIS and I just want to take one course in your program - would I be able to do this?

This program is set up to train students as a cohort group (students move through the program taking the same courses at the same time). However, you may be able to take one or more individual courses in the program -- excluding the GIS Applications Project: Practicum (Geog 591) and the Master's Research Project (Geog 599) -- at the discretion of the program chair and with permission from the course instructor, providing there is enough space in the course and enough lead time to get you set up on the equipment and software. You would still be required to apply to the program and be accepted prior to taking the course. If you are interested in only one course, please note this in your program application.

20) I understand that I will have the use of the ESRI GIS software while I am a student in the MGISA program. Can I use the ESRI GIS software after the course is over?

The software is available to students at no charge while they are enrolled in the MGISA program. In addition, students can retain the use of the software for about 1 year after they complete the program. Former students may also take additional online courses through ESRI during this period at no extra charge to keep their skills up to date. Software supplied by the MGISA program is for academic use only, both during and after completion of the program.

21) What is the normal starting salary for graduates from your program?

The problem with estimating the starting salary for our graduates is that ours is a post-degree program, so every student has an existing degree and in many cases some previous work experience.  Those students who can combine their previous education and experience with GIS (e.g., planning, field biology, forestry) often command a higher salary than those who cannot (e.g., perhaps a history degree is more difficult to apply to most GIS work). In addition, our students range in age (and thus previous experience) from their early 20's to their 50's. So we've got a very wide range of potential salaries.  Most of the grads are probably looking at between $35,000 and $55,000 as a starting annual salary.

See the GISJobs.com Salary Survey for British Columbia and Alberta.

Have a look at the Career Opportunities page for more information.

22) What if I need to take a break from the program for personal reasons?

This program is set up to train students as a cohort (students move through the program taking the same courses at the same time). However, if you need to take a break from the program for personal reasons, this is possible with the permission of the program chair.

23) What if I cannot complete the research project before August of Year 2?

Students may elect to continue working on their research project after August of Year 2, subject to an extension fee (amount TBD). However, students are strongly encouraged to complete the project in the allotted time, and your supervisor(s) will work with you when the project's topic and scope are being defined to make sure that it is possible to complete it in this time period.

24) If I already have a recognized Post-Graduate Diploma in GIS, am I eligible for Advanced Placement into the MGISA?

Students who have completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in GIS may be eligible for Advanced Placement into Stage 2 of the MGISA program, provided that they have no grades lower than a "B" in any of their courses. This includes students who have previously graduated from VIU's Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications.

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