Graduate Certificate Program in Spatial Analysis

The Spatial Analysis graduate certificate program prepares University of Michigan graduates for positions as spatial analysis application scientists in state and federal government agencies, private industry, or nonprofits. Coursework offered through the program leads to a Graduate Certificate in Spatial Analysis with a focus on Applied Remote Sensing or Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Spatial Analysis.

Academic disciplines and many professions are currently undergoing dramatic changes in the ways in which they create and use geographic information. A perspective that values the spatial context of events and phenomena has gained favor in social, biological, earth, environmental, and health sciences. Urban, regional, social, landscape, and natural resource planning have adopted computational tools for handling the digital geographic information on which their professions depend. Businesses value information on spatial context to minimize environmental impact and maximize market potential. The burgeoning field of geographic information science offers new perspectives, poses new questions, and provides new informatics tools to a broad range of application areas. These dramatic changes have generated a demand for scientists, scholars, and professionals who have access to the theories, methodologies, and technologies of spatial analysis and can apply them in the chosen field of study.

Due to the interdisciplinary emphasis of the Spatial Analysis Certificate program, required courses are offered from a variety of University of Michigan units, including SNRE; the departments of Atmospheric, Oceanic & Space Sciences and Electrical Engineering & Computer Science in the College of Engineering; the College of Architecture and Urban Planning; the Biostatistics program in the School of Public Health; and the School of Information.

Spatial Analysis program requirements

  • Selection of a primary focus area from among two areas: Applied Remote Sensing or GIS & Spatial Analysis
  • Completion of two courses (normally six credits) within the chosen focus area, at least one of which is from a list of core courses in that area
  • Consultation between student and advisor regarding selection of remaining additional courses, for a total of 12 credits, which should aim to achieve one of three objectives:
    • adding a secondary focus by taking two courses within a second focus area
    • increasing breadth by selecting courses from two of the other focus areas
    • increasing depth by taking an additional course in the primary focus area; one of the remaining courses should be in another area.
  • No more than one course may be taken from among the related information science courses listed below.
  • At least one course must be taken from a unit other than the student's home unit.
  • Students may petition to replace three of the additional credits with a practicum. The practicum may be in the form of on-campus or off-campus work, paid or unpaid, that makes substantial use of the GIS, spatial analysis, and/or remote sensing methods that are the focus of the program.

At least 12 credit hours selected from a group of courses (may substitute a practicum for three credits):

    Remote sensing core courses:
    CLIMATE/SPACE 532 Radiative Transfer, F, 3
    NRE 541 Remote Sensing for Environmental W, 4

    Additional remote sensing courses:
    EECS 430 (AOSS 431) Radiowave Propagation and Links, W, 4
    CLIMATE/SPACE 585 Inversion Techniques in Remote Sensing, W, 3.

    GIS core courses (only one of these two courses can be counted):
    NRE 531 Principles of Geographic Information Systems, F,W, 4
    UP 506 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, F,W 3

    Additional GIS courses:
    UP 507 Geographic Information Systems, W, 3
    NRE 540 GIS in Natural Resource Applications, F, 2
    NRE 534 GIS and Landscape Modeling, F (even), 3

      NRE 543 Environmental Spatial Data Analysis, F (odd), 3

      BIOSTAT 696 Spatial Statistics, W, 3


      Students may count one of the following towards the Certificate:
       CMPLXSYS 530  Computer Modeling of Complex Systems, W, 3

       SI 654 Database Application Design, F, 3

       SI 649 Information Visualization, F, 3

       SI 614/AOSS 605  Climate Change Informatics, W, 3


Application Information

The program is available to students who are currently in a graduate program at the University of Michigan, or who have finished an undergraduate degree program or higher within the last five years.  Interested students should contact Dan Brown ( or 734-763-5803) for questions about the curriculum or the Office of Academic Programs in the School of Natural Resources and Environment ( or 734-764-6453) for application materials. In addition to application form [for current Rackham Students, use this application:  for current non-Rackham students, use this form:, GRE scores and transcripts, students are asked to submit a resume and write a one-page letter to the Steering Committee requesting admission. This letter will include the proposed course of study and, for students already in a U-M program, a signature endorsement by the student's advisor. 

Application deadline for Fall admission is February 1, for Winter is October 1.

Students already enrolled in a Rackham or non-Rackham graduate degree program must complete at least one term before applying. To earn a certificate, a student must complete a minimum of 9 credit hours of coursework plus an experience related to the goals of the certificate that is defined and approved by the certificate faculty.

The following general rules apply:

  • Only graduate level courses may be used to meet certificate requirements; no transfer credit or undergraduate courses may be applied. All credits must be completed on the home campus, i.e., the campus on which the degree program is administered.
  • Not more than one-sixth of the credits required for a master’s degree may be double-counted with a certificate.
  • Not more than half of the credits necessary for a certificate that requires 10 or more credits of coursework may be double-counted with a master’s. If a certificate requires 9 credits of coursework, only 3 credits can be double-counted. Double-counted credits may not be used to fulfill requirements of other degrees or certificates. No double-counting is permitted for free-standing certificate programs.
  • Dual degree students who are pursuing a certificate program can not double-count any credits; the certificate program is considered free-standing.
  • The student must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of B (3.0 on a 4.0 point scale) in courses for the certificate program. Only courses eligible for Rackham credit may be used to meet certificate requirements.
  • A person who is not a student in another Rackham program and who has been admitted to a free-standing certificate program must complete requirements within four years from the date of first enrollment in the program.

Complete Rackham's dual degree election form prior to graduation, and submit to Registrar's at both programs.

Apply for graduation of certificate program through Wolverine Access, similarly as one applies for graduation of degree program.

Spatial Analysis FAQ

Applicants will need the following codes to complete their application:

  • Program of Application: Spatial Analysis
  • Numeric Code: 01633
  • Plan (Subplan): 8970 CGR

Program Level: Certificate