Ten Online GIS Programs in Canada
After completing an undergraduate degree in 2015, (Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto) I needed to determine which direction to take in the next chapter of my academic and professional career. I had a passion for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and wanted to pursue a career in the GIS field. I also knew there was a rapidly growing industry and demand for professionals with technical skills in GIS. At the same time, I wanted to have the ability to work full-time and gain industry experience while undertaking whatever program I might enroll in. So with all of that on my mind I decided that the best option for me was to find an online GIS program that would allow me to learn and develop excellent technical skills while giving me the flexibility to work at the same time.
For those out there in the GoGeomatics Community who have faced similar questions, I have compiled a list of ten GIS programs in Canada to help them out. This list summarizes, and gives the pros or cons of each program. The ten online GIS programs in Canada are:
British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) offers an Advanced Diploma program in GIS that is fully available online. This Advanced Diploma program is part of the institutes part-time/ distance and online learning program and can be finished in two years. For this BCIT program students have the choice of combining campus-based courses with online learning courses. The program is designed for individuals that have obtained already a BCIT diploma or university degree. One of the most beneficial aspects about this program is having the choice to either doing the GIS Project or the GIS practicum course for your final course of the program. In addition, students have a wide variety of courses they can take and must take some theoretical courses. The downfall of this program is that it will take students a couple of years to finish program if working full-time during the day and decide to take all courses online.
Durham College offers a Geographic Information Systems Certificate that is part of their School of Continuing Education. This certificate is supposed to be designed for professionals looking to further enhance their GIS skills, though in order to be admitted to this program individuals need to have complete Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Durham College also emphasizes that their certificate is recognized by the Urban and Regional Information Systems Associations (URISA). Overall, this program allows the student to take 7 courses that look closely at databases (i.e. Access software), GIS software (ArcView), internet mapping, and remote sensing.
Fanshawe College’s Geographic Information System program is part of their distinguished School of Design. This program is a post-graduate certificate and requires students to have either complete a college diploma or a university degree before beginning the program. Fanshawe College allows the student to either attend classes in the traditional in-class setting or attend 100% online. It is an intensive 30 week program and is taught with a software lecture module that makes remote students feel like they are in the classroom with the instructor. When I attended the program in the school year of 2015 and 2016, there was no work placement and in my case the director of the program was able to help facilitate job shadowing opportunities through industry contacts. It looks for the school year of 2017 and 2018, they have changed the program and have added a component of providing students with all mandatory work placements. I would strongly recommend this program because students are taught a variety of software programs and learn programming skills, which can be highly relevant to a number of professional positions which graduates would likely be applying to.
Fleming College was one of the first colleges to offer GIS training in Ontario and have been providing training for over 20 years. Fleming College’s Geographic Information Systems Application Specialist program is a three-semester long program beginning every year in September. Admission requirements require students to hold a university degree or college diploma, or equivalent education or relevant work experience. An impressive feature within this program is the collaborative applied project that is undertaken in the final term. With this collaborative applied project students are able to put theory they have studied into practice and work together on a project for a real business, government, or industry client. A downfall with this program is, they strongly recommend students to reside in Canada in order to obtain technical support and proper encouragement with the program.
George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology have three full campuses situated in downtown Toronto. George Brown College’s Geographic Information Certificate program is part of their School of Distance Education Certificates. This program is delivered and partnered with OntarioLearn.com, which allows Ontarians to have better access to a wide variety of high-quality courses, and programs online all in one portal. This means students register and receives grades from George Brown College, but all technical support is provided by OntarioLearn.com.
A downfall to this program is that students must pay and register for courses individually, which has the potential to be a nuisance. This program gives an overview of a variety of GIS software programs (ArcView, QGIS, and Microsoft Access), but does not, however, have a designated programming course.
Seneca College offers a Geographic Information Systems Certificate program to provide a strong foundation in GIS applications for individuals already currently working in the field and looking to enhance their knowledge. Unfortunately, this Seneca College program is only offered part-time and requires the individual to register and pay for each course which approximately is $360 each. Since this program is directed at those already working in the field, there is no work placement or final major project. Individuals will take courses that focus on ArcGIS software, Remote Sensing, Internet Mapping, and Microsoft Access.
St. Lawrence College has three campuses located in Eastern Ontario and offers an online part-time only GIS Certificate program. At this college, the school tries to make it convenient for the individual by allowing their online courses to start at different times throughout the semester, and it is up to the individual to select a date that fits their personal schedule. In order, to complete this certificate the student needs to complete eight compulsory courses. This program provides the same courses as Seneca College and George Brown College, though the advantage of this program is the convenience of your own flexible start date when deciding to enroll in the program.
SAIT offers a GIS Data Management Certificate that provides an introduction to GIS principles for individuals or companies that use GIS in their day-to-day work operations. Skills gained through this program are geared towards industries within the Southern Alberta region (i.e. environmental, geology, petroleum, oil and gas, and water/wastewater). This certificate only requires the individual to complete four courses, and in the end they receive a Certificate of Achievement, rather than a diploma. A positive aspect to this SAIT certificate is that it allows the student to choose whether to study remotely or in a traditional classroom setting.
The Certificate for Applied Geography and GIS is offered as part of Ryerson University’s The Chang School of Continuing Education. Eligible applicants must have an undergraduate degree or college diploma in a related field and must complete an additional application for pre-approval before starting the first course. This program allows students to decide whether they want to learn in a traditional classroom setting or remotely online. Students are required to complete six courses, including two required courses and four electives that involve the student to choose from a selection of courses which are intended to cater directly towards their area of interest. Ryerson University also emphasizes that this certificate is taught with a combination of a lecture-lab environment. Ryerson University is known for having an overwhelming number of successful graduates from this program who then successfully either obtain or are promoted to GIS jobs. In this case, obtaining a certificate at this university means there might be slightly more theoretical work than practical experience in that are offered at some colleges.
Vancouver Island University offers an Advanced Diploma in GIS Application that helps university and college graduates, or individuals from within the industry to strengthen their skills and become more job marketable in the GIS industry. This program offers either an 8-month intensive program face-to-face on campus in Nanaimo, British Columbia, or to complete the program online over a 16-month period beginning in January. The disadvantage of not completing the program face-to-face is that students miss out on completing a 9-week GIS project in the second term of the program.
Canada offers many amazing online GIS programs. Your decision should best reflect what will suit your needs as an individual, whether it is looking at what you want to learn, what will get you to your career aspirations or goals, or finding out the best working conditions you thrive in. Before making your final decision I strongly recommend attending an upcoming Webinar information session, or going to an open house of the relevant campus to gain a better understanding of the institution and its program to find out whether it is the right fit for you. If I have forgotten to list a Canadian online GIS program please comment below.