Applied Geographic Information Systems (GIS) MSc

Our MSc in Applied GIS will provide you with the mix of technical skills, practical experience and theoretical understanding you need to launch a successful career in the fields of GIS, applied policy research, or spatial data analysis. You'll develop a wide variety of knowledge, in areas such as advanced spatial analysis, geovisualisation , policy applications of GIS in practice, and thematic mapping and cartogram creation. The course has a strong applied emphasis and draws upon the extensive expertise of teaching staff in the Departments of Geography and Town and Regional Planning. This means that in addition to developing strong analytical and technical skills using GIS software, you'll be immersed in the practical applications of GIS and its potential to solve real world problems.

The course has a strong applied emphasis and draws upon the extensive expertise of teaching staff in the Departments of Geography and Urban Studies and Planning. This means that in addition to developing strong analytical and technical skills using GIS software, you'll be immersed in the practical applications of GIS and its potential to solve real world problems.

Course Structure

image of world map

The Applied GIS MSc programme is structured in a way that maximises the development of skills and knowledge throughout the course of the 12 month programme. The first semester focuses on core skills and knowledge acquisition, whereas the second semester focuses on the development of more advanced skills. The Dissertation provides students with the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice in a relevant area of their own choosing.

Please note, this is an indicative selection of our option modules and availability varies each year.

Autumn Semester

All students will take the following modules:

GEO6016 Data, Visualisation and GIS (15 credits)

This module represents a wide-ranging overview of the field of GIS in relation to data, visualisation and fundamental principles of GIS. Topics covered include combining attribute and geographic data, thematic mapping, mapping densities and proportions, geographical scale and classifying areas, social and spatial inequalities, micro-simulation and working with map layouts and presentations. Assessment is through a combination of lab worksheets and a GIS project.

GEO6024 Quantitative Analysis 1 (15 credits)

This module develops core quantitative competencies which underpin many of the methods used in contemporary spatial analysis. Topics covered include descriptive statistics, categorical data analysis, multivariate regression, logistic regression and factor analysis. Assessment in this module is through five equally weighted worksheets to be completed throughout the semester.

TRP623 Applications of GIS (15 Credits)

This module focuses on the GIS and spatial analysis methods now widely used in professional settings, from urban planning and architecture to health care and social research. It focuses on helping students understand the potential applications of GIS in helping identify and tackle policy problems in the real world. The module is taught through a combination of case study based lectures and seminars. Assessment is through a 3,000 word written report.

TRP620 Open Source GIS and Spatial Data Analysis (15 Credits)

This module focuses on data handling and analysis and on developing analysis and visualisation skills using open source software (QGIS). Students will learn through a combination of computer workshops and lectures and be exposed to the latest developments in the field. Assessment is by means of a visualisation and data analysis project.

Spring Semester

All students will take the following modules:

GEO6022 Research Proposal for Applied GIS (15 Credits)

This module serves as the pre-cursor to the MSc Applied GIS Dissertation and provides students with the opportunity to put together a comprehensive, focused research plan for their dissertation project, which accounts for one third of the total credits on the MSc. Students are guided through the process by expert tutors during the course of the semester. Assessment is by means of a final proposal at the end of the semester.

TRP621 Advanced GIS Methods (15 Credits)

This module builds upon the GIS expertise students develop during the first semester by putting into practice some more advanced technical operations in relation to real-world data and policy problem scenarios. Advanced spatial analysis and network analysis with ArcGIS take up much of this module, which is taught through a series of inter-related computer workshops. Assessment is through a multiple choice exam and an advanced methods report.

TRP622 The Professional GIS Project (15 Credits)

This is a project-based module which aims to set students a real-world professional GIS project for an external client using a variety of different spatial datasets and GIS methods. The aim of the module is to prepare students for professional practice in GIS and spatial analysis through a group-work approach which places emphasis on collaboration, team working and objective-setting. The module is assessed through a combination of an interim report, final report and group presentation.


One module from available unrestricted Masters level modules offered by Geography or Urban Studies and Planning (15 credits).


The final semester focuses on the development of specialist knowledge and high level research skills. It involves the completion of a the MSc Applied GIS Dissertation.

GEO6027 Dissertation (60 Credits)

A substantial, planned programme of research that develops to a high level: personal, generic skills; research skills; and specialist knowledge and understanding of a selected subject area. The Dissertation is prepared under the individual guidance and supervision of a member of staff in Geography or Town and Regional Planning. You will have the opportunity to nominate a member of staff whom you wish to supervise your study

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of changes the University will consult and inform students in good time and will take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Employability & Skills

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Our approach to postgraduate study places a strong emphasis on the development of skills and techniques which will be useful in the world of professional work and practice. Therefore, the MSc in Applied GIS involves the development of expertise in a wide range of GIS competencies.

Our teaching staff work in the Departments of Town and Regional Planning and Geography and have excellent contacts with employers across a range of relevant industries, including GIS, planning, surveying, academia, local and national government, and a variety of other private sector employers. Maximising the employability of graduates is a core aim of the MSc.

Graduates from this programme will typically go on to work for organisations such as the Office for National Statistics, Ordnance Survey, ESRI, the civil service and local government. The course will also equip you with the knowledge and skills to pursue a PhD in GIS or spatial analysis.

To discover more about your options after the course, please take a look at our graduate profiles.

Islands off Great BritainWorking with Ordnance Survey: a case study

One of our recent Applied GIS MSc graduates, Joe Harrison, has worked with Professor Alasdair Rae to create new maps of the UK's largest islands for Ordnance Survey.

To create these images, the team took data such as the length of coastline and the size of the island and, using GIS software and Adobe Photoshop, created beautiful posters. Joe was responsible for the design of the posters.

His academic background and interest in geovisualisation made him the ideal candidate for Ordnance Survey to collaborate with on this project.

Facilities & Equipment

Inter-departmental teaching

The Applied GIS MSc programme is unique amongst UK GIS postgraduate programmes in that it is delivered by  two internationally-recognised centres of excellence in teaching and learning: the Department of Geography and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. We are able to bring together the expertise of staff from these two Departments to deliver a highly relevant, applied GIS programme which focuses on the development of skills for professional practice or further study at the PhD level. Teaching on the MSc is split evenly (50/50) between Departments, which are conveniently housed in the same building on the University of Sheffield campus, on the edge of the picturesque Weston Park.

Both departments are based in the Geography and Planning Building on the University of Sheffield campus. Here you'll have access to dedicated teaching and learning spaces and the teaching staff who you'll work closely with during the MSc.

Our postgraduate study rooms are equipped with the latest industry-standard GIS software, such as ArcGIS 10.1, QGIS 2.0 and a range of other more specialist tools. GIS facilities are also available on all 1,500 networked computers across the campus and the main University library is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you can be flexible about when and where you work.

You'll also be able to install copies of course software on your own computers at no extra cost. In addition to separate postgraduate study space, the recently refurbished Geography and Planning Building also houses a dedicated cafe-style social space where you can meet to discuss group work, chat with friends or take time out.

The Department of Geography

The Department have been leaders in geography education for more than a century. They have a reputation for excellence in teaching and research and a recent National Student Survey placed them at the top of the Russell Group of leading UK universities. Their research is internationally recognised for its excellence and staff are at the forefront of developments in GIS and spatial analysis.

The Department of Urban Studies and Planning

The Department has been a leading provider of urban and regional planning education level since the 1960s, and has a strong tradition in GIS education. The have an international reputation for excellence in both teaching and research, and are the top rated RTPI accredited planning school in the UK.  Staff maintain close links with GIS industry employers, regularly conduct external consultancy in the field and work at the cutting edge of the discipline.