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    2024 start September 

    Applied Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

    Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Faculty of Social Sciences

    Acquire the theoretical knowledge, technical skills and practical experience you need to launch a successful career in the fields of GIS, applied policy research or spatial data analysis.
    Three students looking at a computer screen

    Course description

    The Applied GIS programme is designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental concepts, tools, and techniques used in GIS with a focus on their application in real world contexts.

    GIS skills are applicable across a wide range of industries including urban planning, environmental management, natural resource exploration, transportation, public health, disaster management, marketing, and many others. By studying GIS, you will gain a skill set that can be valuable in a wide range of career paths.

    Throughout the course, you will be introduced to the core principles of GIS and its application in various industries; and gain hands-on experience with popular GIS software, including both ArcGIS and QGIS. You will also develop practical skills in data management, spatial and quantitative analysis, and visualization.

    The course combines computer-based workshops, lectures and project work to provide a solid foundation in GIS. By the end of the course, you will be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to work with spatial data in a wide range of fields, able to apply a variety of advanced spatial and quantitative analyses, and have the skills to create compelling maps and visualizations.

    Facilities and equipment

    Our postgraduate study rooms are equipped with the latest industry-standard GIS software and a range of other specialist tools. GIS facilities are available on all 1,500 networked computers across campus.

    The department is based in the Geography and Planning Building on the edge of Weston Park.


    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    The first semester focuses on core skills and knowledge acquisition, whereas in the second semester you'll develop more advanced skills.

    You'll put your knowledge and skills into practice when you write a dissertation on a relevant topic that matters to you.

    Please note the Professional Skills Development module runs throughout the full academic year.

    Core modules:

    Quantitative Analysis

    This module introduces students to powerful and commonly used statistical methods in the social sciences. It assumes no prior statistical knowledge and focuses on the practical research priorities of selecting, conducting and interpreting the most appropriate test with an eye to, rather than an obsession with, the underpinning statistical foundations. The module uses weekly seminar sessions and SPSS practicals to build practical software skills alongside conceptual understanding.

    15 credits
    GIScience: principles and applications

    Geospatial approaches, including those commonly associated with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and spatial data analysis, are employed extensively in a variety of professional settings, from urban planning and architecture to health care and social research. In this module, we aim to consider the wider implications of GIScience in the context of applied GIS and urban analytics. This module is therefore focused on helping understand the core principles of GIScience as well as potential applications of GIS in helping identify and tackle spatial problems and undertake geospatial research in the real world. In particular, we encourage critical thinking about the applications of GIS and GIScience to spatial problems as well as exploring their limitations. The module is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and case-studies.

    15 credits
    Foundations of GIS

    This module introduces students to the core principles and skills of GIS. It covers the major sources of data used to study the lived environment and the variety of ways it can be displayed to aid both understanding and analysis. The module has a particular focus on techniques used in the analysis of socio-economic and demographic data and its potential applications. It is taught through a combination of lectures and practical workshops using ArcGIS software.

    15 credits
    GIS and Geovisualisation

    The availability of software, hardware and data for geographical information systems (GIS) has increased rapidly in recent years. Alongside this, there have been exciting developments in cartography and visualisation methods. This module is focused on developing analysis and visualisation skills using a range of software but with particular focus on QGIS, the leading open-source desktop GIS. 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 spatial data visualisation and analysis project.

    15 credits
    Employability and Professional Skills

    This module aims to provide a range of supporting skills for home and international students, which will help you get the most out of your learning in Sheffield, and to prepare you for professional employment and career development at the end of your studies. The module has two elements: 1. Cultures of Learning and Professional Skills - understanding how we teach at Sheffield, how to get the most out of your study and how to develop key generic professional/soft skills 2. Employability Skills - preparing you for careers within planning, design, real estate, GIS and related professional areas.

    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 any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    1 year full-time


    As a technical field, most teaching is through computer-based workshops, supplemented by lectures, seminars and tutorials.

    The course has a strong applied emphasis and draws upon the extensive expertise of teaching staff in the department. 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 software and its potential to solve real world problems.


    You’re assessed on your coursework and a dissertation.

    Your career

    Graduates go on to work for a diverse range of organisations such as the Ordnance Survey, ESRI, the civil service and local government. We also have many students go on to graduate schemes with engineering and planning firms like Jacobs, Arup and Mott Macdonald.

    The employability of our graduates is of paramount importance to us. The development of skills, knowledge and personal attributes that enhance your career underpins our programme design. We have a dedicated Employability Manager, Amy Woolley, to support you. We’ll prepare you for employment after graduation.

    How we'll help you prepare for your future career

    Facilities and equipment

    Our postgraduate study rooms are equipped with the latest industry-standard GIS software and a range of other specialist tools. GIS facilities are available on all 1,500 networked computers across campus.

    The department is based in the Geography and Planning Building on the edge of Weston Park.


    Department of Urban Studies and Planning

    Geography and Planning building
    Geography and Planning building

    We are the top-rated Royal Town Planning Institute accredited planning school in the UK (REF 2021), with an intellectual reputation for theoretical strength, especially in the fields of urban inequalities and social justice. Study with us and become part of a new and exciting group of urban professionals and change makers.

    As a student at Sheffield, you'll develop the knowledge and skills to build a successful career in planning and related urban and environmental professions. You'll be taught by world-leading academics whose cutting-edge research feeds directly into the seminar room. You'll learn using the latest technology in our dedicated teaching spaces; visualising complex data through Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software and using virtual and augmented reality to explore how people interact with urban spaces.

    You'll be at the heart of a vibrant academic community and will benefit from an excellent staff-student ratio, resulting in a genuinely friendly and inclusive academic environment. Our open-door policy means you can drop in on your lecturers at any time during their office hours, without an appointment. We believe this will help with your wellbeing and encourage your intellectual curiosity.

    We work with national governments, international bodies such as the UN, research councils, private business, the voluntary sector, and local communities to shape policy and inspire change in urban environments. Join us to explore the pathways to creating fair, just and sustainable places.

    Liam Pring profile photo

    I learned not only the fundamentals of GIS but how to apply it to real world applications

    Liam Pring Graduate GIS Consultant at AECOM

    MSc Applied GIS student Liam discusses his time as a student at Sheffield and career since graduating.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree.

    We may also consider your application if you do not meet the standard academic requirements but you have relevant professional experience.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


    You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 6900

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.