Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment (GISDE)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is the structure of the program?
A: The program has two main components: coursework and a research project. There are six required courses and six electives for a total of twelve courses. For at least one of these courses, students work one-on-one with a faculty advisor to complete a research project, which the student presents in both written and oral forms. Students usually complete the program in three semesters starting in August and ending in December of the following year. Some students extend the program to four semesters.

Q: What do GISDE students do during the summer between semesters?
A: GISDE students typically do a combination of research and internships. The GISDE program maintains close ties with many organizations that offer fascinating internships where students build GIS skills and obtain professional experience. The summer is also a good opportunity to make progress on the master's research project.

Q: What are the job prospects for graduates?
A: Geographic Information Scientist is one of the fastest growing careers. Clark University graduates are in demand in a variety of fields of GIS in both the private and public sectors. See the list of recent graduates and their careers. Median starting annual salary is $40000 and average starting salary is $44000 among recent graduates who obtain jobs in the United States according to our voluntary poll of GISDE alumni.

Q: Will I learn ESRI software at Clark University?
A: Yes. We assure our graduates are fully competent in using ESRI software such as ArcView and ArcGIS, because such software has a substantial presence in the GIS job market. In addition, GISDE students learn the Idrisi software. Consequently our graduates have an advantage in the market for GIS employment, because GISDE students graduate with a larger collection of software skills than graduates from exclusively ESRI-based programs.

Q: How will I pay for my education?
A: Most GISDE student finance their education through a combination of savings, loans, scholarships, and grants. View: Scholarships and Resources for GIS Students. Also, IDCE supplies information concerning funding opportunities. Some applicants find it useful to apply to the GISDE program early, then use the letter of acceptance in their applications to funding agencies. For example, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing provides scholarship opportunities for GISDE students. Many organizations like this one exist. It may take some time to find funding, but it will be worth the effort.

Q: Does Clark University offer assistantships and/or scholarships?
A: Clark University usually offers one assistantship each year to a GISDE student whose application shows outstanding promise. This assistantship comes with a full-scholarship, meaning that 100% of tuition is waived. Clark University can usually offer scholarships in the form of partial tuition remission to additional GISDE students based on both financial need and the quality of the application. These scholarships do not include stipends to cover living expenses.

Q: Can I gain employment on campus while I am a student?
A: Many GISDE student find GIS-related employment on campus. Clarklabs is often a source of employment, where students help to create the GIS software Idrisi. In the past, GISDE students have been teaching assistants in GIS courses. Frequently, particular research projects have a need to hire a GISDE student to perform GIS analysis. In all cases, these jobs are awarded after students enroll in the GISDE program and after students arrive on campus.

Q: Can I go directly into a PhD program from the GISDE masters program?
A: Many GISDE students have won full scholarships including stipends to pursue doctorates. Recent graduates have gone to doctoral programs at George Mason University, Indiana State University, Max Planck Institute, San Diego State University, University of California, University of Connecticut, University of Minnesota, University of Oklahoma, University of Fribourg, and Clark University. GISDE students must follow a separate application process for consideration to enter the PhD program at Clark University. Enrollment in the GISDE program is no guarantee for admission to Clark University's extremely competitive PhD program in Geography. However, stellar performance in the GISDE program certainly helps to form a strong application for the PhD program.

Q: What are my chances of being accepted into the GISDE program?
A: If you have the characteristics that the selection committee is looking for, then the chances of acceptance are high. These characteristics include excellent performance at the undergraduate level in any field, proven record of sophisticated computer skills, and demonstrated commitment to an area of application such as environmental science or community development. Successful applicants typically have a few years work experience after completion of the Bachelors degree, but there is no hard rule concerning this. A few outstanding students come directly from a Bachelors degree program, while others earned there Bachelors degree decades ago.

Q: Do I need to be a Clark University undergraduate to participate in the GISDE program?
A: No. A minimum requirement for the GISDE program is a Bachelors degree or equivalent from any institution of higher education. Some prospective students can get confused about this because Clark University has two masters programs in GIS. The GISDE program is for anyone.

Q: Do I have the necessary English language skills?
A: The TOEFL score is required from any applicant who applies from a non-native English speaking country. The minimum TOEFL score is 233 for the computer-based version and 575 for the non-computer-based version.

Q: Can I do the GISDE program on a part-time basis?
A: Only in rare cases may a student pursue the GISDE program on a part-time basis. We have structured the program so that students benefit most by being full time, which usually means taking at least three courses per semester.

Q: Does Clark University offer GIS-based courses online?
A: Not at this time.

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[ Spotlight Profile ]

Claire Brill (GISDE '08)

Claire Brill (GISDE ‘08) is now the GIS analyst for the City of Worcester. While a student in the GISDE program, she won second place at the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association Student Paper Competition for her project Using GIS to Contrast Perceived Versus Preferred Priorities for Brownfield Redevelopment in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The paper, which came about through her involvement with the City of Worcester’s Mayor’s Brownfields Roundtable, compares the perceived priorities of decision-makers with the stated desires of stakeholders concerning brownfield redevelopment in Worcester. 

Read more | Other Profiles