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Geographic Information Systems Certificate Program

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GIS Certificate Overview
Convenient Location
GIS Certificate Requirements
GIS Course Descriptions
PDF of GIS Brochure
GIS Instructors
Evaluation Comments


GIS Certificate Overview

The George Mason University non-credit Geographic Information Systems certificate program offers GIS classes in Virginia for working professionals to increase their technical knowledge of GIS and enhance their spatial thinking. Students entering our program come from a multitude of backgrounds and professions. Individual courses may be taken without pursuing the entire certificate, though in some cases prerequisites must be met. The required courses focus on exposing students to different facets of incorporating GIS to solve geospatial problems within their area of study. The program begins with an introduction to GIS applications and an introduction to a prominent GIS software package. Students then must complete the remaining four core courses, along with two electives to receive a final certificate.

The Geographic Information Systems Certificate requires the completion of eight total courses.

A concentration in Defense & Intelligence can be added to your certificate by completing the following two electives:

Convenient Location

The GIS classes in Virginia are intense three consecutive day sessions offered at the George Mason University Science and Technology Campus (formerly Prince William) in Manassas. Each class is held in a state of the art lab with large individual student workstations. Companies/agencies interested in GIS training and workforce development can bring the program in-house or may host classes at our Science and Technology location. Contact the Office of Continuing Professional Education at 703-993-8337 or e-mail Jeanne Spencer

GIS Certificate Requirements

Sample Certificate of Completion- Professional Certificate in Geographic Information Systems


  • Print registration form (fax or mail)
  • Register online*
  • *Full payment by Visa or MasterCard only required at the time of online registration.

    Click on a course link to see the schedule.

    GIS Core Courses GIS Elective Courses
    Onsite Opportunity

    This course is also available on a contract basis and can be tailored to suit your organization's needs. Please contact us to discuss your onsite opportunity.

    Contact Info.
    Science and Technology Campus
  • Online contact form
  • Address:
      George Mason University
    Office of Continuing Professional Education
      10900 University Blvd.
      Manassas, VA 20110
  • Telephone: 703-993-8335
  • Fax: 703-993-8336


    • Eight courses (six core, two electives)
    • Any waived course must be approved prior to commencing the program and replaced with another elective.

    The professional GIS certificate is awarded to those who complete the requirements for each of the eight courses. Please note: If you are taking the Geographic Information Systems program and have chosen the Defense & Intelligence concentration, your elective courses will be prescribed (GIS 0220 & GIS 0350). The GIS certificate must be completed within 36 months of the date the student begins the first class. The student must attend all sessions of each class for successful completion.

    Certificate and non-certificate students are awarded 1 CEU (Continuing Education Unit) per ten hours of successful classroom participation in this program.

    GIS Course Descriptions

    Click on a course link to see the description.

    GIS Core Courses GIS Elective Courses Admission

    Courses taken elsewhere may be evaluated toward acceptance for a George Mason certificate. Students normally have an undergraduate degree and professional experience before entering the certificate program. Students working toward the certificate must take GIS 0100 and a software class (GIS 0110), unless waived. The software class must be taken prior to all classes except GIS 0100.

    Students may request to waive GIS 0100 and/or GIS 0110, although most students benefit from taking these courses. Requests are to be arranged through the program office, and must be accomplished before taking any courses in the program. If either of these courses is waived, an elective must be taken in the place of each waived course. A total of eight courses must be taken in order to achieve the GIS certificate.

    PDF of GIS Brochure

    Please click here to download the PDF brochure for the Geographic Information Systems Certificate program.

    This brochure and the registration form for this course require Adobe Reader. Click here to download the latest version of Adobe Reader.


    The instructors in the program come from government, private industry, and academia. They have extensive experience in working with spatial data and GIS. Each instructor brings a unique perspective to the program. The classes are kept small (18 is the maximum number) to allow the instructors to teach in a seminar environment.

    Matthew Bechdol, MBA, MS
    Matt Bechdol has an MBA from Indiana University, an MS in agricultural economics from Purdue University, an MS in geographic and cartographic science from George Mason University, a BS in public affairs and environmental science from Indiana University, and a Certificate in Public Affairs from Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden—The Netherlands. For the past decade, Matt has covered Federal Natural Resources and USDA geospatial activities at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) in Washington, D.C. As team lead for Federal Land and Natural Resources business development, he managed a team dedicated to supporting USDA’s integration of software, hardware, data, and personnel to solve agricultural problems ranging from precision farming to global crop forecasting. Previously, Mr. Bechdol provided GIS and remote sensing support as a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center subcontractor, where he investigated hyperspectral imaging and GIS technologies for Precision Agriculture. He also worked on teams devoted to developing mobile/wireless GIS and remote sensing field data and imagery classification technologies via parallel processing systems. Mr. Bechdol teaches Introduction to GIS, Advanced Map Design and Cartography, and Business Applications of GIS.

    Christopher Bruce
    Christopher Bruce is the past President of the International Association of Crime Analysts. Now an independent trainer and consultant, he was a crime analyst at the Cambridge (MA) Police Department from 1994-2001, a crime analyst at the Danvers (MA) Police Department from 2001-2011, and the Analytical Director for the Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety program of the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Justice from 2011-2012.

    Christopher teaches crime analysis and criminal justice courses at Tiffin University and Western Oregon University, and he has taught at Suffolk University, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and Westfield State University. He has written or edited four books on crime analysis topics, including Exploring Crime Analysis (2004/2008, International Association of Crime Analysts), Better Policing with Microsoft Office (2005/2009, with Mark Stallo), and Spatial Statistics in Crime Analysis: Using CrimeStat III (2009/2011, with Susan Smith). His specialties and interests include Microsoft Access, crime mapping, spatial statistics, CrimeStat, tactical crime analysis, traffic accident analysis, and designing models for prediction and prioritization. Mr. Bruce teaches Crime Mapping & Analysis.

    Anthony Calamito
    Anthony has a BS in geography with a focus on GIS from The Pennsylvania State University, and is currently working for a contractor in North Carolina. Prior to that, he worked as a defense technical analyst for Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) in Washington, D.C. As a technical analyst Anthony has experience working with many organizations in both the Defense and Intelligence community, providing technical support, product implementation, and creating product demonstrations for all parts of the ESRI product suite. Past experience also includes support to many other federal customers such as DHS and USDA, and teaching GIS to landscape architecture students at Penn State. He has been featured on stage as a speaker and presenter for several ESRI User Conferences. Mr. Calamito teaches Introduction to GIS and Geographic Theory and Analysis.

    Craig Cleveland
    Craig Cleveland is a solution engineer with Esri and has worked out of their Vienna, VA office since 2010. Craig’s efforts focus on applying the use of GIS for facilities management, as well as serving the Defense and Intel communities. Prior to Esri he spent 10 years in the consulting GIS industry in upstate New York. His work in New York was largely concentrated on the state and local government markets, with an emphasis on high end systems integration, geodatabase design and implementations, and managing custom development projects. He was also an Esri Authorized Instructor for multiple courses through which he taught hundreds of students the use of ArcGIS Desktop. He began his career after graduating magna cum laude from the University at Albany with a dual degree in geography and urban studies & planning. Craig currently holds multiple Esri GIS certifications related to ArcGIS Desktop and the Geodatabase, as well as his GISP certification. Craig teaches Introduction to GIS and Components of GIS.

    Kevin M. Curtin, PhD
    Dr. Curtin received his PhD in 2002 from University of California – Santa Barbara and an MA in 1996 from University of Illinois at Chicago. His BA in 1995 is from University of Illinois at Chicago. He is an associate professor of geography at George Mason University. He performs primary research in the field of Geographic Information Science with specializations in facilities location science, urban and environmental resource allocation, data modeling and database design, and transportation, logistics, and network GIS. He has geographic area specializations in Colombia and Sardinia. Dr. Curtin teaches extensively at both the undergraduate and graduate university levels, and has developed several classes including a series of GIS courses, as well as, a graduate course in network GIS that is offered nowhere else in the world. Professor Curtin uses his skills in facility location to determine the optimal locations for many types of facilities given a goal to optimize and a set of constraints. He disseminates his research through publication in peer-reviewed geographic journals (including recently Geographical Analysis, Networks and Spatial Economics, The Journal of Geographical Systems, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and The International Journal of Geographical Information Science) in addition to conference presentations and articles in edited volumes. He has received grants from a variety of local, state, and federal agencies for both primary and applied geographic analyses. He serves on several administrative committees within the university and performs service to the discipline of Geography and the academy through peer-reviews of the research of others. Dr. Curtin teaches Components of GIS and Spatial Statistics and Geostatistical Analysis.

    Mary Garrand, MS
    Mary Garrand supervises the Crime Analysis Unit for the Alexandria, Virginia Police Department. Her duties include overseeing the tactical analysis of crime series and trends as well as the strategic analysis of crime within Alexandria's community oriented policing (COP) areas. As an analyst with Alexandria Police Department, Ms. Garrand has implemented new tactical and intelligence software. She has worked on several long term mapping projects within Community Support areas as well as on criminal investigations. Ms. Garrand was also instrumental in implementing a mobile crime analysis intranet page for officers to use in the field. By using mobile data browser technology, she was able to work with staff to implement this new method of distributing crime analysis information.

    Ms. Garrand serves as the training representative for the Virginia Crime Analysis Network (VCAN) and is an instructor for National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center's (NLECTC) Crime Mapping and Analysis Program (CMAP). Prior to joining the Alexandria Police Department, she was a research associate for the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) as well as a crime analyst with the Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department. She holds a master of science in justice, law and society from American University and a bachelor of arts from Fordham University. Ms. Garrand teaches Human Mapping & Analysis as well as Crime Mapping Case Studies.

    Barry Haack, PhD
    Barry Haack has a PhD in geography from the University of Michigan, an MA in geography from San Diego State University, and a BS, also in geography, from the University of Wisconsin. He is professor of geographic and cartographic sciences at George Mason University where his primary teaching responsibilities and research activities are in aerial photo interpretation, remote sensing, and GIS. Among his principal research interest and experience has been the application of remote sensing technologies and geographic information systems in developing countries. He has conducted extensive basic and applied remote sensing research, including manual and computer analysis of data from conventional aircraft platforms and satellites and the integration of that data into a GIS. Dr. Haack teaches Integration of Remote Sensing and GIS.

    Richard Heimann
    Mr. Richard Heimann has followed the spatial turn in the social sciences closely and consults with government and industry on its implications. Mr. Heimann balances theory and practice within all fields of social science but particularly within geography. He is a data scientist for Data Tactics Corporation and focuses on advanced analytics, data science, and cloud computing. He has written over 10 publications for major magazines and online resources and has a forthcoming article on the merits of quantitative research and design, human terrain, and statistics within a counterinsurgency framework.

    In addition to teaching Human Terrain Analysis (HTA) at George Mason University, Mr. Heimann is also adjunct faculty at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he stimulates and facilitates similar discussions built upon related principles. His investigation has been a near 15 year critique on current theory and methodology. Specific contributions to HTA include several publications, one of which was produced as part of the Human Terrain Analysis Pilot Program at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in 2008. Additionally, he has been an ESRI Authorized Instructor and taught various classes including but not limited to spatial statistics and the effective use of GIS desktop technology at both The Graduate School at USDA and the NGA. He graduated magna cum laude in geography and served as a geographer in the US Army and later as a NGA reservist. Mr. Heimann has participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom- Afghanistan, most recently in 2012 where he worked directly with the 82nd Airborne Division in Kandahar. He currently performs at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Mr. Heimann teaches Human Terrain Analysis.

    Kenneth F. Holbert, Jr.
    Kenneth Holbert is the management analyst for the Town of Herndon, VA where he manages and supports GIS related projects. He holds a BA in geography specializing in GIS, from the University of Washington in Seattle. An authorized ESRI ArcGIS instructor, Mr. Holbert teaches Introduction to ArcGIS at George Mason University. He has nearly two decades of GIS experience in both the public and private sector organizations including ADC Maps, WSSC, ESRI, U.S. Navy, and Fairfax County. He has worked on GIS projects ranging from utility mapping, cadastral automation, environmental analysis, Internet map publishing, and asset management. Mr. Holbert has been the president of the ESRI Mid Atlantic Users Group and is a member of the NOVA GIS Managers group and MWCOG GIS Committee. He is a competent toastmaster and has spoken several times at GIS conferences.

    Steven Otto, MS
    Steven Otto graduated from George Masson University in 2013 with a master of science in geo-informatics and GEOINT. Mr. Otto also obtained a post baccalaureate certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from The Pennsylvania State University, and holds a bachelor of science in business management. Mr. Otto served over eight years in the U.S. Army as a geospatial engineer, supporting numerous operations. He has 15 years of experience in GIS and is a certified Master Instructor with over ten years of teaching experience in the federal government.

    Brett Rose, PhD
    Brett Rose, PhD currently serves as a technical adviser at Esri's DC Technology Center where he uses advanced knowledge and experience with enterprise GIS to enable and educate customers. His primary interests have been enabling better decision making through the use of advanced spatial analysis in GIS. His professional experience includes use of RDBMS such as Oracle and MS SQLServer along with advanced spatial analysis techniques (spatial statistics, geostatistics, and other stochastic/probabilistic methods). His research experience with risk assessment and mitigation and classical civil engineer training aid him in consulting in advanced cost-effective problem solving services. Dr. Rose teaches GeoDatabase Design & Implementation.

    David J. Simms, GISP
    David J. Simms is a technical program analyst with the Department of Fire and Rescue Prince William County Virginia, incorporating public safety applications of GIS to improve EMS, fire, and emergency management operations and services to the community. He spent the last 10 years integrating GIS and other technology to analyze system performance, and to support the development of a station location study and apparatus deployment model. Mr. Simms manages the County's Planning and Intelligence Group, Situation Unit during EOC (Emergency Operations Center) activations, and has established procedures using GIS during emergency or disaster events. He also has worked as head of GIS Development and Maintenance with Prince William County in 1988 and was instrumental in the initial development of the County's GIS, completing the three-and-a-half-year effort of parcel automation. Mr. Simms authored a technical paper entitled "Optimizing Fire and Rescue Services using GIS" published on the ESRI web site, four maps; "Unit Travel Time Zones," published in the "1998 ESRI Map Book" and "The ESRI Guide to GIS Analysis, Volume 1, 1999;" "Epidemiology and GIS," published in the "ESRI 2001 Map Book," and "Station Location Analysis," published in the ESRI 2003 Map Book. Mr. Simms has contributed to the completion of many foreign cartographic projects, and worked as manager of production and quality control for topographic products in 1983 during his eight years in the U.S. Army which started at the Defense Mapping School in 1977. He holds a certificate as a certified GIS professional from the GIS Certification Institute, and has more than 27 years of GIS and cartographic experience in the private sector and in local and federal government. Mr. Simms teaches Emergency Management with GIS.

    Yeoanny A. Venetsanos, LS, CMS, GISP
    Yeoanny A. Venetsanos has over 14 years of professional experience in the geospatial sciences. He has worked for private firms (Sam Whitson Land Surveying and Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc.) and for public agencies (AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, USGS, and Fairfax County Park Authority). He currently works for the Prince William County Service Authority (PWCSA) where he serves as a senior GIS Analyst. He provides geospatial analysis, modeling, database management, and workflow management on complex environmental, cultural, engineering, and land surveying projects utilizing esri, Autodesk AutoCAD, Microsoft Office, Microsoft .NET, Python, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle technologies.

    Mr. Venetsanos’ teaching experiences include teaching part-time for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Adult and Community Education (ACE) as a Land Surveying instructor for the Virginia Land Surveying Apprenticeship program and for the Virginia Association Surveyors (VAS) as an exam preparation instructor for the past three years. Mr. Venetsanos has offered numerous seminars on the integration of Esri and AutoCAD technologies at various state surveying association meetings. Academic subjects include: geometry, trigonometry, error analysis, linear and angular measurement, differential leveling, traverse analysis and adjustment, horizontal and vertical curves, topographic surveys, GIS, CAD, GPS, photogrammetry, mapping standards, and Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam preparation.

    Mr. Venetsanos is a licensed Land Surveyor in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Washington, D.C. He is certified as a GIS Professional (GISP) through the Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute (GISCI) and as a Certified Mapping Scientist - GIS / LIS (CMS) through the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). He received an AS in general studies from Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) in 1997, a BA in biology from George Mason University in 2000, completed the five-year Virginia Land Surveying Apprenticeship Program in 2007, and received a Graduate Certificate in Geographical Information Sciences from George Mason University in 2009. He is currently a member of the Virginia Association for Mapping and Land Information Systems (VAMLIS), the Virginia Association of Surveyors (VAS) where he serves on the Mount Vernon Chapter Board, and the National Society for Professional Surveyors (NSPS). Mr. Venetsanos teaches Introduction to ArcGIS.

    Erwin Villiger, PhD
    Dr. Erwin Villiger spent 10 years with the Central Intelligence Agency as an imagery analyst and remote sensing scientist before leaving to pursue a PhD in environmental science at George Mason University. While studying at George Mason, he ran the GIS and remote sensing computer labs for the Department of Geography and Earth System Science. He has a BA and an MS in geography, with specialties in remote sensing and geographic information systems. Dr. Villiger has taught geography and GIS courses for Johns Hopkins University and George Mason University, has developed a number of GIS education programs for professionals, and is the director of a master's program in GIS with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is an ESRI authorized instructor for ArcGIS and teaches a number of certificate courses including: Introduction to ArcGIS, Components of GIS, Raster Analysis & 3D Modeling, and Environmental Applications of GIS.

    Paul Young, MA
    Paul M. Young is currently the U.S. Geological (USGS) Survey Deputy Associate Director for Energy and Minerals, and Environmental Health where he helps to oversee energy and mineral research and resource assessments and environmental health studies including water and biological contamination.

    While in college, he worked at the U.S. Bureau of the Census Geography Division where he compiled and digitized maps and created digital geographic data. Since 1986 he has worked for the USGS. His early career at USGS included compiling topographic and geologic maps. He then worked for several years developing new computer systems used for map digitizing, image analysis, and geographic information systems (GIS). He served as the Director of the USGS Cartographic Technology Laboratory and then supervised the Applications Research Section where employees worked on a wide variety of natural resource and environmental applications and GIS projects. He served for six years in the USGS Office of the Director where he held a number of senior positions. From 2003 to 2010 he has held several positions in the USGS Eastern Region including Geography Program Officer where he led long term planning and integrated science activities. Paul also served as Regional Chief Scientist where he coordinated integrated science projects and USGS regional science with National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. The Department of the Interior awarded him its Superior Service Award in 1995 and Meritorious Service Award in 2012.

    He wrote a chapter titled “Spatial Database Revision” for Basic Cartography Volume 3 published by the International Cartographic Association in 1996. Paul is a member of the Association of American Geographers and the Cartography and Geographic Information Society where he served for six years as the Secretary-Treasurer. He chaired the AutoCarto 2010 Research Symposium which took place in Orlando, Florida in November 2010. He is on the planning committee for the 2017 International Cartographic Conference to take place in Washington, D.C.

    He graduated from the University of Akron with a bachelor of science degree in geography/cartography in 1986. In 1990 he graduated from the University of Maryland with a master of arts in geography. The American Congress on Surveying and Mapping and the National Geographic Society awarded him scholarships.

    Since 1997, he has taught continuing education and graduate level GIS courses at Northern Virginia Community College, the University of Maryland- Baltimore County, and George Mason University. Mr. Young teaches Introduction to Spatial Analysis.

    Evaluation Comments

    “I completed the entire GIS Certificate Program over a calendar year, refreshed my theory, got up to speed on the latest software, and made connections along the way. A few months later, and I am using my IT Project Management and GIS skills at a GIS software company. This is a great program, with great people.”
    Bill Kane

    “…classes covered a breadth of information, and I was surprised by just how much I learned in a relatively short period of time. And learning GIS in a lab setting with in-person instruction was invaluable.”
    Maggie Iskander

    "The GIS Professional Certificate Program run by George Mason University’s OCPE is the real deal from top to bottom. Through the guidance of their helpful, articulate, and vastly knowledgeable professors I was transformed from a complete novice in ArcGIS to an intern at a reputable agency doing GIS work for the US military in about six months.”
    Daniel Marx

    “I needed a high quality GIS curriculum and I needed the flexibility to pursue the classes on my schedule. Mason’s OCPE does it right!”
    Karl Linderoth, Computer Networking Instructor, Bay College

    "Mason's GIS program set me up for success by teaching the latest in GIS technology and how to apply it to my daily work..."
    Robert J. Alberts, Imagery Analyst, Booz Allen Hamilton

    "The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certificate Program provides professional training from Mason professors and professionals from the field. George Mason offers training in all aspects of GIS, and allows students to register for the whole program, or just a class. I would recommend this program for new GIS professionals, and seasoned GIS professionals who may need a refresher, or training on the newest ESRI software.”
    Courtney Erland, BAE Systems




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