17 Best GIS programs in Canada and 10 Online GIS courses in Canada

Canada is often referred to as the birthplace of GIS. It is, therefore, no surprise that you can find the best GIS programs in Canada.

Through our research, we have discovered 17 of the best GIS programs in Canada. So all you will need to do is to choose any of the best GIS programs in Canada in the list below and explore it.

Why do most people want to know what the future of GIS jobs look like? You probably know the answer but I will still highlight some of the answers to these questions.

GIS is denoted with different names according to its fields of application. We can show them as shown below;

  • Urban Information System
  • Land Data System
  • Geographically referenced Information System
  • Multipurpose Cadastre
  • Image-Based Information System
  • Cadastral Information System
  • Spatial Information System
  • Spatial Decision Support Info System
  • Property Information System
  • Planning Information System

Why you should choose Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a Career

As you probably know, GIS includes implementing and translating complicated data sets into understandable and valuable knowledge which industries can easily ingest.

GIS, therefore, will always be an exciting, as well as a professional choice for people and as such, going for any of the Best GIS programs in Canada is not a bad idea.

If you are the kind of person that gets curious about the world and at the same time is curious and eager to know more about the environment, then the GIS career is for you.

No doubt, you will be successful and will remain successful in the field, especially if you have a growth mindset and at the same time are ready to learn and grow every day.

First, GIS has made it simpler to understand the environment and make decisions regarding the environment.

Within GIS, one can analyze the geographic spread of data to gain better insight into distribution patterns.

Today, most people use maps to enable them to find a way to their destination while travelling to unfamiliar places using maps.

The broad range of GIS applications includes urban planning, forestry, climate science, military use, emergency management, public health, mining, etc.

Industries have started using tools to make work faster and easier with accurate results, hence applying geospatial tools. 

GIS Jobs

GIS is used in various industries and organizations. Consequently, the skills needed to be successful and a professional equally evolve as time goes on.

why is GIS in use in various industries and organizations?

The answer is straightforward, it is simply because of the power of GIS tools.

GIS is virtually applied in almost every field of the human endeavour and the different types of jobs for a career in GIS include:

  • GIS developer
  • GIS analyst
  • GIS technician
  • GIS project manager
  • Geomaticians
  • GIS specialist
  • Surveyors, etc

The GIS competitive salaries

GIS is known for its competitive salaries and it is obvious it is because GIS is a strong career.

Just like every other career you know, GIS is changing fast with new and improved techniques every day.

As a GIS specialist, your salary depends on your work experience and varies according to the job location and title.

Before we list the best GIS programs in Canada, below is the range of salaries from the entry-level to senior level with examples of the type of jobs at each level.

Senior Level 1

GIS Project Manager
Senior CAD Designer
Sen Geomatics S/W Engineer
Survey Manager
GIS Developer
GIS software engineer
$80,000+
Senior Level 2

Senior CAD Designer
GIS Administrator
Geographer
Geoint Analyst
Geodesist
$70,000-80,000
Senior Level 3

Senior GIS Analyst
Remote Sensing Analyst
LLiDAR Analyst
Cartographer
$60,000-70,000
Entry/Mid Level

CAD Drafter
GIS Technician
Survey CAD Technician
Land Survey Technician
GIS Analyst
GIS Specialist
$40,000-60,000

The list of the best GIS programs in Canada

Below are the 17 Best GIS programs in Canada:

  • BCIT GIS program in Vancouver
  • Algonquin GIS graduate certificate program in Ottawa
  • Ryerson Applied Digital Geography and GIS in Toronto
  • Langara Continuing Studies Open Source GIS in Vancouver
  • COGS Geographic Sciences Cartography Concentration program in Nova Scotia
  • SAIT The Bachelor of Applied Technology GIS program in Calgary
  • SAIT Geomatics Engineering Technology Program in Calgary
  • NAIT Geomatics Engineering Technology program in Edmonton
  • Brock University Geography & Tourism program in St Catharines
  • Lakehead University Department of Geography and the Environment in Thunder Bay
  • Okanagan College Advanced GIS Certificate program in Salmon Arm
  • Fleming GIS program in Peterborough
  • University of Regina B.GISc Program in Regina
  • Queens Geography program in Kingston
  • UNB Geomatics Engineering Program in Fredericton
  • Western Geography program with specialization in GIS in London
  • University of Calgary Geomatics Engineering program

GIS analyst job duties

Having listed the best GIS programs in Canada, now, let’s talk about the GIS analysts.

They are well-rounded, tech-savvy spatial individuals with a wide range of skills.

Also, they are known for their, multi-tasking and multi-disciplinary abilities.

Some of the major reasons why companies hire GIS analysts include to:

  • Create spatial data sets
  • Prepare maps for publication
  • Monitor and administer databases

Now, below are some of the GIS analyst job duties:

Cartography

Cartography is the study of creating maps. Cartography usually comes in different forms such as softcopy mapping, web mapping, or digital maps.

For these mapping products, you may have to suggest design and quality control/assurance.

Database Management

Database management involves storing vector and raster data in relational database management.

Because databases can grow exponentially in size, you may have a role in database development, database administration or any type of asset management consulting.

Programming

Programming automates redundant GIS processes so that companies implement workflows and GIS modelling techniques for their normal business operations.

Complementary duties

Under complementary duties, you can find the following job duties:

  • Remote Sensing
  • Surveying
  • Business Development

10 Online GIS courses Canada

As you know, there has been a rapidly growing industry and demand for professionals with technical skills in GIS.

Apart from the best GIS programs in Canada which can be taken offline, there are online GIS courses too.

You might be working already, but then looking to gain industry experience.

The best option for you is to find an online GIS program that would allow you to learn and develop excellent technical skills while giving yourself the flexibility to work at the same time.

The ten online GIS programs in Canada are:

  • British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) – Geographic Information Systems Advanced Diploma
  • Durham College – Geographic Information System Certificate
  • Fanshawe College – Post-graduate Geographic Information System Certificate
  • Fleming College – Geographic Information Systems Application Specialist Certificate
  • George Brown College – Geographic Information Systems Certificate
  • Seneca College – Geographic Information Systems Certificate
  • St. Lawrence College – Geographic Information Systems Certificate
  • The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) – GIS Data Management Certificate
  • Ryerson University – Applied Geography and GIS Certificate
  • Vancouver Island University – Advanced Diploma in GIS Application

British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) – Geographic Information Systems Advanced Diploma

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 of this program is having the choice to either do 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 the program if working full-time during the day and decide to take all courses online.

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) – GIS Data Management Certificate

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 of this SAIT certificate is that it allows the student to choose whether to study remotely or in a traditional classroom setting.

Durham College – Geographic Information System Certificate

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 its 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.

Ryerson University – Applied Geography and GIS Certificate

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 that are intended to cater directly towards their area of interest.

Ryerson University also emphasizes that this certificate is taught in 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 that is offered at some colleges.

Fanshawe College – Post-graduate Geographic Information System Certificate

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 completed 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 to which graduates would likely be applying.

St. Lawrence College – Geographic Information Systems Certificate

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 enrol in the program.

Fleming College – Geographic Information Systems Application Specialist Certificate

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 the 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.

Seneca College – Geographic Information Systems Certificate

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.

George Brown College – Geographic Information Systems Certificate

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 receive 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.

Vancouver Island University – Advanced Diploma in GIS Application

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.

GIS education programs

Amongst the best GIS programs in Canada, there are GIS education programs.

Recent developments in mapping technologies that form data for planning and decision mechanism, makes it necessary to use these technologies by forming “clever maps” through geographical information systems (GIS).

Up to now, the concept of GIS couldn’t be understood both in educational institutions and in the private sector.

The importance of geographical information systems and their fields of use should be emphasized.

GIS education in secondary education and universities must be a government policy. Different certificate programs for staff training both in the private sector and governmental organizations should be encouraged to increase productivity and quick decision making.

Universities in North Cyprus has realized the importance of GIS and started GIS education in different departments recently.

Types of GIS Education

GIS is being used as a search tool in the level of universities, in more than 100 different academic disciplines.

However, when we look at GIS education, it can be observed that some disciplines come into prominence.

Nowadays, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, the GIS education is offered in the departments like:

  • geography
  • geodesy
  • photogrammetry
  • ecological sciences
  • natural resources
  • forestry
  • civil engineering
  • landscape architecture
  • ecology
  • urban design and planning

Below are the types of GIS education:

Workshops and Seminars

Workshops (short courses) and seminars are popular in GIS education since the beginning of GIS education.

These types of GIS courses are provided for specific goals and within a short period of time.

Online Distance GIS Education

Online distance education is a system that enables trainers and students who are physically at separate locations to teach and get educated by using technology.

Internet-Based Distance Education has flexible course hours and is independent of the place.

It provides low-cost education and the person does not have to go to school.

GIS Certificate Program

The certificate programs are usually under the responsibility of an academic institution that sets up the rules.

GIS Expert Certificate

According to Wikle (1998), the Certificate of Approval is a process, applied to the students as an exam and evaluation in order to see if the student has enough knowledge on GIS.

At the same time, the Certificate of Approval shows the experience and the knowledge of the experts or the workers on a specified subject. source: www.researchgate.net

GIS certification canada

While not all careers within GIS require specific certificates or certifications, they can be beneficial in several ways.

Gaining the broadly applicable research knowledge and exposure to GIS techniques covered in graduate certificate programs just like the other best GIS programs in Canada, for example, can equip you with the essential skills you need to take on more complex geospatial and other geographic information science projects. 

What do you think about these best GIS programs in Canada? Leave a comment below.

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