Is the GRE required for admission to the MSGA?


We do not require the GRE as it is not particularly valuable in assessing how well a graduate student will perform in our program, and it presents a financial barrier for some students.

Last updated: January 20, 2021 3:12 pm

What kind of computer do I need for GIS courses?

At UMW, GIS courses primarily use Esri’s ArcGIS Pro software. Esri is the industry leader in GIS and their software is commonly used in workplaces. We are able to provide a free version to registered students. System requirements for ArcGIS Pro can be found here: this software uses Windows, so runs on PC computers only – unless you choose to partition your Mac.

Last updated: May 19, 2020 2:39 pm

Regarding students who begin the program, get jobs and then go part-time: Does the fact that they are in the program, even if they haven’t finished, help them land those jobs?

This question is hard to answer – I expect so, but I don’t know for sure. Prior to covid-19, there were SO many GIS jobs (and even now they are still being posted) …  being in a master’s degree program cannot hurt. We also have an excellent alumni network and a great Center for Career and Professional Development on camps; we post opportunities on our Bulletin Boardand Face Book page; we can help you attend local conferences and develop a portfolio to show off your work… we are small and personal enough to work with our students, to help them gain employment.

Last updated: April 27, 2020 1:22 pm

How many students are accepted each year?

That varies. We usually have more enter in the fall than the spring, but we have 8-12 in total. We usually have about 30 active students in the program. Most attend part time, some taking two courses per semester, and some taking just one.

Last updated: April 27, 2020 1:19 pm

What kind of jobs are part-time students working when in the program?

Part-time students are mostly working in GIS or Planning/GIS fields. Some are with Dominion Energy in Richmond, some at the George Washington Regional Commission-Fredericksburg Metropolitan Planning Organization (FAMPO) here in Fredericksburg, some with Perigean, Inc just to the north of us. Now graduated, one student worked for Stafford County GIS while she did her MS. Of course, it depends on what is available. I should add that other students begin the program with a job, and they keep the same job throughout. Sometimes they are working on the MSGA to boost their credentials FOR their job, or to learn a specific skill or to allow their companies to state that they have employees with XYZ credentials. They are all doing GIS in some capacity.

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:51 pm

What degrees/majors are students coming from when they enter the program?

Most of our incoming students majored in geography; but there is a healthy smattering of environmental science, geology, historic preservation, political science and international affairs. Most of them are from UMW, but we have had students from VT, ODU, JMU, GMU, UVA and Emory & Henry.  Some people are professionals who happen to live here now, some come “home” to the Fredericksburg region from college.  As long as you have some spatial sense and some GIS coursework, you will do well here – we have a very broad view of what geography is!!

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:50 pm

Are there any faculty focusing on issues relating to climate change or the Arctic region?

Dr. Rizzo does do some modeling on the impacts of climate change on ecoregions. I can’t think of anything in the Arctic; Dr. Millones does work in Mexico and South America and has worked in Africa and Europe!

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:50 pm

Are there any faculty working in GIS application development?

Sometimes the capstone addresses a geospatial issue using an academic approach, but sometimes it IS the development of an app; we require a course in Python programming if students haven’t already taken one, and Dr. Yin teaches a course in web GIS and programming, which more directly leads to app development. If that is your interest, you could certainly do it!

This page https://cas.umw.edu/gis/student-research/lists the capstones so far – you can see the kinds of topics students choose. Some are based on work WITH professors, others are their own interests.

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:49 pm

What characteristics are specific to the MSGA program, that distinguish it from competitors?

We have a “professional” graduate program, with classes offered only in the evening, where most of our students work part-time and many work full-time. The Fredericksburg region and surrounding area traditionally has so many GIS jobs nearby that our students may start out planningto attend full-time, and then switch to part-time because the find employment… and often the employer pays for one course per semester, which makes it very worthwhile. While a couple of students have gone on to PhD programs, I would consider this a terminal degree program – it prepares you for a career in geospatial analysis.

Our strengths are that we offer a flexible program in person, with as much attention as a student wants. Each class meets once a week from 6.00-9.30 and you CAN finish in 12 months if you start in the fall semester. We are in a fantastic location and Mary Washington Geography has just celebrated 60 years of graduating students who are very well prepared for life and jobs in geography including GIS! We have GIS alumni working all over the greater DC region, in federal, state and local government, intelligence and planning and environmental areas. Our graduate program only started in 2014, and there are around 35 alumni.  The department is small and friendly and we do just about all aspects of geography; the reputation of our geography program is outstanding.

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:48 pm

What are some notable places graduates have gotten jobs?

Our students are interested in a wide variety of fields to which geospatial analysis is applicable – there is no single type of job. I think the most exciting position is with Jacobs Technology in Houston, which is a company that supports NASA’s Johnson Space Center! Otherwise, we have alumni employed with the US Geological Survey (USGS), National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), several government “contractor” companies and others that deal in geospatial intelligence (e.g. Perigean, Inc; NT Concepts); we have some students at Dominion Power, VGIN, the Virginia Outdoor Foundation, local and regional planning agencies… it really depends on what you are interested in!

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:46 pm

I don’t see anything about a thesis on the website. Is one not required to graduate the program?

The program requires 30 credits, 24 in coursework (6 4-credit courses) and 6 in a capstone project. The capstone isn’t as much work as a more traditional thesis, but it is an independent project carried out by the student under the guidance of a committee of three faculty members. The student chooses the advisor, who helps them to choose other committee members.

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:45 pm

How often do students complete the program within 12 months?

Not many students do complete in 12 months, because they find employment and it is more practical to attend part-time. Those who want to, do – they do not work, they concentrate on coursework (12 credits each semester and the 6-credit capstone in the summer), and they enter with a solid idea about what their capstone will be on, often working on it in class projects.

We have a 5-year program for qualified undergraduates, who complete two graduate courses in their senior year, then complete 2 more graduate courses with 3 credits of capstone in each of the fall and spring semesters. These students earn two degrees in 5 years.

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:44 pm

What percentage of students receive scholarships or assistantships?

We (Department of Geography) do not have any assistantships or scholarships – the funding we have can be used to buy equipment, data or travel to conferences or field sites.  UMW does offer some graduate assistantships, but they always seem to go to graduate students in Business and Education. I believe this is because much of the work takes place in the evenings, when our students are in class.

Last updated: April 27, 2020 12:43 pm

*If you would like to ask a question, email Dr. Jackie Gallagher