Certificates and Combined Degrees

Certificates and combined degrees are a great way to enhance your undergraduate experience. They will help you to stand out when you graduate and are looking for a job or you are pursuing graduate studies.

The last decades have witnessed an exponential growth in digital data, the totality of which must be measured in the almost inconceivable scale of 165 Zettabytes by 2025 (1 Zettabytes = 1 billion Terabytes). A significant portion of this data, perhaps even a majority, has some geospatial component, whether it is simple street addresses and GPS coordinates, or high-resolution satellite imagery.

With the wide availability of GPS-enabled smartphones that log location alongside a myriad of other day-to-day activities, as well as powerful applications that instantly bring detailed maps from the cloud to mobile devices, geospatial data has never been more widely available, and widely used, than it is now. In this world of nearly ubiquitous geospatial data it is crucial for academia, government and industry to understand the sources of these data, critically assess their accuracy and utility, and apply the data to solving pressing problems at the local, regional and global scales.

As a consequence of the rapid growth in this area, conservatively put at 9.6% annually, the job prospects for those who process and analyze geospatial data in the US and Canada have never been better, with the number of trained professionals falling short of the expected number of openings for years to come.

Geographic Information Science (GISc) is the broad umbrella under which geospatial data is collected, processed and analyzed. The Queen’s University Department of Geography and Planning offers a Geographic Information Science Certificate (GISC) to enhance the skills of students not only in Geography and cognate disciplines, but across the gamut of concentrators in the university.

With a strong record of internships, co-op placements and employment, the faculty who offer courses within the GISC give students hand-on experience in the latest software packages and techniques used to work with geospatial data. Beyond just technical skills, the GISC, through a broad suite of courses, will equip students with a deeper understanding of the geographic and environmental concepts that underlie GISc. Students will acquire skills to address emerging issues in:

  • Environmental Science
  • Agriculture
  • Forestry
  • Health Care
  • Navigation
  • Business
  • Government
  • Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Mapping

Areas of regular (either annual or biennial) instruction in the GISC include:

  • Basic geospatial concepts (GPHY 105 “The Digital Earth”)
  • GIS concepts, map making and spatial data operation in industry-standard GIS software, like ESRI’s ArcGIS (GPHY 243 “Geographic Information Science”)
  • Customizing GIS software (GPHY 348 “Application Design and Customization in GIS”)
  • Detecting patterns in geospatial data (GPHY 345 “Spatial Analysis”)
  • Satellite and airborne Remote Sensing (GPHY 242 “Remote Sensing I: Remote Sensing of the Environment” and 342 “Remote Sensing II: Digital Image Processing”)
  • Applications of Geospatial Technology for Business (GPHY 343)
  • Ecology and the Environment (GIS and Modelling for Environmental Applications”, GPHY 310 “Landscape Ecology”
  • 3D Measurement using photos from aircraft and UAVs (GPHY 341 “Photogrammetry”)
  • Map-making, CAD and data-visualization (GPHY 344 “Cartographic Design and Visualization”)
  • The history and ethics of map-making and GIS (GPHY 325 “Maps and Society)

In addition to courses offered within the Department of Geography and Planning, introductory courses in Computer Science (CISC 101 “Elements of Computing Science” and 121 “Introduction to Computer Science I”), Math (up to 3.0 units) and Geology (GEOL 463 “Spatial Information Management in the Geosciences”) may be used towards the GISC Certificate.

Learn more about Certificate in Geographic Information Science.

The Certificate in Urban Planning Studies introduces students to urban planning-related issues grounded in an appreciation of city life and city structures and prepares students for advanced studies and careers related to urban planning, such as community development, real estate, municipal governance, international development, or education. The Certificate in Urban Planning Studies provides a balanced, multi-disciplinary approach to the study of cities by incorporating the main disciplinary foundations of the study of urban planning including social planning, municipal regulation, transportation, real estate law, resource management, land use planning, and community relations. This certificate provides students with an opportunity for focused, advanced study of city planning and city development, combined with skills regarding the practice of urban planning that will support them should they decide to complete a professional degree in this field.

Learn more about Certificate in Urban Planning Studies.

School of Urban and Regional Planning and Geography Department Combined Degree Program


The combined degree program is intended to help geography students who want a fast-track professional degree in urban and regional planning. The combined degree program makes it possible for geography students to finish their BAH / BSCH and MPL. degrees in less time than it would take to pursue the degrees independently.

Geography and city planning are related fields. Geographers often consider the spatial implications of urban and regional issues and have a special focus on place. It is quite natural, therefore, to consider the integration of the two related fields. Today urban and regional planning is a broad field and people with different backgrounds are needed for the different work that is done by planners. The multi-disciplinary dimensions of urban planning provide students with a breadth of options to pursue in their studies.

Having both the geography and planning degrees offers the practical advantage of increasing professional qualifications that will broaden employment prospects. The skills gained by taking both programs will prepare graduates for work in urban planning, GIS, transportation, environmental studies, social planning and urban development. Many planning graduates who have geography backgrounds have found responsible and rewarding positions in municipal or provincial governments, and consulting practices across Canada.

The combined degree program allows students to finish the M.PL. degree requirements in about 15 months after receiving their Geography degree provided they take two of their Geography electives in planning and an additional two planning courses while they are still in the Geography program.                                                                                       

Academic Requirements

The combined degree program is suited to highly motivated students who have at least a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.5 in Geography courses in the previous year. The combination of planning and geography skills will be especially useful for those hoping to work in urban planning, GIS, transportation, environmental studies, social planning and urban development. Students are required to maintain at least a GPA of 3.50 in Geography courses and at least a GPA of 3.30 in Planning courses.


Eligible students from Geography can get a Master of Urban and Regional Planning (M.Pl.) degree by extending their studies 15 months instead of the usual two years. Successful applicants to the fast-track program will be expected to have taken four Planning courses (all 3.0 units) during their third and/or fourth year in Geography:

  1. Two SURP courses would be taken as electives towards your degree plan.
  2. Two other SURP courses would be taken as "courses additional to plan”. This increase in your fourth-year workload can help save almost one academic year in the Master's degree program.

Students who are interested in this program should aim to complete at least 15.0 units of coursework per term throughout the duration of their program to maintain a manageable workload. Students taking GPHY 401, 402, 403, 415 may find it advantageous to develop a topic related to Urban and Regional Planning.

Learn more about Combined Degree Program.