Campus Life

UWF offers only all-online GIS certificate in Florida

Not many certificates in today’s academic world can boast applications in more than 10 industries, but the University of West Florida’s (UWF) online Geographic Information System (GIS) program does just that. Careers in government, environmental studies, science, military, computer science and more use GIS to capture, store, analyze and manage all types of geographically referenced data.

GIS is a computer-based tool that combines hardware, software and data and makes them easy to understand in the form of maps, globes, reports and charts. GIS helps technicians answer questions and solve problems by looking at data in a way that can be quickly understood and easily shared.

Only a handful of universities in the country teach the program exclusively online, and UWF is the only institution in Florida to do so. Amber Bloechle, coordinator of the program at UWF, said that there are numerous advantages to receiving the certificate online.

“First off, students enrolled in the online section of the program can complete the requirements in half the time,” said Bloechle. “Also, out-of-state students pay the same competitive price as in-state students.”

Currently, students in 20 states and four countries are enrolled in the program.

“We provide real opportunities to national and international students looking to further their career and their education,” said Matthew Schwartz, chair of the Department of Environmental Studies.

Students of the program can expect to have a competitive edge in both the public and private sectors, as research and employment is in high demand for both.

Beyond the education, Bloechle said that the relationships and networking that her students engage in are valuable beyond the classroom.

“The program is built so that you have the same classmates throughout the year,” said Bloechle. “You’ll study with the same people you may be working with one day. Our program and the campus in general is built on a principle of close-knit, teacher-student relationships.”

The GIS certificate program is also very military-friendly because of the high demand for knowledge of the system in military and government careers.

“About a third of the program’s students are military,” said Bloechle.

The program started in 2006 with 25 students when online GIS programs were a novelty. Since then, the program has risen in popularity to boast 80 students. Schwartz said he feels the program will only continue to grow as more and more industries demand the certificate.

UWF is committed to the region it serves, affording opportunity and access to higher education for anyone working toward a better future. By providing cutting edge resources for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, the university is remaining relevant and useful in today’s ever-changing learning environment.