Geospatial data map

By: Nick Santangelo

This spring, Temple University's College of Liberal Arts (CLA) will become the first school in the U.S. to offer a Professional Science Master's and Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Data Science. These innovative graduate programs will train students in geospatial analysis, programming and advanced spatial analytical skills.

It's a skill set that's in high demand, with the career field growing and the median salary for data scientists sitting at $90,000.* That professional demand is matched by an academic one: in 2018, the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science called for integrating the geospatial perspective into the growing number of data science degree programs and encouraged departments to think about ways to train students in geospatial data science.

This is something that's increasingly in demand for many different kinds of analyses

After hearing this mandate, the Department of Geography and Urban Studies wanted to be at the forefront of geospatial data science (GDS) education. The department also met with Philadelphia-area geographic information systems (GIS) practitioners who identified a major need for professionals with specialized geospatial data science training.

"One of the courses is going to be in big spatial data analysis," says Assistant Director of the Professional Science Master's Program Lee Hachadoorian. "People are working with datasets that are too large to be held in memory at any given time for live streaming data where it's a vast amount of data, but it's also high-velocity data. That's combined with cloud computing, where you're relying on not just the resources of your laptop, desktop computer, but being able to work with virtual machines that are pulling in CPU cycles from server farms to process all of that data.

"So, this is something that's increasingly in demand for many different kinds of analyses. Think about, for example, if you're doing real-time monitoring of COVID-19 and you want to spin up some new application to be able to find new outbreak clusters almost as soon as the cases are being reported. That kind of analysis is something that graduates would be able to do after learning these GDS programming techniques, automated data ingestion, cloud computing, etc."

Graduate Chair Hamil Pearsall says CLA's GDS certificate provides advanced GIS and spatial analytics training in addition to programming skills. The PSM in GDS includes that same training but goes further with courses in urban, environmental and more technical applications. Students who earn the certificate and find they want to continue their GDS education can then transfer all their credits into the PSM.

And since all courses in both programs are held after 5:30 p.m., it's easy for professionals to complete their graduate education while working. Their current line of work, however, doesn't necessarily have to be related to GDS. The degree and certificate will be appealing to anyone who feels stuck in their career and wants to try something new.

"Some students are going to be people working in industries where they may have done some work with spatial data but aren't familiar with spatial data handling," says Dr. Hachadoorian. "They may already have some stats training or have a programming background, maybe even an extensive programming background.

"But they might be working in an area like a marketing department and realize, 'Oh, we've got all this Twitter sentiment data. It's geotagged, and we want to analyze this big, high-velocity data that has a spatial location.' There aren't a whole lot of places to get that kind of knowledge and experience. So, it's going to appeal to people already working in certain industries who are new to working with spatial data. From their first class, they'll be able to take the skills from the classroom into their workplace and continue to grow it from there."

To start growing your GDS skills, request more info about CLA's PSM or graduate certificate today.