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Geographic Information Systems

GIS is described as the Geospatial Revolution as it is transforming the information infrastructure of many Government and private organisation, as well as changing the way we operate both in our private lives and in work.GIS at the University of Waikato has an applied focus and students have the opportunity to link GIS to many different disciplines. These range from Human Geography applications, such as exploring population migration patterns, to Science and Engineering applications such as modelling ice melt in Antarctica or horticultural assessment using drones.

Our research has a strong emphasis on spatial analysis for solving real world issues, such as water quality monitoring, mapping crime hotspots for the NZ Police, and assessing population access to essential services such as hospitals and education. We also have a strong research profile in remote sensing, which includes mapping individual tree species from space, such as Pohutukawa, or using night lights to monitor economic activity in developing countries.

Graduates with GIS skills are highly employable and often employers request these skills even if the job is not a specialised GIS job. Soil scientists and ecologists are expected to understand GIS and have basic skills in using GIS data and software. Demography, population health, crime, planning, and Information Analysts all benefit from using GIS. GIS is an important part of the information infrastructure of many different Government and private organisations, including Land-use consultants, forestry companies, regional and local councils, DHBs, police, and the Department of Conservation. At the University of Waikato we offer education pathways to become a GIS specialist, or a GIS user for a particular disciplinary profession. We cater for students that are completely new to computing, as well as people with advanced IT skills. GIS is a fun way to learn about data, maps, file management, and even programming.

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Key information

Study Locations:Hamilton, Tauranga
Papers offered differ by location. The Catalogue of Papers has full location info.
Area of Study:

Career opportunities

  • Information Analyst
  • Forestry managers
  • Surveyors
  • Policy planners
  • Conservation workers
  • Environmental Planners
  • Police

100 Level

Code Paper Title Points Occurrence / Location
COMPX101Introduction to Programming15.024A (Hamilton), 24A (Online), 24B (Hamilton), 24B (Hamilton Waikato College), 24B (Secondary School - Unistart), 24X (Hainan University, Haikou, China) & 24X (Zhejiang University City College, Hangzhou China)
This paper introduces computer programming in C# - the exciting challenge of creating software and designing artificial worlds within the computer. It also covers concepts such as the internals of the home computer, the history and future of computers, cyber security, computer gaming, databases, mobile computing and current researc...
COMPX102Object-Oriented Programming15.024B (Hamilton), 24B (Secondary School - Unistart), 24B (Tauranga), 24C (Hamilton Waikato College), 24H (Hamilton), 24X (Hainan University, Haikou, China) & 24X (Zhejiang University City College, Hangzhou China)
This paper builds on introductory programming experience, and assumes a knowledge of basic programming techniques, which it expands on particularly in the areas of data organisation and algorithms. It also provides an introduction to: object-oriented programming, computer architecture, Boolean algebra, assembly language, and progra...
DATAX111Statistics for Science15.024B (Hamilton), 24B (Tauranga) & 24C (Hamilton Waikato College)
An introductory paper in statistics that uses Microsoft Excel. Topics include the collection and presentation of data, basic principles of experimental design, hypothesis testing, regression and the analysis of categorical data.
DATAX121Introduction to Statistical Methods15.024A (Hamilton), 24A (Secondary School - Unistart) & 24X (Hainan University, Haikou, China)
An introduction to statistical data collection and analysis. Topics include general principles for statistical problem solving; some practical examples of statistical inference; and the study of relationships between variables using regression analysis.

200 Level

Code Paper Title Points Occurrence / Location
DATAX221Statistical Data Analysis15.024A (Hamilton)
This paper introduces students to the R programming language which is used to investigate a collection of real data sets. Analysis of variance, multiple regression, non parametric methods and time series are covered.
EARTH251Applied Earth Sciences15.024A (Hamilton)
A field-based paper involving data collection and spatial analysis across several Earth Science sub-disciplines to determine the processes operating on our landscape. This includes geological mapping, geomorphological analysis in the field and from aerial images, stream gauging, as well as soil characterization and mapping. The pap...
GEOGY228Introduction to Geographical Information Systems and Big Data15.024A (Hamilton)
GIS and big data are revolutionising the application of Geography in the job market. This paper provides foundational knowledge in digital Geography and Geographical Information Systems, which are used at level 3 and postgraduate level. Students will develop confidence in the use of GIS, cartography, and data handling techniques.
POPST201Population Studies15.024A (Hamilton) & 24A (Online)
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the multidisciplinary field of Population Studies. Students will develop a sound understanding of the demographic drivers of population change and composition, while exploring some of the rich theories and methodological approaches which comprise Population Studies.

300 Level

Code Paper Title Points Occurrence / Location
ENVPL309Urban Spatial Analysis15.024B (Hamilton)
This paper will provide students with hands-on spatial analytical skills for environmental planning practice in an urban context. Students will develop quantitative problem solving and spatial thinking skills applied to real-world problems such as sea-level rise and housing inequality.
GEOGY328Geographical Information Systems15.024A (Hamilton) & 24A (Online)
GIS is used widely in a range of industries and government agencies, and graduates competent in GIS are sort after for employment. This paper is compulsory for the GIS minor and covers all aspects of GIS analysis, including remote sensing and model building. ArcGIS Pro is used in the labs and students have the opportunity to instal...

Undergraduate GIS and the GIS Minor

A GIS minor is available for all undergraduate degrees.

To qualify for a minor in GIS, students must complete 60 points as follows:

  • 15 points selected from  COMPX101 (Introduction to Programming), COMPX102 (Object-Orientated Programming), DATAX111 (Statistics for Science), DATAX121 (Introduction to Statistical Methods) or DATAX221 (Statistical Data Analysis),or COMPX223 (Database Practice and Experience),
  • 30 points from EARTH251 (Spatial Analysis in Geosciences), ENVPL309 – Urban Spatial Analysis, GEOGY228 (Introduction to GIS and Big Data) or POPST201 (Population Studies) and
  • GEOGY328 (Geographic Information Systems) (15 pts).

There are two core GIS papers at undergraduate level:  GEOGY228 - Introduction to GIS and Big Data, and GEOGY328- Geographical Information Systems. These papers can be taken as electives for any qualification.

Scholarships and prizes

New to Waikato? The International Excellence Scholarship is worth up to $10,000.

Visit our Scholarship Finder for information about possible scholarships

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Graduate study options

GIS is a subject best learned through practical applications and the labs are designed to provide increasing levels of complexity. Depending on the level of the paper, you will be able to complete reasonably sophisticated analysis. Since we all have diverse interests and backgrounds, the papers finish with a project so that you can demonstrate what you know on your choice of topic.

Subject links

Geography Programme

Graduate and Postgraduate Admission and Requirements

At the graduate level we offer the GIS Specialisation for people who want to have a career in GIS and become the GIS champion for an organisation. This specialisation is added to your academic record and can be combined with a range of qualifications.

We also cater for people new to GIS. There are many people who discover GIS for the first time after they have completed an undergraduate degree, or they simply did not have the chance to study GIS previously.

The GIS specialisation is available for:

BSocSc(Hons)(Geog) - 120 points,

PGDip(Geog), PGCert (Geog), PGDip(Dem),

Master of Social Science (subjects: Geography, Demography, Anthropology, Economics) - 180 points,

Masters of Information Technology ( - 180 points,

Master of Environment and Society - 180 points, and

Master of Management Studies (subject: Economics) - 180 points.

In addition to completing the requirements of the degree, students must complete 30 points from:

GEOG538 - Automated Spatial Analysis using GIS (15 points)

GEOG548 - Advanced GIS Modelling (15 points) (not offered in 2022)

ENVPL509 – Urban Spatial Analysis (15 points) (subject to academic approval)

AND 30 points from:

Any 590 - Directed Study (30 points)

Any 591 - Dissertation (30 points)

Any 592 - Dissertation (60 points)

Any 593 - Thesis (90 points)

Any 594 - Thesis (120 points)

The 590, 591, 592, 593, and 594 must comprise a research topic involving a substantial component of GIS and must be developed in consultation with the programme convenor for the subject and the GIS specialisation coordinator.

Students who have not completed GEOGY328 - Geographic Information Systems or equivalent will be required to complete GEOG558 - Applied Geographic Information Systems for Research and Planning (15 pts).


School of Social Sciences

General Enquiries:
Phone: +64 7 838 4046
Email: [email protected]