Meet the Program Director for the Online Master’s in Geographic Information Systems

Dr. Xi (pronounced “sea”) Chen brings a unique perspective to the world of geographic information systems. With a background in hydrology, the study of water distribution and movement, Xi’s journey into geographic information science was a natural evolution. “I’m a hydrologist by training, and there’s a connection between the flow of water and spatial data,” Xi says.

Xi is the program director for the Master of Science (MS) in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program at the University of Cincinnati (UC). He’s worked in our Department of Geography, part of the university’s College  Headshot of Xi Chen, the director of the MS GIS program at UC Online. of Arts and Sciences, since 2016.

Xi’s education and experience encompass a deep understanding of water resources, environmental studies and modeling, and physical geography. He earned his doctorate in environmental engineering in 2014.

Global Need for GIS Professionals

From land-use planning and urban development to work that impacts the earth’s climate, architectural design and construction, and other geography-intensive areas, GIS specialists combine their understanding of geospatial data with technological tools to solve complex business problems.

These professionals play a pivotal role in numerous industries due to their increasing reliance on location-based data analysis, including:

  • The transportation sector relies on GIS professionals to optimize routes for logistics, improve traffic management, and enhance public transportation systems.
  • In disaster management and emergency response, GIS specialists contribute by creating real-time maps to aid in evacuation strategies, resource allocation, and damage assessment during crises.
  • Urban and regional planning heavily benefit from GIS professionals’ expertise who assist in designing sustainable cities, managing infrastructure projects, and determining suitable locations for new developments.

As these industries and others increasingly recognize the power of geospatial insights, the demand for GIS professionals will continue to grow globally.

Online Degree With No In-Person Requirements

UC’s GIS master’s program is tailored to meet the educational needs of people working in this swiftly evolving field. The 100%-online format makes it stand out compared to similar programs that require you to attend at least some (if not all) of their classes on campus.

UC’s coursework is fully asynchronous, allowing you the opportunity to study when and where you want. And contemporary collaboration tools enable you to converse and connect with your instructors and fellow students.

A flexible, interactive study experience is a must because UC caters to people who work full-time and have personal activities they prioritize, like spending time with family. “I have two kids,” Xi says, “so I understand the need for flexibility. My children are young, but they’re already into computers and iPads. I believe the next generation should learn programming and understand data since these are a big part of our world.”

While UC has been in the online education space for more than 20 years now, we’ve seen greater interest in online master’s degrees in the past three years. Xi says, “COVID-19 made online learning more acceptable, and our GIS program benefits from the increased understanding and acceptance.”

GIS professional, studying maps for a county engineering project

Geolocation. Geographic data sets. Map markers. Spatial statistics. Geoanalytics. If you know what these terms mean,
chances are you’re interested in geography and information systems. Learn more about the GIS master’s program.

Core Courses and Electives Grow Your GIS Expertise

As a master’s-level student, you are required to complete a minimum of 30 semester credit hours along with a capstone course at the end of the program. There are seven required courses, and you choose the electives that match your interests and desired career path.

Here’s the curriculum at a glance:

  • First semester: Foundational courses include Introduction to GIS, where Xi is your instructor, and Quantitative Geography and Spatial Statistics I
  • Spring semester: Core courses are Introduction to Computer Analytical Cartography and Remote Sensing; spring elective is Advanced GIS and Web GIS
  • Summer semester: Core course is Quantitative Geography and Spatial Statistics II; summer electives are Crime Mapping and Analysis and Introduction to Landscape Ecology and GIS
  • Fall semester: Core courses are Intermediate GIS and Graduate Geography; fall electives are GIS and Public Health, GIS in Hydrology (Xi is your instructor), and Practical Data Mining and Visualization

You can expect short course lecture videos on concepts and discussion boards while studying online at UC. You get access to a virtual lab and popular GIS software with practice exercises and videos walking you through the tools.

High-Quality Education at an Affordable Price

Another standout feature is UC’s program affordability, which makes it an attractive option for prospective students living in Ohio and elsewhere. Compared to many other U.S.-based universities, tuition is considerably more affordable. Lower tuition coupled with UC’s fully online format make the program an ideal choice if you want to advance your career in the geospatial realm without the constraints or cost of traditional on-campus programs.

UC’s Student Financial Aid Office offers several resources to help you understand and plan for your tuition and explore financial aid. Our staff is here to assist you in planning your academic career and using your available aid to meet your educational goals.

Kelly Wright, MS, GISP. GIS analyst for the City of Monroe

Get to know Kelly Wright and learn about her path to becoming a master GIS analyst.

High-Paying Jobs for GIS and Spatial Information Experts

UC’s program empowers you to become a proficient GIS practitioner, preparing you for a myriad of rewarding career opportunities. You’ll be well-equipped to thrive in roles at government agencies or environmental organizations or corporate settings that rely on spatial data for informed decision-making.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a GIS specialist with a master’s degree could earn anywhere from $64,010 as a conservationist to $75,950 as an urban planner to $93,580 as a geoscientist. (Explore for more careers that benefit from having a master’s degree in GIS.)

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Xi’s journey from hydrologist to the realm of geospatial technology reflects the inter-connectivity of these two fields. As an instructor and the program director for UC’s online GIS master’s program, Xi’s understanding of the invaluable role GIS plays inspires our students.

Do you feel inspired to learn more about our highly regarded program? Contact a UC Enrollment Services Advisor online today or call  (833) 347-5495 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern, to speak directly with a representative.

Xi and UC’s other GIS program faculty look forward to meeting you.

birds eye view of students working at a round table with laptops and study materials
Need additional student resources?
Already an online student? UC Online has additional tips and tricks to ensure you are on the path to success. Check out our Student Resources section for what you need to maximize your learning.
Corporate Taxation professionals having a meeting
Helping You Build a Better Business Through Continuing Education
Employee recruitment and retention is crucial for the growth and profitability of an organization and should be a high priority for every business. At the University of Cincinnati Online, we want to help develop and retain your employees through our Business Partnership offering.

Sign up for updates from UC Online

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.