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Geospatial intelligence minor accredited by USGIF

Image of the earth with connecting network points.

An undergraduate minor in geospatial intelligence offered at South Dakota State University is now accredited by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, joining 22 other universities nationwide with this distinction. 

Housed in SDSU’s Department of Geography and Geospatial Sciences, the geospatial intelligence minor offers undergraduate students the opportunity to expand their career opportunities in the fields of geography, geospatial technologies, natural resource management, criminology, precision agriculture and more. 


The new, 18-credit program combines introductory coursework in geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing; specialty application classes in GIS, satellite remote sensing and uncrewed aircraft systems; and “analytical electives” such as history and political science. 

This interdisciplinary curriculum allows students completing the minor to understand not only the spatial context of regions, but also the social, environmental and political implications globally, according to Bob Watrel, head of the Department of Geography and Geospatial Sciences. 

Careers in geospatial intelligence include national security, emergency management and public safety, as well as the ability to apply learned skills to other fields. This minor provides job opportunities for students in the corporate, government and academic sectors. 

“The career opportunities for GIS have been very good for the last several years,” Watrel said. “It just keeps growing because spatial data keeps being collected and analyzed at a rapid pace.” 

A student completing the geospatial intelligence program at SDSU will be able to process and interpret satellite and drone images with many job opportunities for the federal “three-letter agencies” and U.S. defense and many state and local governments, according to Watrel. 

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, founded in 2003, accredits standalone undergraduate or graduate geospatial intelligence certificates and or full degree programs at universities and colleges. 

“SDSU’s geospatial intelligence minor offers a variety of technical and analytical course offerings, brings a unique regional perspective, and demonstrates a clear commitment to student development,” said Christine Devine, the foundation’s director of education and professional development. “We are excited to see how this geospatial intelligence certificate contributes toward USGIF’s efforts to grow the next generation of geospatial intelligence professionals.” 

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation is a nonprofit educational foundation dedicated to promoting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft and developing a stronger geospatial intelligence community among government, industry, academia, professional organizations and individuals who develop and apply geospatial intelligence to address global security challenges. The foundation achieves its mission via its strategic pillars: build the community, advance the tradecraft, accelerate innovation.