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Graduate Program in Spatial Analysis

Curriculum and Degree Requirements

This page provides an overview of the program of studies for the MSA degree. For detailed information on degree requirements, see the Graduate Calendar

The MSA is offered to students on either a full-time or part-time basis. Core courses are scheduled at either 4-6pm or 6-8pm when full-time and part-time students may attend as one group. The full-time program is scheduled to be completed in one year (12 months)  or 16-20 months for thesis students, and the part-time program takes two years (24 months). The program is the same for full-time and part-time students, except that the practicum requirement is waived for part-time students in appropriate program-related employment. Students are not normally admitted to the part-time program unless they are in program-related employment.

Full-time option - are you considering to continue your education immediately after a Bachelor's degree, or to take a year off from work?

The typical schedule to complete the MSA program on a full-time basis starting in the Fall (MRP = major research paper)

  • September to December: 4 core courses; develop ideas for MRP
  • January to April: 2 elective courses and practicum; start work on MRP
  • April 30th: MRP proposal due
  • May to August: research and writing of MRP
  • May 31st: literature review due
  • June 30th: analysis completed
  • July 31st: complete MRP draft due to supervisor
  • Mid-August to early September: oral defence of MRP
  • By mid-September: required MRP revisions completed and submitted to the Yeates School of Graduate Studies

Part-time option - are you thinking of upgrading your education while working as a data analyst, GIS or geomatics professional?

The MSA program is set up deliberately to encourage those working in related fields to be able to continue their education while working. Indeed, part-time students with suitable jobs are exempted from the practicum requirement in the program.

The typical schedule to complete the MSA program on a part-time basis starting this Fall (MRP = major research paper):

  • September to December: 2 core courses; develop ideas for MRP
  • January to April: 2 elective courses; develop ideas for MRP
  • April 30th: MRP short proposal due
  • May to August: start work on MRP
  • August 31st: literature review due
  • September to December: 2 core courses (coursework now finished); work on MRP
  • December 31st: methods chapter due
  • January to July: research and writing of MRP
  • April 30th: analysis completed
  • July 31st: complete MRP draft due to supervisor
  • Mid-August to early September: oral defence of MRP
  • By mid-September: required MRP revisions completed and submitted to the Yeates School of Graduate Studies

Thesis option – are you involved in a faculty member’s research project and consider pursuing a doctoral degree or working in a research-intensive environment? The MSA thesis option extends the program by one or two terms, and requires the student to write a thesis instead of an MRP. Unlike other one-year Master’s programs, the MRP in the MSA program consists of original research that is often of publishable quality (see “Publications” page). However, the thesis option allows for longer involvement in academic research and a more in-depth treatment of the student’s research topic.

Time commitment for all options - You should assume that each course will take at least one day per week of your time. In addition, the practicum accounts for two full work days per week, and any funded teaching or research assistantship will require an additional time commitment. The successful completion and defence of the MRP requires your full-time commitment during the period of May to September (full-time students).The vast majority of students complete the MSA degree in the scheduled time. At the last program evaluation (2007), 84% of full-time students and 81% of part-time students had completed the degree on time. The extra time needed by the remainder can usually be attributed to personal circumstances, such as changing jobs (part-time students) or accepting a job offer prior to graduation (fulltime students), moving, becoming a parent, or falling ill - circumstances through which the program director will counsel the student to successfully continue/return and complete the program.


Spatial Analysis:
Program Details
Program-Related News

27 August 2019 - Orientation event for a new class of 22 MSA in Spatial Analysis candidates: Welcome to Toronto, Ryerson, and the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies!

10 July 2019 - MSA thesis student Arsh Grewal presents his research with MSA faculty members Drs. Stephanie Melles and Claire Oswald on “Source, Transport and Fate of Cohesive Sediment in Aquatic Systems: Implications for Water Quality and Ecosystem Health” at the 27th IUGG General Assembly in Montreal.

30 May 2019 - Congratulations to MSA faculty member Dr. Claire Oswald, winner of Water’s Next academic leader award for her work on road salt and the impact on surface waters!

4 April 2019 - MSA student Selasi Dorkenoo presented in the Geospatial Health Research Poster Session at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the AAG. Her topic “Accessing informal and formal social supports among older immigrants in Canada: A mixed-methods approach” is part of a collaboration of MSA faculty member Dr. Lu Wang with researchers at Ryerson and three other Ontario universities.

1 February 2019 - Are you interested in impervious land-use feature classification? Check out the new paper by MSA graduate Ela Lichtblau and MSA faculty member Dr. Claire Oswald, “Classification of impervious land-use features using object-based image analysis and data fusion”,

29 January 2019 - MSA faculty member Dr. Lu Wang, Gabby Lee, MSA ‘17, and Ian Williams, MSA ’09, and Head of Analytics & Innovation at the Toronto Police Service, co-authored a paper on “The Spatial and Social Patterning of Property and Violent Crime in Toronto Neighbourhoods: A Spatial-Quantitative Approach”, which is available at

14 November 2018 - GIS Day2018 event in collaboration with Ryerson University Library and Archives and Esri Canada includes a presentation on big data in retail analytics by MSA faculty member Dr. Tony Hernandez and Joe Aversa, MSA ’10 and PhD cand. at Wilfred Laurier University. The Department of Geography and Environmental Studies will also participate in the City of Toronto’s GIS Day event on November 20th with a presentation of select MSA student work.

13 November 2018 - Thank you, Environics Analytics, for allowing 25 MSA students to present their cool cartography and geovisualization course projects at the 2018 EA User Conference!

11 October 2018 - Congratulations, MSA class of 2018 on today’s convocation ceremony!

11 June 2018 - MSA student Krystal Siebert presented her research on “Use of Wetland-to-Lake Hydrologic Connectivity Metrics to Better Understand Broad-Scale Patterns in Lake Dissolved Organic Carbon Concentrations” at 2018 meeting of the Canadian Geophysical Union.

1 June 2018 - At the 2018 meeting of the Canadian Cartographic Association (CCA), MSA student Melanie MacDonald reported on her course project on mapping informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, using OpenStreetMap with an associated story map and some artwork too. Congrats, Melanie, on being selected for the CCA’s best student paper/presentation award at the conference!

17 May 2018 - Andy Charles, MSA '01, who served as Analyst and Retail Consultant at Scotiabank, and Sears Canada, and now is Senior Manager of Strategy, Analytics, and Insights at Loblaw Co, was profiled for Ryerson University’s 70/25-year anniversary. Andy was among the first eight Ryerson students to ever receive a graduate degree - see him cross the stage at Fall 2001 convocation at

3 May 2018 - At the MSA Poster Day, 19 students presented their major research paper or thesis research plans. The photo at shows faculty, staff, prospective MSA students, and industry representatives listening attentively to the student’s presentation across an extraordinary range of topics.

28 March 2018 - Sean Marshall, MSA ’05, spoke to an undergraduate Geographic Analysis class today about potential campus locations in Brampton. In addition to his day job as Geospatial Health Analyst, Sean blogs about urban transportation issues and is a contributing writer for Spacing Magazine and TVO.

14 March 2018 - Taking a daily dive into Data Lake… For International Women’s Day, Scotiabank’s Digital Factory profiled the work of Margaret Woo, MSA ’01, and Senior Manager, Applied Analytics at the bank.

2 March 2018 - Ryerson’s “Alumni of Grad Studies” series features a portrait of Amanda Maze, MSA '04, and Director of Spatial Strategy and Real Estate Insights at Walmart Canada. The Master of Spatial Analysis is one of Ryerson’s longest-running graduate degrees with extraordinary career opportunities in geography, GIS, retail, marketing, banking, and real estate.

10 February 2018 - New article by a group of MSA faculty and students: K. Wayne Forsythe et al., “Assessing fine particulate matter concentrations and trends in southern Ontario, Canada, 2003-2012.” Get your open access copy at

2 February 2018 - Ryerson Today  article on “Why your geography degree will get you a job”, highlighting the transferable skills acquired in the MSA program: “From retail to crime analytics to public health, geography is in high demand”, citing the experience of MSA alumni Heather Hart and Joe Aversa.

23 November 2017 - Celebrating the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity's (CSCA) 25th anniversary with an evening event around Canadian retail, real estate, and consumer behaviour trends. The CSCA is a founding partner of the MSA program and has hosted numerous MSA student research projects.

13 November 2017 - GIS Day event in the MSA lab. Students presented their completed Geovisualization projects, ranging from interactive and animated maps to 3D prints and other physical models.

19 October 2017 - The annual MSA practicum host reception showcases experiential learning at its best. Quotes from placement hosts overheard at the reception: MSA students make “maps that really change the conversation” about city planning and are “fully involved in our work group”, not just given a project to go off with. In other organizations, MSA students use GIS to help estimate mortgage risk, and employ location intelligence in environmental conservation. In retail network planning, MSA students consult on store cannibalization. As information designers at a major consultancy, MSA students will contribute to turning analytics into actionable decisions. MSA placement students will also participate in addressing police accountability and cost using geospatial data analysis. There even was a bit of competition between hosts about which is the coolest placement in conservation!

12 October 2017 - Congratulations, Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) class of 2017 @RyersonU! Eggy, the mascot, likes #Geography #GIS and #WomenInAnalytics, see our tweet at

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