Whether you are just entering college for your freshman year or going back to school after a long time in the workforce, you may be wondering what field to study. Geographic Information System (GIS) is a quickly-growing field with many career options. If you enjoy working with computers and want a job that uses technology to make daily life better for everyone, studying GIS is an excellent option. Here is an overview of the field and some of the education and career opportunities available.
What is GIS?
Chances are you use GIS every single day, most likely through your smartphone’s mapping function. GIS essentially collects, stores, and displays information in a mapping function so the user can learn and analyze data. For example, United States Geological Survey (USGS) analysts use GIS to study rainfall, flood damage, and time-based changes in the polar ice caps. Another use of GIS is to display and analyze voting patterns based on population density or geographical location. There are countless other applications as well, with more to be discovered in the future.
If the concept of GIS sounds interesting, it may be the right career field for you. You could work for USGS or the BLM if you like the idea of environmental data analysis and the stability of a federal job. There are also many GIS jobs in state and local governments. You could work with a city planning office, transportation department, or in real estate. GIS is useful for studying both natural phenomena as well as human-related data, so you can decide what types of careers are more interesting to you.
As the cost of technology decreases, the GIS field is expected to grow even more. GIS science will continue to advance and the lower costs will create a larger market for consumer-based applications. Students who earn a GIS degree should enjoy a job market with many opportunities for diverse careers and continual advancement.
How to Get Started
There are several educational paths that could lead to a career in GIS. You could earn a bachelor’s degree in GIS, or choose an adjacent subject such a geology or mapping and take additional classes to earn a professional certificate in GIS. There are also advanced degrees in GIS for those who want to take their careers to the next level. You could earn a masters in GIS from USC and pursue a career managing special projects, implementing new procedures, or participating in GIS research and development.
Students who are more interested in the math and science aspects of GIS could major in remote sensing, statistical data analysis, spatial analysis, and computer programming. Those who want to work in applied fields rather than research and development can study cartography, forestry, human social systems, or political science.
When you’re deciding what to study in college, you should consider both your personal interests as well as what sort of jobs are available. There are many unique aspects of GIS that can incorporate everything from hard math and science studies to human social sciences and cartography. Earning an advanced degree in GIS leads to more opportunities for management or development positions. If you like the thought of using science, statistical analysis, and advanced technology to improve everyday life, GIS could be an excellent field for you.