A Geographical Information System is a computer system that involves many technologies relying upon the analysis and visualization of location-based information. The computer system stores spatial or geographical data. After capturing, analyzing, and manipulating the information, the system presents the data as multi-layer maps that often seem three-dimensional. Many career opportunities exist in geospatial technology. Obtaining a Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) certificate or graduate degree online are two ways to advance one’s career while working.
Prior to beginning a GIS university certificate or master’s degree program, students should have experience using a database and conducting computer research. A Geographical Information System program teaches basic GIS skills in the first few courses. Students learn about the differences between digital maps and paper ones and understand how to translate the features on a map into meaningful information. They learn how to define geographical features and how to show the different types of spatial data on a map. Students also learn how to prepare reports using the spatial data. Being able to present the results to others is very important.
Geospatial Technology: High-Growth 21st-Century Industry
The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration has stated that geospatial technology, of which GIS is a part, is one of the three most important high-growth industries of the 21st century. There are many career opportunities for people with a technical computer background who have an interest in such global concerns as climate change, agricultural development, and the health of oceans. Companies in the private sector and government agencies are hiring GIS specialists with an education beyond the undergraduate level.
National Spatial Data Infrastructure: Established by Executive Order
Executive Order 12906 called for establishing the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The goals of this infrastructure include creating a consistent means of sharing geospatial data among all users: academic community, non-profit and private sectors, and all levels of government. Other goals are to improve geographic data quality, avoid research duplication, and give the public better access to geospatial information.
GIS and the Environment
Researchers and people working in the fields of earth science, education, government, health and human services, natural resources, and public safety use GIS. Projects in these fields include those involved with climate change, sustainability, and urbanization. Public safety use of GIS in the areas of law enforcement, homeland security, wildlife management, disaster management; and fire, rescue, and emergency medical services are especially important. GIS maps provide information about land use, overgrown regions of brush requiring clearance, and potential wildfire zones. The maps show areas along border states having paths used by people trying to enter the country illegally.
A geographic information system career is a good choice for people looking to transition from a more generic type of computer job to something that has a wider impact, either on a local, state, country, or global level. Combining technical computer skills with fact gathering, and then manipulating results to produce meaningful reports is a career path to consider.
[Image via Flickr by US Mission Geneva]