What is Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?
Do you love the idea of using maps & spatial data to illuminate hidden patterns? Are you fascinated by changing landscapes, urban areas, and systems? Would you like to be involved in creating virtual worlds and mixed realities? Then GIS may be the field of your dreams!
Think of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a marriage between geography and data science:
- GIS experts manage, analyze, and transform geospatial data into user-friendly tools & reports, interactive data visualizations, and innovative software programs. These tools can be deployed to solve complex problems and answer geographic-related questions.
- GIS goes beyond cartography and mapping to include the use of remote sensing, survey & field data, the Internet of Things (IoT), drones and UAVs, mobile data, and more.
- Within our interconnected world, GIS has become a key part of decision-making. Governments, industries, and philanthropic organizations all rely on geographic data to improve their understanding of how the planet operates and to predict events.
Examples of GIS in Action
- Prepare coastal communities for rising sea levels
- Foster more sustainable agricultural practices
- Pinpoint critical infrastructure repairs
- Plan new metropolitan parks and city facilities
But this is just the beginning! GIS has been applied to interactive games like Pokémon Go and real-time dashboards that monitor the spread of pandemics. It’s helped to uncover lost shipwrecks and predict fluctuating demand for groundwater. It can be utilized to rescue migrants and preserve indigenous wisdom in geographic tribal areas. The opportunities are endless.
The Future of GIS & GIScience
Even as AI is starting to take over baseline computing tasks, GIS specialists are finding new avenues of interest to explore. GIS prophets are forecasting an increase in the use of open-source mapping & software, a surge in real-time geospatial data, and continued investment in IoT & miniature sensors.
In the near future, you could be integrating GIS into:
- Augmented Reality (AR) devices (e.g. smart glasses)
- Virtual Reality (VR) environments and digital twins
- Sophisticated predictive models
- Autonomous vehicles that rely on Machine Learning (ML)
So make sure your technical skills are up-to-date! GIS graduates should have a sturdy knowledge of baseline software (e.g. ArcGIS) and training in data science. Folks with experience in Python, modeling, remote sensing, and the Cloud will be particularly valued.
Accredited GIS Program Listings
Choose an On-Campus GIS Degree
Make the most of your educational investment by selecting an on-campus GIS degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Within our guides, you’ll find annotated listings for all kinds of GIS and GIScience programs. Use the links to analyze admissions requirements, coursework, and tuition costs. Or skim through the advice section to learn more about what to look for in a quality GIS degree.
- Associate’s Degrees in GIS
- Bachelor’s Degrees in GIS
- Master’s Degrees in GIS
- GIS Certificates
- PhD Programs in GIS
Find a GIS Degree in Your State
Wondering what’s available in your neighborhood? Our GIS degree listings by state make it easy to find an accredited GIS degree or certificate in your geographic area. Choose a public university and you may qualify for super-affordable in-state tuition rates. Opt for a private university and you may be eligible for special scholarships & fellowships for local students.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
Pursue an Online GIS Degree
Become a GIS specialist without leaving the comfort of your own home. Online degrees in GIS and GIScience are an ideal fit for rural students, working professionals, and folks with family commitments. Distance learning programs in a tech-heavy field like GIS are not all created equal, so it pays to do a little comparison shopping. Use our listings & rankings to find a degree with street credibility.
Build a Brilliant Career in GIS
Explore GIS Career Resources
To help you stand out in a crowded field, we’ve created a section devoted to practical career resources. Find out how you can earn GISCI’s coveted GISP certification. Decide which GIS conferences & events you’d like to attend in the next year. Or take advantage of the GIS tools & resources guide to transform your classroom projects into A+ efforts.
- What is GIS? An Introduction
- The Complete Guide to Professional Certifications in GIS
- GIS Conferences & Associations: Your Guide to Networking
- Helpful GIS Tools & Resources
Today’s GIS Employment Market
Trying to decide what to do after graduation? Have a look at the Global GIS Jobs Report 2022 to get a sense of where the market is headed. As you might expect, demand for GIS experts tends to be high in municipal, engineering, environmental & planning organizations—especially those in large urban centers.
If you’ve just started your journey into the world of GIS, search for job openings in the following arenas:
- Urban Concerns (e.g. infrastructure management, utility services, urban planning, parks & recreation services, etc.)
- Nature & Natural Resources (e.g. forestry, agriculture, ecology, conservation, oceanography, astronomy, natural resource management, etc.)
- Government (e.g. disaster management, military operations, law enforcement, etc.)
- Big Business (e.g. real estate, energy sector, banking & insurance, aviation, telecommunications, healthcare, transportation, supply chain management, etc.)
- Creative Realms (e.g. game development, archaeology, architecture, history, etc.)
All of these fields rely on geospatial data to make decisions. Read the job descriptions and you’ll get a strong sense of what your GIS work will look like on a day-to-day basis.