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GIS Certificate

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    John Bartholomew
    road maps
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When you create a map do you always develop the base map data? Probably not. That's why you source the data/work. What's the difference in this situation? My response was based on the assumption of professional honesty. If someone came to me with a project that they put together in a GIS and then cared enough about presentation to bring in a pro (or hire one of the many local carto tutors out there) to help communicate the message, I would consider that person to be thorough, not deceptive.

Now that is a really interesting question. You are absolutely right that in my eyes as a potential employer, the "shoe on the other foot" doesn't feel equal. But I don't run a GIS shop, I'm head of production (read "lead cartographer") of a map publishing company. Perhaps the difference is that cartographers (as opposed to GIS people) tend to think of data like a natural resource: we do as little original creation of base data as possible. I look at design sense in a potential employer very carefully, and if it were revealed in interview that someone's portfolio was not primarily her/his own design, I would be taken aback. I want to know what the prospect's design sense/skills actually are.

But, as I said, we aren't a GIS shop. And I can see how the shoe on another shop's foot (OK, that metaphor can limp offstage now) would in fact make sense.

Just when you thought the two cultures were merging...

Nat Case

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA




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"Just when you thought the two cultures were merging..."

I didn't mean to start a family feud here.

The traditional definition of cartography still holds: it is the ART & SCIENCE of making maps. Both parts are equally important and that, I think, is exactly what makes it a unique and fascinating field. After some early trepidation I find I'm enjoying learning GIS more than I ever expected to. I apologize if I slighted my science-based siblings.

Martha Tyzenhouse,
(artist and trainee scientist)

Brian Moran

Brian Moran


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I thought I'd resurrect this thread as I'm new to the board and this is a relevant topic to me.

I recently finished a "GIScience certificate" (here at Oregon State) and I thought it was pretty valuable. My background is in cartography, but I've transitioned into mostly GIS in the last 5 years by self-taught on-the-job training. You can certainly learn a lot by jumping into GIS software; however, I found that even the basic graduate-level courses in GIScience were really helpful in filling in those voids in my understanding of GIS concepts. Knowing how to use GIS software is obviously important, but the courses I took put all that anecdotal knowledge I had gained by blundering through GIS projects into perspective. I've found that ESRI has a very particular style of teaching their software (I've taken many online courses as well as classroom courses in Redlands) and learning the concepts of GIS at a university can be very complimentary to ESRI's style. In short, I'd recommend the certificate...if you can afford it. The trick is to find a job first and have your employer pay for it, but thats another topic.

As for employment, I sense that there is a growing demand for GIS techs who actually know their field, whether it be urban planning, biology, environmental management, etc. Unlike a lot of tech fields, it seems that the trend in GIS is to hire people with broad skills who can do many tasks, rather than specializing. If you don't know your scientific field well, it presents a communication problem between GIS tech and scientist in designing a GIS solution. Also, I think its beneficial if you have both cartographic design skills and some light programming/scripting experience, because 1) theres a growing realization amongst GIS employers that many GIS geeks can't design maps well and 2) almost any GIS job requires some degree of automation of repetitive tasks, so some knowledge of Python, VB, etc. and Model Builder are really valuable. Most GIS people have strong skills in one of those areas, but few have both.

I doubt that an online certificate program would draw many frowns, especially the Penn State one. I find online classes difficult though.

USDA Forest Service
Pacific Southwest Region

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