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Benefits of Masters degree?

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#1
David Medeiros

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For those of you with a masters in Geography, GIScience or Cartography, how have you found that you benefited from getting that degree?

The local GIS/Cart job scene continues to cool down here. My short term part-time GIS internship is quickly becoming my long term part-time GIS job with no prospect of full time (or interesting) work. Looks like I may be in stasis for a while and am thinking about using my work flexability to go back to school, again, this time for my Masters. However I’m struggling with the question of why? Or how will this effect my career future if I don’t have a particular goal or job associated with getting the degree?

Your input is greatly appreciated.

David

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#2
s hubbard

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there is lots of mapping work out there, you just have to either go find it, or show people how they really could use it.
lots of it is contract, so nothing very stable, but sometimes can be.
and hey, there were more GIS jobs in Cali this last year than anywhere i think. i saw many, some of them cartog stuff.
if you search, check the GIS 'Analyst' jobs, sometimes they want more map production skills than programming.
i think getting out and working will be more beneficial than a master's, and there's always GIS (cont. ed.) classes around to stay in tune. going back to a masters will do no more for your future than just going and getting practical experience of some kind, even if it is on your own. (unless you dive into some crazy specific form of rare-water-snail-habitat-modeling, etc.)

the big question for going solo is...are you an idea man? you must be very creative in coming up with maps that you think might sell for any particular area. if you need someone else to give you ideas for maps, then go with a company
s hubbard
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#3
ceicher

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My personal experience is that a Masters in one of these disciplines can get you "where you want to go". However, it helps (I think) a- to know where you want to go, and b- to set a few specific _personal_ professional development goals to achieve while you're in the program. Otherwise, at the end you'll have the degree, but maybe not the experience you were looking for.

A few years ago -cough- I had a bachelors in engineering, interest in an entry-level GIS job, but no takers as I didn't have the education or experience. I got a Masters in Geography with a focus on GIS/Cart, and afterwards I had the/a job I wanted. It was my _general_ intention ahead of time to get this professional masters, as opposed to continuing with research/PhD. I also learned the most, and picked up the most marketable skills while working on independent projects including my thesis. I learned -cough- Avenue scripting for example, so afterward I could market myself as an "masters educated" GIS/Cart person with programming skills.

Even though you already have a Bachelors in a similar field (I think), if you are interested, for example in further developing your technical skills, or looking deep into domains such as mobile or web cartography, it seems like you could find a program (Masters or even certificate) which would allow you to pursue those interests, gain experience, and in the end also have an advanced degree or cert on your cv... something employers (and probably also customers) definitely look for when hiring.

-C in Z

#4
James Hines

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Word is that the next great job rush will be in the science, technology, & engineering fields, therefore while GIS positions are hard to come by keep yourself updated even if your working part time, or freelancing for scrubs. Keep at it because your number will come up, it has to eventually even if it takes five or ten years it just has to. In the end of it all you will be the one making the money, getting the advancement opportunities, and a better looking wife. Everyone else will be looking at you with envy & resentment because many of them who are making money will be out of a job once it is outsourced.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#5
DaveB

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A Master's degree was good for me. Not only the degree itself, but the experience, too. On the other hand I did have some potential employers turn me down as over-qualified for some positions I applied for.

If you go into a Master's program without a goal then it may be more difficult. It can be a lot of work and you have to be self-motivated so it helps to have some stronger motivation than just getting "a" degree. If not a career goal then maybe a strong interest in some particular subject - you'll likely have to focus fairly narrowly on something for your thesis at least, although you don't have to know what that will be going in.

Having a goal would be good. Then you could target your education better. For example, (taking a cue from Derek) if your goal is to be a freelance cartographer or start your own shop it might help to get some business training/experience. If your goal is to get into more advanced GIS work some training and experience in programming would be useful. I would also echo ceicher's point about getting some practical experience at the same time. Whether it's school projects or better yet, actual projects as a student assistant, intern, etc. That's at least as important as the classroom learning in my opinion.

If you can't come up with a goal you are really interested in then at least look at pursuing subjects/projects you enjoy or find fascinating.
Dave Barnes
Esri
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Map Geek

#6
David Medeiros

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I have a BA in Geography with an emphasis in physical geography (geomorphology, hydrology) and would probably continue in that vein with some emphasis on urban planning. The Geography MA at San Jose State is GI Science focused but broad enough to be considered a Geography degree and includes possible coursework in some of the areas that interest me. I also have a career certificate in GIS.

If I had to identify a goal (besides simply making myself more marketable) it would be to find work in Conservation/Resource/Scientific Research mapping. Or possibly Urban Design & Planning. They have a project option that I may do instead of a traditional thesis.

My big concern is not having a focused goal, a specific industry I amreally focused on getting into. But that's how it was with Geography as well, I never intended to become a cartographer and in fact purposely didn't take Cart 101 in college... I figured it was way to detail oriented for me!

This is good information. Keep the anecdotes coming.

dave

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#7
loximuthal

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My experience (a while ago, now) was that having the Masters in Geography (fluvial geomorph thesis, but lots of carto/GIS course work) allowed me to get first a short-term job w/USGS and then a career position with US Census. I probably could have gotten in to either position with a Bachelors in geo/carto/related, but at a lower pay-grade. Plus, my Bachelors is in Fine Art, which I find useful to my cartography, but would not have cut any ice with HR when applying.
Andy McIntire
US Census Bureau

#8
ErinGreb

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I went for my MA in Geography soon after graduating with my bachelors degree in Geography. Since then, over the last 7 years, I have never been told that I was over-qualified. In fact, since I studied under a well-known professor in the field, it gave me many more opportunities than I would have had with just my BS. Sometimes what gets you ahead in the beginning before you have a solid portfolio is who you know, who you've worked for, or who you've studied under. So whether it's a masters degree or an internship, you have to figure out who will be a good mentor that can help, directly or just buy association, get you ahead.

#9
Emily Martin

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Glad I found this thread! I'm considering going back to uni part-time to nurse my growing love of cartography. I graduated in '08 with a BSc which included some GIS work, which landed me my current job. I like it but am realising I don't want to stay in the industry forever.

The problem is, in the UK cartography masters courses are few and far between, and I don't really want to choose a route heavily oriented to GIS programming. I guess I'll just keep looking and wait for something to kick me into action.
Emily Martin
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#10
dsl

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I started to do a Masters through UNIGIS (Manchester Metropolitan Uni) as a distance program. Something worth looking into. I didn't finish but still think it is a good program. I ended up getting a job in GIS (from CAD) so it became really difficult to go from doing GIS all day at work to doing GIS homework all evening (something else to keep in mind). Plus, I feel I was progressing more by working in the field than doing the master's course.

So I think if you are going to do a Masters it's best not to be doing the work at the same time.

Cheers,
David

#11
burwelbo

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I did the MGIS Masters program out of Calgary and I thought it was well worth it. It was more practical, I think than most Masters degrees in a sense that you did course work and a major project that you had to defend. A Masters degree will help if you have any desire to wor overseas. Most people who work for Saudi Aramco have at least a Masters and many have PHDs so if that is a route you are interested in, it might be worth it.

Just my Thoughts
Bruce

#12
mmaigret

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I've been working for over 20 years with a Masters degree in Geography, and it was worth it, for sure. However, I worked in archaeology, not in cartography as the primary focus. It was not a matter of having the surveying and mapping skills in the field, although that helped, it was more that many archaeologists like the way geographers think, and vice-versa. The world of cultural resource management is infused with thinking about the cultural landscape, which is in fact the domain of geography. Perhaps you could explore this-
MaryAnne

#13
pfyfield

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The benefit that I feel I have from my Masters in Geography has more to do with the knowledge I acquired than the degree itself (my Bachelors was not in Geography). In my job the benefit of having a Masters is pretty much equal to a year on the job in terms of pay level.
A lot of people now are getting GIS graduate certificates, which are awarded after 20-something graduate credit hours. The trouble with those, from an inside perspective, is that students finish the program too fast. One of the best ways to get a "government job" is to come in as a student, and the three years I spent completing my Masters allowed me to make contacts, prove myself, and make it hard for my managers to replace me. Hard to do that in the time it takes to get a graduate certificate.
Paul Fyfield
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#14
David Medeiros

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The benefit that I feel I have from my Masters in Geography has more to do with the knowledge I acquired than the degree itself (my Bachelors was not in Geography). In my job the benefit of having a Masters is pretty much equal to a year on the job in terms of pay level.
A lot of people now are getting GIS graduate certificates, which are awarded after 20-something graduate credit hours. The trouble with those, from an inside perspective, is that students finish the program too fast. One of the best ways to get a "government job" is to come in as a student, and the three years I spent completing my Masters allowed me to make contacts, prove myself, and make it hard for my managers to replace me. Hard to do that in the time it takes to get a graduate certificate.


I actually just finished a 21 unit GIS certificate course last year. I agree it’s not much of an in depth education but compared to a weekend GIS certificate it’s a huge improvement IMO. Maybe this is different from what you mean by “GIS graduate certificate”?

At any rate my certificate did little more than reacquaint me with the frustrating nature of GIS software interfaces and programming.

I’m not sure what I will focus on in my MA work but I anticipate the real benefit coming from, as you mention, making contacts and getting experience. The same was true of the certificate, it gets you very little in terms of work credit but the internship I did while getting my cert is now my only steady paying job!

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#15
razornole

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For me a master's degree is invaluable.

What I learned was how to identify a problem, how to research various methods and techniques to solve the problem, how to implement those methods in the field to collect data about the problem, how to analyze the data collected, and finally how to report those findings to the general public.

All other things aside, would you rather hire someone who knows how to problem solve, or someone who doesn't.

I would also state, that someone could also learn those same problem solving techniques with experience. And experience trumps all in my book.

kru
"Ah, to see the world with the eyes of the gods is geography--to know cities and tribes, mountains and rivers, earth and sea, this is our gift."
Strabo 22AD




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