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Is GIS training worthwhile?

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#1
Maisie

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Hello all,
I'm a veteran cartographer using Illustrator, and I am one mouse-click away from applying to the Penn State (on-line) post-baccalaureate certificate program in GIS.

My finger is twitching. Before I commit myself, can anyone reassure me that it will really be an advantage to have this training? My interest is primarily in using GIS for historical research and I fear such jobs, being publicly funded or in the nonprofit sector, will be increasingly scarce in the future. On the other hand I can't compete for them without GIS training.

The alternative would be to turn my back on mapping altogether and move toward publishing/desktop publishing. But my job search in that area, with 20-odd years of cartography on my resume, has been more than a little discouraging.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Martha

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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Martha,

I think GIS skills are currently definately very valuable. The popularity of GIS is rising and hopefully the amount of jobs that require those skills will be on the rise as well.

One thing that may help you in your decision is talking to people who have recently followed the programme and see what they thought of it.

FWIW, I seriously considered Penn's programme several times myself in the past few years. The main reason why I decided not to do it was the fact that the course seemed to consist for roughly 30-40% of stuff that I was already competent in.

Hope this helps.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
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#3
franciscocartographer

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Martha,

If you have the resources, time, and interest I will pursue online GIS training. Penn State is a top 5 Geography Department here in the US, so you are picking a very good faculty.

In your case since your focus is on historical applications I will take some courses in remote sensing. Visualizing and analyzing past with current landscape is a very interesting spatial venture.
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Francisco Jimenez, GISP
Senior GIS Analyst & Amateur Cartographer

My webpage

#4
David T

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Martha,

I am considering Penn State's Online Master's program. When I left school with my bachelor's, I had cartographic training and GIS training, but decided to pursue cartography alone. After a few years working for a company that only did cartography, I moved into my current job, which is GIS based.

The number of people that know how to use GIS is higher than the number of people that know how to make a good map. Adding GIS skills to your resume will certainly help your job prospects.

I think what you have to ask yourself is - what is the benefit for getting that certification. Will it really help?

If I continue in my path of working for the US Government, and my desire to move up in the chain of command in my field in this industry, then a Master's degree is not necessary. Time and experience will allow me to move forward.

My desire for getting a Master's degree, though, is that I want to teach at the Community College level. As far as I'm aware, I need to have that Master's degree to be able to teach at that level. My interest is in teaching one class a semester, off and on, over the years. In that case, the expense of getting the degree will pay itself back to me after a few years.

Can you quantify to yourself how getting the certification will help your particular situation? I found that once I put it down on paper, and figured out exactly how I would benefit (rather than just thinking in abstract terms of 'oh, I'd love to have my Master's degree), I could more easily justify it to myself.

Good luck!
David Toney, GISP
GIS Manager
United States Marine Corps
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#5
Maisie

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Wise colleagues,
Thanks for your advice! I went ahead and applied. Every investment has some risk to it, but I think education is always a good choice. I may not end up using it as I think, but at the very least it will give me more options in the future.

I appreciate your input,
Martha

#6
Andrew

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Martha,

I think you made a good choice, I went to a GIS conference on teh Gold Coast in
Australia where Jack Dangermond gave a talk on the phenomenal growth of GIS throughout the world.

Another issue is that people who use GIS can often solve the spatial problem they are focusing on but fail to deliver in the presentation of their maps. I found this myself, as I am in my first job now and only studied straight GIS. I think now you have to keep your options open and be a Jack of all trades!!!!

Its kind of ironic because I studied GIS/Spatial science and I am now looking for a cartography course to sharpen my skills.

Good luck
Andrew




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