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#1
BDR

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I apologize if this doesnt belong here on this site, but it is the only forum dedicated to GIS that I hav run into so far.

I am a geography major in college, but I just switched from history to GEO, because I am hoping to get into the field of GIS. Teaching just isn't for me.

I have been doing a little research lately on GIS, trying to get as much info as I can before my first GIS class starts this spring semester (January). Unfortunately there are only two GIS classes at my university, Beginning GIS and Advanced GIS. I just have some questions from all of you experienced in the profession and the use of GIS in general.

First of all, do you believe that these two classes and possibly an internship is enough training in GIS? I am specifically referring to the two GIS courses. I want to get a good hold on GIS through training, but I am unsure as to whether two classes would be enough? Should I seek supplementary training elsewhere on top of that? The class specifically focuses on general GIS, using ESRI ArcGIS, and the second, advanced class basically just dives further into it, along with a little field experiences.

My second question: What do you think are the most important aspects of learning and becoming proficient in GIS use, in beginner terms? The instructor who teaches both courses, very experienced in GIS, told me that if one is not quite proficient in using computers, that GIS can kick your ass. That is what I am most worried about, due to the facts that I have only used Macs for the past 5 or 6 years, which experience/knowledge in isn't exactly useful in the Windows based GIS programs, and that I have what would probably be considered moderate experience/proficiency in computers. I can use one well in average uses, and can use most important softwares, and figure out most, but I am by no means a whiz or able to understand complex areas or issues.

Is that enough, or do you practically have to be a programmer to learn and use GIS in a professional capacity? I know that once upon a time, in the past, one had to practically be a programmer to use GIS, but I do not know how proficient one needs to be in GIS today. I am hoping that it is at least something that I can learn or practice, rather than one of those things that one sort of has to be naturally good with, as it is with being a professional musician.

Third, I am quite confused in the area of certification. So far, from what I can tell, it does not seem that certification is required, and that the current certification programs are sort of a scam, but that the effort is gaining momentum. It seems that if you desire certification, you must have considerable experience, which doesn't make sense to me, considering that if certification were to be required to practice in the GIS field, it would be an impossible situation: can't get cert without experience and time, but can't get time and experience without cert. I am referring more to the future, considering that I will probably be out of college at some point within the next 2 years. If it depends upon state regulation, I live and plan to work in Oklahoma, if that matters.


Lastly, if you have any insights, tips, etc. that you think would be helpful, please let me know. Things that you wish you had known or done when you were where I am, just about to get into training and everything. I really want to hit the ground running in every aspect of both training and practicing in GIS, because it is something I am very interested in and excited about doing.

I apologize for the length, the broadness, and the lack of info I have on all of this. I have literally JUST become interested in doing this, after considering the switch for a few months, so my knowledge and experience bases are quite limited. Thanks for reading and for any responses.

#2
Laura Miles

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Are there any GIS certificate or diploma programs where you are? Thinking back to my first GIS class, we barely learned some SQL and that was quite an accomplishment in itself. I can't imagine going out into the job market with only two courses in GIS under my belt. That being said, it sounds like you may have an internship lined up...depending on how much time and effort the organization is willing to put into you, this may help you along considerably. But the job market seems quite competitive right now (at least in western Canada where I am) and it's hard enough to land a GIS job even after having completed a diploma program in GIS. Your point about the whole certification thing sort of applies to GIS experience: most GIS jobs I encounter want at least a couple of years experience, and few are willing to hire anyone without this experience, even with a GIS diploma. So how is one supposed to gain experience? Here's where networking can help you out a lot.

No, I don't think GIS requires any kind of 'natural' talent. If you have an analytical mind that certainly helps, with a tendency toward details, but I think with hard work it is accessible to most. Many people have a degree in one subject area and get some certificate or diploma in GIS to complement this subject area. And no, you don't have to be a programmer but it can come in handy and will allow you to demand a significantly higher salary if you have these skills. I would say you should have a working knowledge of programming at least.

What type of organization are you interested in working in (ie. municipal government, environmental consultation company, natural resources)? If you can think about your dream GIS job and find out the type of skills they would look for in a candidate, you will have a much better idea of what you need to do. Are you willing to relocate? Maybe check out the job market for GIS in the locations you are willing to work. Look at as many job postings as you can and identify the education and experience they are looking for.

Good luck and I hope that helps you a bit.

Laura

#3
Oleg

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My second question: What do you think are the mostimportant aspects of learning and becoming proficient in GIS use, in beginner terms?

look at this post and commentss from 2009
The essential skills to succeed in a GIS career - http://michalisavraa...n-a-gis-career/ hope it'll helpful for you
& http://donmeltz.com/...d-long-live-gis

#4
jrat

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I graduated from a state university in 2006 which only provided two GIS courses. My internship (which I got through one of my instructors) gave me most of the experience that helped me land my current GIS job. I was real lucky to get this job. I think that this field values experience over degrees. Your mac experience should not be a problem. There are may posters here that use macs everyday for work. Just because ESRI doesn't run on macs doesn't mean that there are not other GIS software that will not.

A few tips. In your classes, focus on the concepts that they are teaching as opposed to the mechanics of making the software work. The concepts will travel across platforms and software but the command names will probably not. In addition to your GIS classes there are some other classes that will be usefull to you. Graphic Design, Statistics, database training (sql or even MS access will help) some programing (it is not a hard now as it used to be, give it a try) Plus pick a field that you are trying to workin after school. There are few GIS only jobs. Usually you will be supporting something. i.e. planning/zoning, businesses, crime,. It is helpfull to know something more in depth about a subject/field. It will help you find more questions that you can answer with GIS.

#5
BDR

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I live in Oklahoma, but I am not opposed to moving. I have looked into some jobs, and most looked great.

Here's the good point of the internship issue: in Oklahoma there are many natural gas (energy) companies, so on top of the normal internships you can find almost everywhere (government/city, etc.), there are others. For example, these energy companies really need people who can use GIS, so one company, Chesapeake Energy, contacts the instructor every semester he teaches the course to request the ten students with the top grades in the class for internship. Then the internship the coming summer after that spring semester the class is in session, which continues through the fall semester, accompanied by th advanced GIS course. If you do well, apparently, they hold on to you and you work while learning and gaining experience (paid internship), through the rest of your college career, and once you obtain your degree in geography, you are hired on full time.

Here's the thing: it's not that I would be ungrateful for that opportunity, but I'm just not so sure I would like to work in oil/energy. I know its a great job, but I'm also interested in working for the city government, as well as possibly conservation.

Regardless of where I wish to work in the future, though, the internship can help me get there. The real problem, and what I am most worried about here, is that I won't be able to keep up in the internship, while other interns with more computer experience, etc. excel through that. This is why my main concern in these posts is focused completely on the computer aspect of the profession. An internship is really the only viable option of getting into the industry where I currently am, and since they only do this every other year, and since you basically only have one shot at it, I definitely want to make it through ahead rather than behind. I want to progress and do well enough that they decide I am worth continuing and expanding their investment of time and money, and not end up as one of the ones they basically cut off or weed out. To do that, though, I need to be closer to an equal starting point as the other interns, which means overcoming this technological barrier (with advanced computing) that I have.

**Another note: I should have mentioned this before, but the reason I am focusing only on the GIS and computer based part of the profession is because that is the only one I am worried about, due to the fact that advanced computer work sort of eludes me....... I have many talents, especially in the arts, but I have never been very good at grasping advanced computing, even when I was in high school and wanted to become a programmer. I tried and tried, and even with a little advice, I just couldnt figure it out for some reason. Maybe I will be better at it as an adult, I don't know. But the geography and geographical concepts are no problem for me. I understand all that stuff easily.
I think one of the causes behind this barrier is that, while I DO have quite a technical, detail oriented, and scientific mind, in some cases (especially with technology) I just understand a subject better in a broader sense. For example, I could explain and draw the small individual parts of an engine or even the hardware of a computer, but I can't grasp programming or software, just like I can't grasp philosophical concepts very easily.......... it's just, I guess you could say "airy"; it's not tactile, not existing in the physical world, so it's hard for me to grasp for some reason. The software is the issue.

I have seen SQL mentioned several times before, so I am guessing it is valuable to know. What, or rather how is it used in GIS.

And no, there are no other methods of training here in Oklahoma, unless I wish to basically just go do the same thing at another university. The other universities may label their classes to sound more involved or detailed, but from what I hear they are basically the same thing. And there definitely are no certificate programs, at least not that I know of. But the upside to this is that, due to there being limited sources if training, companies and internships accept that, because they realize it is the best you can do here, and therefore they sort of take up the slack in many ways in some further training.

The softwares do vary between jobs, I'm sure, but for the most part, the classes I plan to take, and the places I would like to work all use ArcGIS, although I don't know which versions. Im sure Chesapeake uses the latest versions of everything possible, because they make money like water flows down a waterfall.

Thanks again for all the responses, I am glad that you have elaborated quite a bit in them, which is good, because it is much more helpful that way. I am sort of a "long winded" person who elaborates things in great detail, so it helps me understand when a reply is the same way, detailed. However, when I say worried, I just mean that I am concerned.


Thanks, BDR.

#6
Laura Miles

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You can check out this forum as well, it seems to be more GIS-oriented and perhaps people there could give you some advice:
http://forum.gogeomatics.info/
Laura




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