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Should I pursue a career in GIS?


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#1
alex35

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Hi there- I am at a crossroads in my life and I am trying to figure out what to do with the rest of it. My background- I am 35. I have a B.S.
Degree in Wildlife Biology which I never used because I was more interested in pursuing mountain sports after I graduated. So I worked as a bike
mechanic/ski-tech for several years after college. For the past five years I have worked as a land surveyor technician, and I am pretty good at it- I
can work solo with pretty much any equipment. I know a little about coordinate system management. I can also do some autocad work. I was pretty much in a dead end job though, because of my lack of surveying education. I decided not to pursue my license as a land surveyor because I am burnt out on the construction industry, and it seems like all the licensed surveyors I know are underpaid, stressed out, and pretty grumpy. I just needed a change. So I am thinking about getting a degree in GIS. I am currently taking an intro to programming java class and I am not that great at it, but I can do it. Frankly, I don't find writing code to be very enjoyable. I am pretty good with computers- I can usually figure out how to solve problems, & make things work. I love maps- I can stare at google earth or a paper gazetteer or any other kind of map all day because I love travel and exploring new places in my free time. A career of actually making maps sounds pretty cool to me. If I could combine it with my biology degree too that would be great. But a career of programming or entering data into a data base day after day does not sound that exiting to me, plus I suck at typing. So.....do I sound like a good candidate for a degree in geography/GIS? How much do like your job and do you think you are getting paid enough? Another issue I have is that I would like to live as close to the mountains as possible, so I can continue to bike/ski/hike/etc. Sorry that was so long, but this is a big decision for me. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. :)

#2
GrantH

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Coming from someone who recently graduated from college with a BS in Geography with an emphasis on GIS...weigh out your other options as well. The GIS industry was promised to be fulfilling and easy to gain employment in to me as a sophomore in college (2-3 years ago id guess) and I have been applying steadily for the last 2-4 months with every federal agency, and any state or local companies with or without openings as well as many out of state and overseas positions.

How many return calls? Zero.

Maybe I need to give it more time, but when you send 20-30 resumes out per week and hear nothing in 4 months it is quite discouaging. CADD operators are needed by the metric ton...advance your skills in that and you can transition into GIS quite easily from what the job listings lead me to believe.

#3
SaultDon

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Any advice will be greatly appreciated


Welcome to the forum Alex.

You're background in Biology would definitely be an asset when learning the GIS-way. Those credentials can re-enforce any of the analysis you intend to do.

GIS is a field driven industry. You may find yourself enjoying something along the lines of Conservation or Environmental GIS or exclusively Cartography (seeing as you enjoy looking at maps).

Programming I've found, though not necessary, is a valuable GIS asset.
Nowadays, I've noticed a lot of interest in Python, maybe because of its simplicity and powerful/cross-the-board application potential?

The Java programmers tend to be found in the Web Mapping world or as developers, an industry in itself. Java does though, have excellent Spatial visualization/analysis capabilities. Would like to hear from a programmer about preference and what not.

As for rates of pay, that can be based on both experience and credentials. In Canada (or BC) one can expect, as an entry level GIS position to get at least 14/hr (like a summer GIS student) to a more lucky rate in the 20+/hr range (fulltime/permanent). As time goes on, expect to make anywhere from 25/hr to 65/hr.

On average, a full time GIS person should make 50,000/yr which is, by my standards, highly comfortable living.


Also consider what GIS route you want to take (or both), being either Open Source or Proprietary.
A market leader in proprietary software is ArcGIS from ESRI, where you can d-load a fully functioning trial for 30-days. They have, in my opinion, the most comprehensive help system I have ever seen, even good for GIS explanation and excellent tutorials.
Open Source is just that, OPEN, seeing ones such as QGis, Udig, Grass, EVMapper, (list goes on). OpenSource is where programming really shines (especially python!).

#4
James Hines

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Any advice will be greatly appreciated


As for rates of pay, that can be based on both experience and credentials. In Canada (or BC) one can expect, as an entry level GIS position to get at least 14/hr (like a summer GIS student) to a more lucky rate in the 20+/hr range (fulltime/permanent). As time goes on, expect to make anywhere from 25/hr to 65/hr.

On average, a full time GIS person should make 50,000/yr which is, by my standards, highly comfortable living.


Here check these interesting links out:

http://www.payscale....e=United States
http://www.payscale....ntryName=Canada

"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
GISRox

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Couple comments.

1. Your background is perfect for a career in GIS. You can go many routes including environmental consulting or even working for environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy, etc.

2. Rather than get a full GIS degree, why not look into a GIS certificate? Should help you get up to speed quickly and you don't need to do the full 4 year route.

3. I don't think you would have any problem staying near the mountains. Denver, SLC, Seattle, etc. all have ample opportunities for GIS users. I would say that Denver is a bit of a GIS hotbed with the USGS and a plethora of environmental, mining, and O&G companies.

4. You can certainly stay away from the programming side, if you so desire. Despite my background as a developer, I've been able to stay clear of most development tasks the past few years. Just got burned out on the coding side. If you are good at mapping and can work the spatial functions of the major GIS packages, I think you can more or less avoid development. You might need to dabble in SQL queries, but that shouldn't be too tough...

5. Continue to learn and adapt. GIS is ever changing and covers a broad spectrum of skills.

Good luck, I think you have some good options in front of you.



#6
alex35

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Thanks very much for your thoughtful responses. :D




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