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Should I get a GIS certificate?

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#1
DustinD117

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Hello everyone,

I'm looking into GIS Certificate programs, it would have to be online because I live in a rural area. I've looked at many but I am still undecided on who presents the best quality of education online and the most convenient. I don't know if I'll be marketable in the GIS field with just a certificate though. I have a bachelors in international relations/political science which I believe may hamper me in successfully attaining a good job in the GIS field. Does the GIS field have people from all backgrounds, academically speaking? Furthermore, would you suggest just doing a certificate program? I noticed Penn State offers a Master's program. Any helpful tips will always be appreciated and also if anyone has taken an online program in GIS please let me know what you thought of it and who it was with.

Thank you,
DustinD117

#2
DaveB

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Does the GIS field have people from all backgrounds, academically speaking?

I don't know much about certificate programs, but I believe the answer to this question is yes.

It would probably help if you learned something about GIS and analysis. Also some sort of programming or scripting. Python is becoming widely used for a lot of scripting in ArcGIS these days.
Dave Barnes
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#3
Bryan Swindell

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If you are looking to make a career where GIS is your primary job, I would first review the requirements for the GISP certification at the GISCI website. Then, tailor your education and experience to meet them. I have mixed feelings about it, but it is looking like GISP will be an expected cred within the next 5-10 years. I've been following the high-level discussions at GISCI as well as the trickle-down effect at the local government and industry level. The consensus is that eventually GISP will become ubiquitous, regardless of how current geospatial professionals feel about it. For now, just use the GISP 'checklist' as a guide to your educational decisions.

#4
Robert2009

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Hi DustinD117,

Since you did not mention where you are from and have you look into University of California Riverside Extension GIS cerificate program. They have summer program for GIS program that allows you to stay at the hotel while you are enrolled the program.

Take a look http://www.extension...geographic.html

They have GIS online that you can earn credits to get certificate.
https://www.extensio...amp;subarea=108


Good luck

I got my certificate there and it's a good GIS program.

#5
David Medeiros

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I think a GIS certificate is a great place to get your feet wet. If you have never worked with GIS data or software (or had any geography class work as an undergrad) you may be overwhelmed by a masters program.

At the certificate level your educational background won't mater that much. Certificates usually lead to general GIS technician positions where the criteria for employment is typically any college degree and familiarity with the data and software used by your employer. Certificates by themselves don't often get you past the tech level but continued training on your part can. If you happen to find work related to your undergrad that uses GIS then you have a leg up on other candidates.

I'm somewhat dubious about the prospects of the GISP ever becoming an industry standard. I think most employers understand the value of demonstrable experience over certification. It can't hurt but is not at the moment worth pursuing in my opinion.

I think it helps to think of GIS as a tool and skill set as opposed to a specific career. Above the general tech level GIS is usually wed to some other career path and this is where finding sectors that utilize your undergrad background with GIS can be a real benefit. This is also where you may want to consider an MA in GIS (or GISi).

If you start a GIS certificate program try to find one you can attend in person. The difference in educational experience is tremendous in my opinion. Additionally you get the benefit of person to person contact where you can begin to create a personal network that can help you find work down the road. If you can find an email job list service offered by the GIS program or one of the instructors, sign up. The two current positions I have have both come from this kind of informal offering where the position was never publicly offered. A real school is also the best place to find internships which can be great places to get on the job GIS experience. Many are paid internships.

Good luck!

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#6
DustinD117

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Thank you, everyone. Very informative answers! Outstanding!

#7
Claude

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If you don't have experience with GIS professionally, I would recommend it although I look around the room where I work and I don't see people that approached the field that way. Most of my coworkers seem to have Geography degrees or Biology or Forestry, not GIS certificates per se. I did end up getting one myself after a decade working in the field but wouldn't call it essential by a long shot. But coming into the field without a position, i think it would be helpful.
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#8
James Hines

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Because of the discussion related to the GISP certification I want to point out that the way GIS is certified in Canada is a bit different then it's in the United States. From my understanding in order to take cartography as a course in the United States you need a Bachelor's in particular Geography. However in Canada Cartography is a stand alone certification program direct from the high school level which gives you a quicker route then university.

As it relates to GISP certification I have to ask how they would score professionals on that asset. And what I mean by that is the fact that Cartography & other direct from high school GIS programs can not be treated as certification programs but as diploma related. In other words there are diploma related programs in Canada in my opinion that should be considered in American terms as an equivalent of an Associates Degree. One way to prove that is to know if a geographic science diploma direct from high school can give you some sort of standing in university such as reduced course work as a result of obtaining credits because of experience & previous course work.

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#9
David Medeiros

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Because of the discussion related to the GISP certification I want to point out that the way GIS is certified in Canada is a bit different then it's in the United States. From my understanding in order to take cartography as a course in the United States you need a Bachelor's in particular Geography. However in Canada Cartography is a stand alone certification program direct from the high school level which gives you a quicker route then university.

As it relates to GISP certification I have to ask how they would score professionals on that asset. And what I mean by that is the fact that Cartography & other direct from high school GIS programs can not be treated as certification programs but as diploma related. In other words there are diploma related programs in Canada in my opinion that should be considered in American terms as an equivalent of an Associates Degree. One way to prove that is to know if a geographic science diploma direct from high school can give you some sort of standing in university such as reduced course work as a result of obtaining credits because of experience & previous course work.


Just to clarify, the GISP certification is not the same as a GIS certificate nor does it come under any government oversight as does licensing for surveyors or architects. It is a third party evaluated certification that you, the applicant, pays for. It is, in my opinion a reaction by the field to the explosion of geo related industries and the large number of less qualified practitioners that have sprung up as a result. It's a way of self identifying as more 'experienced' than the typical tech.

A GIS certificate is often taught as a course related program at the junior college or university level altho there are many non school related programs available as well (including certificates that only take two full days of training). At the college level the courses for the certificate are often interchangeable with course work for an undergrad degree so they can be transferred (I used my Geography BA to fill in the electives requirements for my certificate).

Cartography in the US is usually taught as a stand alone class (or two if your lucky) in the Geography or GIS programs. I don't know of any US certificate programs for cart alone.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 





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