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GIS Path to Choose

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#1
Heidi

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Greetings everyone! I've searched the forums, and I can see that the topic of education in GIS has been brought up more than a few times, but I still couldn't find my answer so I turn to you!

In a nutshell I am trying to decide on which Master's program to do. Right now my plan is to apply for both and see what happens, unless you all tell me that one is totally worthless and not to bother. I'm trying to decide between applying for the Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning concurrent with a GIS Certificate program, or a Masters of Advanced Study in Geographic Information Systems. Both degrees are offered at the same school, Arizona State University. The MAS program is extremely easy to get into and does not require a Thesis, nor GRE. The MUEP program is bit more competitive, requires the GRE and I must apply EARLY.

A little background on me: I am completing a Bachelors Degree in Military History this month, and will be leaving for my Army National Guard training as a Geospatial Engineer in September. I will complete a certificate from the Geospatial Intelligence College in May 2013. I have no doubt that this will be a very intensive and hands-on program.

I am trying to make myself as marketable as possible, and since I am about to begin my journey into GIS, I also have no idea what direction may really interest me. Right now, I am interested in working in intelligence, homeland security, and urban planning, but that may change in the next year while I attend the Army program. The MUEP program is 95% in the evenings or online and 4 semesters, and the MAS program is 100% in the evenings, and 3 semesters. I would love to come back from my training and step into an entry level job in GIS while working on the Masters program, however I am not sure if my education from the Army will be enough to do this. If it is, then I am not sure what else the MAS program would do for me, and I am thinking the MUEP plus certificate would suffice and be worth the extra semester. Both positions earn about the same amount in my area, though right now there seem to be more Planning positions paying well out there than GIS. One additional plus is I have TS Clearance through the Army.

So I turn to you, the community, to shed some real-world light on this. Ideas? Experiences? Advice? Thank you in advance.

#2
danielle

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If you haven't already, I would read through all of the course requirements and descriptions for each program. Are you more interested in design charettes and community meetings, or programming and server management? Which department has the professors you want as advisors?

With a little more experience you will start to see what kinds of projects really capture your attention, utilize your strengths, and make the time fly by. It sounds like you are off to a great start with your training.

Danielle

#3
Laura Miles

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You can probably make a lot more as a Planner than you could with strictly GIS. I've been thinking of going into Planning for that reason. I've found the GIS work I've done for planners has been quite interesting, but that's a matter of personal preference.
Laura

#4
Heidi

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Thank you both for your replies. I have read through the course descriptions, and that is part of what really got me thinking more along the lines of the MUEP. I will only truly find out once I get to, and through, my Army course but I guess my fear is re-taking a bunch of information I've already had for the GIS program. A lot of people I know would just take that as an easy way to get through a Master's program, but as my husband has always told me about college:

"You know what your problem is? You actually want to LEARN something! You don't just want to jump through the hoops and get the paper and be done with it!"

And its true. I don't want to spend a year coasting my way through information I already know about. I'd rather spend the time being a little more challenged and learning a new skill, and an additional skill that could work well together with the GIS. The MUEP does have two GIS specific courses you take through the program, so I feel like I wouldn't be going off in a totally different direction. I've also taken a look at recent job postings in my area for Planners and they sound like something really up my alley. For example the State Parks department is hiring two Planners right now to help them develop their Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and work with the BLM on off-road travel. I'm a huge outdoors person so I'd love to be able to apply to these kind of positions. I feel like having both the planning and the GIS would prove valuable.

I guess at this point I'm looking for more info on real-world experience. Laura, I'd love to hear more about what you do in GIS and what kind of projects you have worked on for planners that has piqued your interest. I'm not really interested in sitting in meetings all day, but I'm not interested in programming all day either. <_<

#5
Laura Miles

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I am sort of the same way, I'd much rather learn something new. Also, do you really want to spend that extra money to get much the same training that you will already have from the Army?

I was just watching a video where they were discussing the value of having GIS plus another field of specialization. (http://spatiallyadju...-future-of-gis/, begins at about 25:00) I have a Bachelor's degree in GIS. This has allowed me to float around and fit in with a variety of organizations which I may not have been able to do if I had perhaps a Biology degree with a GIS certificate. Right now I work for a government organization which has various departments such as Environment, Planning, Communications etc. that I've gotten to do work on very interesting projects with. Planning-specific projects I've worked on include updating our land use plan and working with our Transportation Planners on finding origins and destinations of trucks using GPS points, as part of an ongoing 2-3 year project. I've found the projects enjoyable due to the problem-solving required. Also, they usually require a map for a presentation or report which is my favourite thing to do.

I haven't had the opportunity to use my programming skills since graduating, so if that's not your thing I wouldn't worry about getting stuck in that. My personal experience with job postings requiring programming is that they needed something far and above the training I received at school. I think the people who tend to get those jobs come from a programming background and have GIS skills on top of that.

#6
Heidi

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Hi again Laura, thank you for the video link! I'm going to watch it all tomorrow when I have the time and I'm not running off to bed. It sounds like what you do is similar to what I'd like to get into as a career. I've been in contact with the school and I am happy with my options for classes and schedules so far, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for next fall. Programming is definitely not my thing, and I know exactly what you mean about those kind of job postings. I look about once a week just to see whats currently out there and to get an idea on future opportunities and many of the listings seem like they are much more Computer Science based with some GIS knowledge thrown in. Many in my area also want you to have drafting experience.

Thank you again for the info. I'm leaving in about a month to start my training, and I'll be sure to continue utilizing this forum and keep you all updated on how things go!

#7
Darder

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I guess my fear is re-taking a bunch of information I've already had for the GIS program. A


A lot of schools let you get college credit for real life experiences especially military related schooling. You should look into that so you don't have to retake courses.

#8
Heidi

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I finally got a chance to watch the video and they do bring up some excellent points in regards to the future of GIS and the need to diversify. Based on other conversations I've had I think it is probably correct, and my interest in going for the MUEP degree in the first place was all about making myself more valuable to the job market. I guess I can handle another 2 years of school if I'm able to return from my training and get a decent job. Having worked and paid my own way through my BA I'm certainly tired of struggling to make ends meet and I'm more interested in finally moving forward with a career.

I leave for training in a little over a week, so thank you all for your help...you have given me much to think about in the coming months.




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