Online Masters in GIS Programs and and GIS Masters Degrees

Online Masters in GIS Programs and GIS Masters Degree Info

If you have an affinity for science and technology, consider yourself a natural problem-solver and are ...

looking to pursue a career-focused academic path, an Online GIS masters program may be the right academic path for you. Geographic information systems, abbreviated GIS, represent a technological breakthrough in organizing and displaying spatial data. Think of how powerful a map can be to allow us to visualize, analyze, and interpret information in order to understand such things as weather patterns, or trends across a diversity of industries. This can promote better decision-making by realtors, scientists, leaders and public officials as well as communities looking for ways to take care of their resources, or plan for safety during natural disasters.

Masters in GIS Online Programs

Online Masters in GIS programs, such as the Master of Science in Geographic Information Systems, involve more than just learning high-tech mapping. They can also involve building and understanding the software that are involved and using information about geography to assess real global concerns, in the hopes of providing solutions. If designing and implementing procedures and systems are fascinating to you, earning a master’s in the field could potentially open a variety of professional opportunities for you. For instance, urban and regional planners need a master’s degree from an accredited planning program to qualify for most positions[i]. Also, if you would like to plan your career around teaching in college or researching, the Online Masters in GIS can be a stepping-stone to your PhD.

While you do not necessarily have to have taken geographical information systems electives to begin working towards your master degree, it may help to have come from a related field such as geography, environmental science, climate science or anthropology. Even some business degrees might be useful if you plan to go onto strategic planning with the field.

Fun Facts about GIS:

  • Putting information into GIS is called data capture[ii]
  • The first known use of the term ”geographic information system” was by Roger Tomlinson in the year 1968[iii]
  • One of the first applications of spatial analysis in epidemiology was in 183s2[iii]
  • Employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations[iv]

What are the Potential Advantages to Online Masters in GIS programs?

Some online Master of Science in GIS degree programs are geared towards the part-time professional.  They may be a very flexible option, since some programs do not require you to commute to class, and you may be able to log into the course faculty management system at your own convenience. In some cases the same campus faculty teaches some online programs. The latest digital tools help keep up a high level of interaction with classmates and professors through discussion boards, group projects and live events.

Geographical Information Systems Online Masters in GIS Curriculum

There are different courses involved depending on whether you are pursuing an MS (Master of Science) GIS or an MGIS (Master of Geographic information systems) degree. While the curriculum can be challenging, the programs are designed to give student GIS tools and methods that can be applied in real-time professional life. While each program can have unique components, practical projects and classes specific to the degree and institution, some of the subjects one can find offer scientific foundation in fields such as:

  • Spatial data mining
  • Spatial data modeling and analysis
  • Geography and geographical visualization
  • Enterprise GIS architecture
  • Cloud computing
  • Big data analytics

Trends in careers for Online Masters in GIS graduates

Some of the skills of a typical GIS technician are attention to detail, excellent problem-solving, grasp of statistics, ability to work with maps, IT proficiencies, communication and analytical skills.  Some of the main avenues of employment that Graduates holding masters in GIS can potentially find employment in are sectors such as:

  • Geographers : study the earth and its land, features, and inhabitants, as well as phenomena such as political or cultural structures as they relate to geography. Geographers study the physical and human geographic characteristics of a region, ranging in scale from local to global[iv].
  • Environmental Science & Protection Technicians: use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health[v]
  • Surveyors: make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They also provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects[vi]                          
  • Drafters: use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings and plans[vii]                 
  • Cartographers/Photogrammetrists : collect, measure, and interpret geographic information to create maps and charts for political, educational, and other purposes[viii].
  • Surveying and Mapping Technicians : assist surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists. Together they collect data and make maps of the earth’s surface[ix].
  • Urban and Regional Planners: develop plans and programs for the use of land to create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas[x].

TIP: When you are ready to launch your job search, it helps to focus on an area you feel most drawn to. For instance, you might identify whether your passion lies with environmental health, or in location and planning. This can help you narrow down your target employment markets.


Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/urban-and-regional-planners.htm | [ii] education.nationalgeographic.com/encyclopedia/geographic-information-system-gis/ | [iii] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographic_information_system | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/cartographers-and-photogrammetrists.htm | [v] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geographers.htm | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/mobile/environmental-science-and-protection-technicians.htm | [vii] bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/surveyors.htm | [viii]bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm | [ix] bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/surveying-and-mapping-technicians.htm | [x] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/urban-and-regional-planners.htm