Geographic Information System, more commonly called GIS, is a computer system which captures, analyzes, manipulates, manages, presents, and stores geographical or spatial data. GIS encompasses many technologies that rely upon the visualization and analysis of location-based information. An online GIS certificate in this growing field in academia is available, enabling students to pursue a career while working full-time. Consider these areas of the GIS field and if it would be a good career path for you.


High-Growth Industries in the 21st Century

The United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration named three industries — biotechnology, geospatial technology, and nanotechnology — as the most important high-growth industries in this century. For geospatial technology, which encompasses GIS, to produce meaningful data and have significant impact on agriculture, climate change, oceans, and other global concerns, government agencies and companies in the private sector need to hire people with both an education beyond an undergraduate degree.

Geographic Information Science and Technology

Graduate studies in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) available online offer students programs that include a foundation in geographic information science and real-world GIS experience from educators in the field. Such programs are often interdisciplinary and collaborative, with students, staff, and faculty members working on projects that involve spatial thinking, modeling, analysis, and visualization.

GIS and Data

Data entered into a geographic information system can include statistical data such as population, income, and educational level of residents. It can also include latitude and longitude and map features such roads, rivers, mountains, and valleys. Researchers often show where schools, gas stations, manufacturing facilities, farms, storm drains, electrical power lines, sewage treatment facilities, and landfills are found. Data capture is the term for entering this type of information into the system. Researchers upload data existing in digital form and scan and digitize maps which are in print form. 

Map Scales, Alignment, and Projections

Maps have different relationships (scales) between the distances on the map to the distances on earth. One map can have a scale of one inch on the map being equal to one mile on earth and another map can have a scale of one inch being equal to 10 miles. GIS aligns the maps so that the scales are the same. 

Projections are methods for transferring information from the earth’s curved surfaces to the flat surface of a printed map or one shown on a computer. Different projections have different amounts of distortion. GIS manipulates the data presented in the maps, with the result of all maps having the same projection.

GIS Maps

After researchers capture data, upload existing digital information, and scan and digitize paper maps, the geographic information system produces maps. The computer system stores information in layers (such as building locations in one layer, popular in another, land features in yet another), enabling the researcher to select which layers to include in the map.

For people interested in computer technology, the manipulation and analysis of geographical data, and creating maps that present multiple layers of data in one visual form, a geographic information system career is the perfect choice.