Dec 18, 2012

Seven Reasons to Pursue a GIS Master’s Degree

A trend in location-based services fuels a need for skilled GIS professionals

American Sentinel University GIS master's degree

As more dollars are earmarked for geographic information systems (GIS) technology in corporate and government landscapes, the demand is greater than ever for highly educated technologists who can apply geospatial concepts and insights to strategic development and decision making.

“2012 has been the year of GIS and has been fueled by the current trend in location-based services. GIS has become the framework for analysis and decision-making in most industries and economic sectors. Many companies are incorporating location-based data into their strategic planning, business decision-making and competitive position,” says Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University.

McElroy says now is an excellent time for GIS technology professionals to make themselves more marketable and shares seven reasons why now is a great time to earn an online GIS master’s degree to help maximize professional impact in almost any industry.

  1. 1. GIS saves lives. Within the past two years, GIS technology helped survivors in more than two-dozen natural disasters, including the Japan tsunami, Joplin tornadoes and most recently, Hurricane Sandy. The world is increasingly at risk every year from the number of natural disasters and needs highly educated GIS professionals.
  2. 2. Existing positions now require GIS. As companies begin to understand that location-based data is the key to better decision-making, many organizations are adding basic GIS duties, such as mapping demographic information, to existing positions.
  3. 3. Foreign governments. As smaller governments are just beginning to use GIS technology, the consulting opportunities for high-level GIS personnel are only just beginning in the international market.
  4. 4. Google. Google has changed the world since it’s inception and it’s been one of the greatest GIS technology contributors since 2004. In October 2011, Google Earth announced one billion downloads. PC World also named Google Maps the most reliable and easy-to-use map on the Internet. The tech firm has also invested in smaller GIS companies, like Navagis, to build future GIS infrastructure. Simply put, Google makes smart business decisions and they’re investing a lot into GIS.
  5. 5. Military technology. The government spends more on new military technology than most states earn annually. Each year, the technology is enhanced with more superior GIS equipment than the year before. Unfortunately, most of the new technology is classified. But, we do know the military works with only the top minds to perfect the next big thing.
  6. 6. Health care is bound by geography. “Disease surveillance can highlight important information that hospitals can use to anticipate volumes and demands for resources and outreach,” says Kathy Wright, DNP, APRN, C-PNP, an American Sentinel University assistant professor of nursing. GIS can also be of vital importance to strategic planning, regulatory compliance, financial forecasting, business development and risk management for hospitals.
  7. 7. GIS is crucial to almost every industry. Every second of the day, different types of data are being generated in different ways, within different systems, communities and organizations—in different locations all around the world. Traditional businesses, not-for-profits and local and federal government organizations have identified that this complex flow of data is the next frontier of business performance, market competitiveness and innovative, informed decision making in nearly everything we choose to do. While the data types may vary in their core content, their source and their meaning, one key factor applies to all types of data and is proving to be the critical factor in allowing this data to be truly valuable: location.

McElroy points out that for professionals to use location-based information in assessing real-world problems and providing solutions, they must have an advanced level of higher education that includes knowledge and skills in areas such as spatial analysis, remote sensing, applied geography, cartography and computer science—skills that can only be acquired from a GIS master’s program.