Get a GIS Certificate and earn the right skills
You want a GIS certificate to get a job. The motivation is simple. There are a over a hundred colleges in the US that offer GIS certificate programs.
This is on top of another hundred programs that offer Bachelors degrees in Geography. That’s great news for students because the GIS industry is large and rapidly growing at about 35% CAGR per year according to the US Department of Labor. But a novice to GIS wouldn’t know to take a deeper look at where the growth in the industry is occurring. Massive growth is happening with mobile LBS, cloud map services, UAV data collection, GIS system integration, data science, and big data handling. Unfortunately these topics are hard to find in most standard certificate programs. Yet project managers are looking for these skills instead of your grades or college name.
Getting beyond the standard curriculum
Let’s assume everyone who wants to get into GIS takes the standard classes like Introduction to GIS, GIS Databases, Remote Sensing, and Intro to Cartography. Now everyone has pretty much the same skills whether you got a degree, a certificate, or took online courses. This isn’t an optimum situation if you want to make yourself more competitive. So we wanted to create a practical way for you to evaluate a GIS program before you invest your time and money.
The GIS Industry Value Index (GIVI)
We surveyed 200 recent job announcements from Indeed and GIS Jobs Clearinghouse and tallied the skills requirements. These were the top 10 requested skills:
- ArcGIS Online / ArcMap
- Application development
- Database administration
- Python scripting
- Data editing
- Data Science / Spatial Analysis
- Field surveys and GPS
- Cloud architecture
- Remote Sensing with UAVs
Then we evaluated 114 college GIS Certificate programs based on industry value and cost to the student. It’s expressed as the Cost divided by the percent of curriculum that teaches the most popular industry needs divided by the cost. If you teach a cloud mapping class, your program rating goes up. If the course is cheap, the rating goes up even more. It’s pretty obvious logic from the consumer standpoint. This arms you with a way to see which program teaches you more skills that industry is asking for and makes you more employable.
Top 10 GIS Certificate programs
These programs had the highest scores. The GIVI index did not factor a value for time commitment or differentiate between onsite or online formats.
1.Bootcamp GIS – online
All of their project-based courses are taught by industry SMEs in a flexible registration format which means anyone can start anytime through various colleges.
2. Mt. San Jacinto College – classroom
This onsite program goes from traditional to modern classes at a ridiculously cheap price.
3. Rio Hondo College -classroom
This program has an excellent range in technologies which extends into CAD and GPS which are great GIS Technician skills.
4. UCSD Extension – online
Standard courses then lead to 3 good programming electives. Each course has 2 synchronous online offerings through the year so you will be scheduled with classmates.
5. California State LA – classroom
They have a variety of classes that also offer 3 industry applications courses. We like anything applied.
6. Michigan State University – online
The program contains 7week courses that have multiple start times through the year and includes a Drone test prep course.
7. University of Southern Maine – classroom
Strong programming offerings in Java and Python which are useful and very uncommon to find.
8. Elmhurst College – online
The program includes Python programming as a requirement. Can complete in a year.
9. UCLA Extension – online
This is a one year program scheduled synchronously with other students. They offer a free online info session to check it out.
10. Rowan College – classroom
This is a post-baccalaureate certification that has a nice variety of Business and IT courses that complement the GIS offerings to give a well-rounded experience.
Who has the most modern and practical curriculum?
The list is systematic and ignores the traits of the best marketing, the most research grants, or the longest tenure. We could compare this to the relatively new education platforms like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning that produce current content and when it’s no longer relevant, it fades away. Schools at the top of this list are progressively following market forces that dictate the demand for topics. Schools not on the list, tended to create general content that can live on in their course catalog for 25 years or were much more expensive.
The GIS survey uncovered these statistics
Today’s ambitious learner wants to get an education quickly. The best way to do this is with online courses and we found that 28% of the schools were reacting to student needs and offered an online certificate. A top industry desired skill was web application development and we found 7% of the schools offered this type of class. Secondly, Python is regarded as the most ubiquitous scripting language for geospatial processes and only 16% of schools had an offering. Another huge growth area is in UAV data collection within an industry expected to be growing to $45B in 2025. Only 6% of the schools had a UAV mapping course. In conclusion, we have offered students this list with a metric to evaluate their GIS program selection. Now that you see the list, you can see that each GIS Certificate program gives you a varying amount of value-added to your resume. Pick a good one and you’ll find an excellent ROI as you enter an awesome industry!
Keywords/Tags: GIS industry, GIS Certificates, GIS education, GIS industry skills