Associates Degree in GIS: Program Summary
Geographic information systems (GIS) are tools that capture, collect and analyze spatial and digital geographic data. They are used in the fields of land surveying, cartography, photogrammetry and urban planning. A common associate's degree program in the field is an Associate of Science in Geographic Information Systems.
Associate of Science in Geographic Information Systems
Associate's degree programs in GIS provide students with a theoretical background and broad-based skills training in the field of geographic information systems. Students gain a solid foundation of mathematics, physical sciences, geometry and microcomputer applications before going on to study specific GIS tools and technologies.
Most GIS associate's degree programs provide students with hands-on training in the uses and applications of geographic information systems. Students learn how to use GIS tools and global positioning technology to collect data, process data into images, store and maintain useful data, and utilize data to create maps and land boundaries. Some associate's degree programs in the field also offer courses that teach students how to program and design GIS tools and technologies.
College students are often required to complete general education courses in algebra, English and communication before they can begin core GIS courses. Some schools allow students to opt out of these prerequisites by completing placement exams.
Many schools offering associate's degree programs in GIS require students to complete an internship or practical training experience in addition to core seminar courses before they can receive a degree. Some examples of seminar and practicum courses are listed below:
- Introductory GIS
- Using GIS technology
- Programming geographic information systems
- Database theory
- GIS design with vector and radar analysis
- Data acquisition and management
- Data analysis
- Remote sensing
Popular Career Options
GIS tools and technologies are used across several different careers. Students who graduate with an associate's degree in the field can either pursue further education opportunities or careers such as the following:
- Land surveyor-in-training
- Cartography technician
- Mapping technician
- Photogrammetric technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth of 16% - about the average for all occupations - for surveying and mapping technicians from 2010-2020. As of May 2012, these technicians earned a median annual salary of $39,670.
Continuing Education Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most land surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists have at least a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov). Students who complete an associate's degree in GIS and want to transfer their credits over to a similar field might consider enrolling in a 4-year degree program in surveying, cartography, geography, engineering or forestry. Some schools also offer master's degree programs in GIS management and technology.
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