You may have heard of GIS and concluded that it has something to do with maps and planning. But do you have a clear understanding of it and how it translates to a full-time career? Could studying GIS lead to a job you have not previously considered? What are the advantages of a GIS qualification?
What Is GIS?
GIS stands for geographic information system. GIS unites data on a map to useful information about that location. It can create data, manage it, analyse it, and map it in an integrated manner to location data. It connects where an item is with what the item is and other data about it. The basis created by GIS is utilised in numerous fields such as engineering and science.
For example, it can be used by a roads engineer to map the geographical location of all the roads in a jurisdiction and show the current condition, category, and status of each road. The category could differentiate between asphalt and gravel roads, while the conditions could be poor, fair, and good. This information can be further substantiated with the status of the road, such as whether there is a budget to upgrade it, its priority level, or the average number of users travelling on it. Thus, GIS looks at relationships, patterns, and geographic profiles.
GIS enhances decision-making, management, efficiencies, and communication of data in one complete view. It is used by multiple companies in every conceivable industry. As technology advances, so does GIS and other software that is being used in geospatial analysis.
What Does GIS Actually Do?
GIS utilises maps as its foundational spatial layer. While it is possible to include maps with all kinds of information, such as types of ecological areas, known as ecological land units (ELUs), this information is only pertinent to a project or study of the makeup of ecosystems. Each project will have specific requirements including its foundation in geographical locations.
Typically, GIS data includes base maps, images, and features. These are connected to spreadsheets and tables containing additional information. A good example of the type of information GIS provides and its usefulness is a map of crime sites that shows areas of high and low crime. So, it can be used to assess patterns of crime. Another map could specify the types of crimes that have occurred in an area to see if these are clustered, e.g., are muggings mainly taking place in the CBD? This information is then used by law enforcement to plan and execute strategies to combat mugging.
Obtaining a GIS Qualification in Canada
Obtaining a GIS qualification will entail hands-on or online training. Along with GIS, you may be taught other geospatial technologies such as cartographic visualisation, interactive web mapping, spatial analysis, remote sensing, and global satellite positioning. You will also be trained to think in a spatial way to address complex issues using a location underlay.
The starting point is to select an institution that provides you with a comprehensive and recognised qualification and training program. Online studies have the advantage that you can work while you are studying. This will also give you more leeway to keep on working while you look for a position where you can use your GIS qualification. You can obtain a GIS diploma from Wilfrid Laurier Online University.
Practical skills you will acquire are the correct use of industry-standard technology, open source, and state-of-the-art technology. This should be followed by a research project to demonstrate your competency and ability to work independently in the field. Personal abilities are problem-solving, critical thinking, analytical skills, and adaptability as technology is an ever-changing area.
Embarking on a Career in GIS
Once you have your GIS qualification, you will want to embark on a career where you will use your skills and knowledge. The traditional ways of searching for a job are through online job boards, writing directly to prospective employers, and getting an internship.
Online job boards can be discouraging to send your resume to as they potentially receive hundreds of applications. You need to make sure your resume is distinctive to get noticed. The better your qualifications and job fit, the greater are your chances of being hired.
An application sent to a company that may not currently be hiring can pay dividends if a position opens up and they already have your resume on hand. If they have come to know you from follow-up calls regarding your application, they are more likely to remember you when they do have a position.
An internship can get you into an entry-level position. A scholarship would have to be provided by a company that has an interest in GIS. For instance, if the education department values technology training, it may be willing to pay employers to hire someone with GIS expertise. Volunteering is another option. This might get you through the door and into a job.
Regardless of which channels you make use of to find entry into a GIS position, you should undertake comprehensive networking. Tell your friends and family what type of job you are looking for in case they know of an opening. Attend GIS seminars and hand out business cards to people working in the field. You can ask a GIS professional you meet here to join you for coffee and a discussion of how they broke into the field. They might also be aware of opportunities. A LinkedIn account that is kept up to date is a must. Also, maintain a portfolio showcasing your best mapwork.
The advantage of a GIS qualification is that you will be able to enter a professional field where you can use the skills and knowledge obtained. If this is combined with the right abilities, you should not struggle to find a suitable position. Do your networking, make use of your contacts, and apply for any posts that you are qualified for. The GIS field is an exciting one as technology advances so rapidly. Thus, it will be important to stay in touch with new developments in the field and upgrade your skills continuously.