Best GIS Certificate Program Online – A great way to upskill

What is a Geographic Information System?

No matter what you study, your data will likely end up in a Geographic Information System (GIS) . A GIS is a collection of computer software programs used by professionals who work with spatial data. These professionals include cartographers, engineers, scientists, planners, business analysts, and surveyors. They use GIS to collect, analyze, and publish data which usually has a locational context of where the data occurs.

Through GIS technology you can gain an understanding of behavior at different geographic locations.  Maps are great at showing what is going on in the landscape which informs our decisions on how to make improvements.  This could impact issues like agricultural productivity, emergency management, retail business economics, and planning for smarter cities. Thus it has become extremely popular for people to upskill their portfolio with a GIS certificate.  You would leverage your interests in a specific discipline with the IT and data analytic skills that a GIS certificate would teach you.  Employers are asking for these skills as evidenced by the more than 26,000 jobs seen on Indeed that have GIS as a requirement.   

Online GIS courses are growing

The most popular way to learn tech is to do it online.  You can be driven by your own ambition to learn quickly on your own schedule.  Esri Academy has lots of great courses that show how to use the industry leading software.  Then there are several quality online GIS certificates. They have become an inexpensive alternative to traditional degrees.  See this Top 10 list of best GIS certificate programs.  Take your time and scrutinize the content and instructors to make sure they are teaching current software, skills, and workflows.  It’s widely known that commercial EdTech curriculums are more practical than college programs in the eyes of hiring professionals.  They will have a stronger emphasis on IT skills like: cloud, mobile, scripting, and web applications.  By taking GIS courses online, you can improve your technical expertise to a high level within a year and increase your chances of finding an interesting job quickly after graduation.

The value of online GIS certification

If you plan to pursue a career as a GIS professional, earning an online GIS certificate will help you stand out among other candidates. It shows that you have the ability to collect and analyze the data in your discipline.  Historically, employers have required applicants to hold bachelor’s degrees before hiring them. But this has changed over the last 5 years.  More tech companies are hiring people with directly related jobs skills in GIS, coding, cloud, and data science.  It isn’t too hard to prove your tech capabilities to a commercial firm that wants to minimize the on-the-job training that the new hire needs.  The private sector is more flexible in its hiring practices and tech certificate holders are on the rise as competitive job winners.  Hiring managers in tech are fully aware that college classes can be a mismatch with job skills.  Finally, if you are already in the GIS industry, your skills might need some upgrading.  Find a blend of GIS and IT courses that will allow you to have upward mobility as you keep up with things like GIS Strategic Planning, GeoAI, or Smart City Design.  Whether you want to be part of a leadership team or want to change careers, an online GIS certificate will help you expand your career opportunities.

GIS Analyst Career Potential

We mentioned that there are thousands of jobs asking for GIS skills.  But let’s be more specific on what those skills are.  A semester or two in cartography is often listed in college geography programs.  And yes, making a map was once the final product of analysis.  But now you should be thinking about adding skills related to digital map products such as:

These will require more GIS developer skills such as Python scripting, AWS, and ArcGIS Server.  Once you have these power skills, then you will be able to command GIS salaries on the higher end of the range that will move you into 6 figures.  See these workflow courses taught by industry practitioners.  You can choose the instructor of interest and build a personalized learning program. The industry is growing to $18B in 2023 and needs more young talent to make a difference in global decision making.

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