GISc Certification:  A guide to essential skills

What is GIS Science 

Learning the latest skills in a rapidly growing GIS industry can make you more competitive and make you more qualified for higher GIS salaries.  One of the ways to do this is with a focus on GIS science and possibly obtaining a GISc Certification – see Top 5 GISc programs.  GISc, also known as Geographic Information System Science, is a specific branch within GIS that combines standard geographic analysis skills with the newest advances in all things IT.  While GIS heavily depends on collecting data and producing maps, GISc blends in technical skills such as Python, Cloud, Database, Data science, and IT system integration. We see anyone with skills in these areas having instant job security.

Focus on Current Skills

It used to be that you could learn enough skills to easily become a GIS analyst through a geography department or a GIS certificate program.  But if you shop around and really look at college curriculums, you will likely find a mismatch between course skills and job skills.  Curriculums take decades to create, but tech changes every year, so this creates a technical skills gap.  Like most disciplines in tech, learning comes from content from various sources and must be done regularly since new software, languages, and data sources are occurring all the time.  The good thing is that today there are easier entry points to begin your tech education than ever before like learning IT skills or earning a GIS certificate from a bootcamp.  Today you could start growing your skills with tutorials and experiences and take advantage of the key reasons the GIS industry continues to grow.

GIS Web Developer

The GIS web developer tech stack is definitely in demand.  This is because the cartographic product from most projects is not a paper map.  It’s an interactive set of data layers viewable by internet users.  You would be using skills like Python for data cleaning and batch processes, Web Apps/Dashboards for interactivity, and HTML/CSS/Javascript for interface and widget customizations. When you have these skills you are making your data accessible by a private department, entire organization, or the public at large.  When we look for GIS job listings on Indeed, we see these skills embedded in almost every GIS position.

Suggested learning sources:

  1. BootcampGIS.com
  2. Esri.com
  3. 2U.com

GIS Cloud Architecture 

If you build a mapping application, there is a 99% chance that it will be hosted in the cloud.  Few people want the bother of buying, configuring, and maintaining their own computer servers anymore.  And because of this, it’s never been easier for you to stand up a new web application.  The need is for the Cloud administrators to be able to know how to install and configure new servers and instances.  Because there is a lot of good online training out there, this is one of the easiest skills to acquire and might offer you a remote work at home job.  

Suggested learning sources:

  1. Bootcamp GIS: Setup AWS map services for wildfire assessments
  2. AWS Cloud Certification
  3. Google Cloud

GIS Database

You’ve used a database.  Every time you click to buy something, there is a database of information that shows you pictures, tells you the cost, and calculates the shipping.  Everything on the internet is querying a database.  And with the unstoppable growth of new data, these databases get larger and more complex.  Your skills could be setting up a relational database, system integration with shared data, or data automation to load data from multiple sources.  

Learn how to use Geodatabases, SQL, MySQL, Oracle en route to becoming the essential database administrator (DBA) for your organization.  

Suggested learning sources:

  1. Automate data conversion into a GIS data repository
  2. Learn SQL with MySQL Database
  3. SafeSoftware

GIS and Data Science

One of the fastest growing disciplines is data science which uses scientific methods, processes, algorithms and systems to extract knowledge from unstructured data.  

The problem:  Too much data.  

The need: Give me knowledge I can act upon.  

An example is the problem of collecting petabytes of aerial imagery and the solution is to locate homes that are not adhering to the defensible space vegetation removal requirements to prevent neighborhoods from going up in smoke. Data science algorithms can be programmed with machine learning models to look for trends, objects,and  behaviors.  It’s called Data Wrangling where you might be interpreting model coefficients and correlations to reevaluate variables and stacked models to improve predictions in your data.   And look a little further at courses in deep learning and big data.  You’ll have the cutting edge job skills needed for the next 10 years.

Suggested learning sources:

  1. Bootcamp GIS
  2. Datacamp
  3. DeepLearning.AI
  4. Big Data Specialization

GIS projects

Though the developer tech stack is crucial in aiding your journey in completing your GIS certification, there is something even more important than any coding system – hands on experience within the GIS field.  Gaining experience by developing projects or working with fellow accomplished GIS experts are not only outstanding for your resume, but it allows you to tell a complete story in demonstrating your knowledge in applying technology.  Most practitioners know the tech and also the discipline they work in.  And thus they know what geospatial products are needed for an environmental report, a construction project, or a public planning meeting.  We suggest that you find on the job projects, internships, or project-based courses to round out your experience.  

Where to get a GISc certificate 

So where can you actually earn your GISc certification? See  Top 5 GISc programs ranked by the amount of the essential skills we’ve listed above.  Most people shop for a course based on location and price.  But now with online options, you should be thinking about ways to make this the most student centered experience.  When can I start?  When can I finish?  Can I talk to instructors or classmates?  Do they offer me career services support?  The GISc certification is part of the new industry trend in getting a microcredential to stay current.  By learning these skills, you maintain relevance in the tech sector and open doors for promotion. 

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