Most 2-year 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. 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.
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.
Associate's Degree in Geographic Information Systems
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. Common course topics include:
- Using GIS technology
- Programming geographic information systems
- Database theory and data analysis
- GIS design with vector and radar 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) projects a decline of 8% in the employment of surveying and mapping technicians between 2014-2024. As of May 2015, these technicians earned a median annual salary of $42,010.
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.
Between hands-on training and courses related to the field, students in an associate's degree program for GIS learn to collect and analyze data, use technology, and create maps. Students can continue their education with a bachelor's or master's degree in the field, which could benefit them since the employment of surveying and mapping technicians is expected to decline between 2014-2024.