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GIS Analyst Degrees by Degree Program Level

In order to become a geographic information systems (GIS) analyst, degree programs are available at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels, as well as graduate certificate programs. These programs focus heavily on math and science, and learning to use the latest software in the field.

Essential Information

The most common programs in GIS analysis are offered at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. These programs are often math and science-intensive, and they teach students how to use computer software to make, track and display location-related information. Bachelor's programs may offer concentration options, like marine surveying. Field experiences may be part of the curriculum at both the associate's and the bachelor's degree levels. Graduate certificates in GIS analysis are also available for those with some GIS education or experience.

  • Program Levels in GIS: Associate's degree, bachelor's degree, graduate certificate
  • GIS Program Fields: Global positioning systems (GPS), field surveying and mapping, geography, cartography, geographic database technology
  • Prerequisites: Minimum GPA requirements, academic background in advanced math and sciences, strong computer skills, bachelor's degree in a related field
  • Some Program Specializations: Geodetic surveying, geophysical surveying, prospect surveying, marine surveying, hydrographic surveying and development surveying, remote sensing, mapping, spatial modeling, urban planning

Associate of Applied Science in GIS Analysis

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) programs in GIS analysis teach students about geography, computer programming, digital imaging and global positioning systems. Students learn to map all types of terrain, including cities, rural areas, mountains, lakes, deserts and oceans. AAS GIS analysis programs teach students how to use geographic information to create maps, visualize scenarios, represent geospatial data, integrate information and communicate findings. Applicants to GIS analysis AAS programs need to complete high school before beginning their GIS analyst studies. Applicants may want to take any advanced high school classes in geometry, trigonometry, geology and physics to prepare for college-level GIS analysis coursework.

Coursework in GIS analysis AAS programs covers a variety of topics in mathematics, computer software and the natural sciences. Most programs include classroom instruction and practical experience. Students often take classes in the subjects mentioned below:

  • Geographic information analysis
  • Remote sensing and mapping
  • Field surveying
  • Map preparation
  • Geospatial systems analysis

Bachelor of Science in GIS Analysis

Although many GIS analysis degree programs are associate's level, there are some Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs in the subject. These programs teach students a number of applications for geographic information. Many surveying specialties are offered in GIS analysis B.S. programs, including geodetic surveying, geophysical surveying, prospect surveying, marine surveying, hydrographic surveying and development surveying. GIS analysis B.S. programs seek incoming students who have strong computer skills and an understanding of advanced mathematical and scientific concepts. Most programs ask applicants to submit their scores on either the American College Testing (ACT) or SAT Reasoning Test, along with their high school transcript.

Students learn to use technology to create maps and other visualizations of geographical formations. Some programs also allow students to get field experience using relevant GIS technology. Coursework discusses the topics noted below:

  • Global positioning systems (GPS)
  • Field data collection
  • Advanced spatial data interpretation
  • Geographic data compilation
  • Geographic database technology

Certificate in GIS Analysis

Many schools offer graduate-level certificate programs that cover advanced topics that GIS analysts deal with regularly. Students in these programs learn to use GIS software to create complex maps and visual representations of land masses. Programs cover geographic database design, spatial analysis and, land use zoning. Many GIS certificate programs are designed for people who have already earned a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as geography. Programs seek students who have educational or employment experience with basic GIS software.

GIS certificate programs emphasize practical uses for GIS technology. Aside from teaching students how to use cartography and GPS technology, students learn to apply geographical data to issues in the social sciences, such as crime prevention and city planning. Students usually learn about the following topics:

  • Database design
  • GIS project management
  • Spatial modeling
  • GIS and urban planning
  • Crime mapping

Popular Career Options

Graduate of GIS analysis AAS programs can work for the government, land surveying companies or construction businesses. The careers noted below are popular options:

  • Property tax assessor
  • Planning and zoning specialist
  • Natural resource manager

B.S. graduates in GIS analysis have a varied skill set that qualifies them for a number of careers in GIS software applications and surveying fieldwork. Career options for graduates include those noted below:

  • GIS supervisor
  • Geographic information specialist
  • Geophysical surveyor

Earning a postgraduate certificate helps working professionals learn the skills necessary for a number of careers. Graduates can work for private companies, government agencies or construction companies. Graduates pursue the GIS analyst jobs noted below:

  • Cartographer
  • Urban planner
  • Crime mapping expert

Continuing Education Information

All states require land surveyors to be licensed. Certification tests are administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Advanced surveying positions may require additional certifications.

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