Why GIS?

The Geospatial Revolution is Here!

Whether we realize it or not, our generation has become the largest geo-location data source the world has ever known. Every Tweet, Foursquare check-in, Facebook post, etc. is geo-tagged with your exact location. Couple this with GPS enabled gadgets from cars, to phones, to watches and more, we are a society that is never “lost”.  All this data is collected, organized and analyzed by GIS professionals for governments, non-profits, and private businesses. Complimentary to the social side of GIS, there are exciting advances in satellite remote sensing for scientific research. A global network of satellites is now capable of measuring the entire planet every 24 hours. Everything from global temperatures and soil moisture, to gravity and CO2 output is being measured at resolutions once thought to be impossible. The sheer volume of this data promises to keep GIS scientists busy for decades to come.

Almost every NGO, municipality, government agency and business employs GIS to help solve their daily challenges. So whether your interests lie in natural resource management, planning, research, or a myriad of other disciplines, GIS skills are very marketable.

What is GIS?

Geographic information science (GISci) refers to the theory and methods of capturing, storing, analyzing and communicating digital information about physical and socioeconomic phenomena distributed on or near the Earth's surface. This includes the utilization of geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), remote sensing (RS) and other geographic information technologies.

GIS software is used as a tool to organize and study relationships between various geo-spatial datasets. This geo-spatial data can be digitized from analog sources such as surveys and historic documents, or created on the ground with GPS receivers. In many cases, our digital devices are creating and sharing this data automatically. Remotely sensed data are geo-referenced imagery taken from airborne or satellite platforms. Google Earth is perhaps the most visible use of this data. While the surge of geo-spatial technology is a recent development, it is not a new discipline. GIS is closely related to and has its roots in the art and science of cartography.


The local and national job markets for geographic information professionals are very strong and are not expected to weaken in the foreseeable future. The U.S. Department of Labor has recently identified geospatial analysis as one of the three leading areas of employment in the coming years.

US Department of Labor Quick Facts: Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

2012 Median Pay

$57,440 per year, $27.62 per hour

Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Number of Jobs, 2012


Job Outlook, 2012-22

20% (Faster than average)

Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/home.htm)

These labor statistics only tell part of the story. A cursory search on the website shows that many occupations are now requiring GIS experience including Architects, Engineers, Foresters, Geographers, Geoscientists, Planners and more. In fact, the US Dept. of Labor has recognized Geospatial Technology in this High Growth Industry Profile.

Is GIS For You?

Geographic information and analysis are increasingly a component of most public and private sectors. Even if you specialize in a specific discipline, a background in geographic information and related technologies provide you with the capacity to communicate through geography. Some careers offer the opportunity to be fully engaged with geographic information on a day-to-day basis, while others only demand rudimentary skills. Many positions that require the employee to be in the field will also want a basic understanding of GIS for data processing in the off-season. A quick search of the Internet, a discussion with professionals in your discipline, or perusal of appropriate job announcements, will highlight the set of GIS skills necessary to be successful and competitive.

Trained GIS professionals are in demand and UM GIS Certificate holders enjoy consistent placement in fulfilling careers.