What are Geographic Information Systems?
Geographic information systems (GIS) collect data about the world around us. This relatively new discipline incorporates spatial analysis, remote sensing, geovisualization, geocomputation, cognition, and computer science. GIS professionals create maps that overlay locations with relevant supporting data concerning demographics, transportation, telecommunication, utilities, economics, public health, land use/resources, environmental conservation, and much more.
Geographic information systems require raw data, which is captured using cameras, digital scanners, lidar, or other means, or digitized from hardcopy maps or survey plans. The raw data is reformatted by a GIS to be useful in a variety of applications. Powerful analysis tools allow GIS professionals to identify patterns, trends, and relationships among the data. Businesses and governments use those analyses to make decisions that drive the economy and public policy.
Applications of GIS
GIS is a multi-billion dollar industry that employs professionals around the world. The ability of the technology to combine and synthesize nearly every form of geographic information has made GIS professionals highly sought after in a variety of industries.
Manufacturing, real estate, insurance, retail, green tech, and telecommunication companies all utilize GIS technology. Spatial mapping and analytics are essential to supply chain management for manufacturers. GIS-enabled analytics help retail outfits to map forecast sales, plan expansions, and build the perfect mix of products for each area of operation.
GIS technology is used by nonprofits to advance conservation and humanitarian missions around the world. Conservation organizations use spatial mapping to track endangered species, stop poaching, and fight deforestation. Red Cross staff use GIS to identify safe zones for recovery and treatment of the wounded.
GIS helps educators demonstrate topics as diverse as climate change, public policy, and city planning to students of all ages. Use of GIS in the classroom is still fairly new, but the ability to collect and display information in a real-world context is extremely beneficial for educators and students alike.
Administrators in K-12 and higher education use GIS to streamline construction and operation of facilities, fiber optic infrastructure, energy management, and campus safety. School districts identify optimal locations for new school sites by using GIS to analyze real estate, infrastructure, and demographic data.
GIS facilitates community planning, infrastructure development, utility maintenance, emergency planning/response, and much more. In coastal cities—where hurricanes and rising sea levels require a fundamental reimagination of city planning—GIS analysis has been used to improve stormwater drainage systems.
GIS is a core element of community smartphone apps and websites, which make it easier than ever for community members to access city services, report damaged infrastructure, and participate in local politics. Cities also use GIS to share data with the community and promote local initiatives and projects.
Hospitals, human services agencies, and public health officials use GIS data to track usage of medical services, monitor the spread of diseases, and identify community needs in order to reduce homelessness and poverty.
GIS technology played a key role in mapping the opioid crisis in the U.S. Nonprofits, local businesses, and pharmaceutical companies have worked together to map and match community need with supplies lifesaving overdose medications.
Who Benefits from GIS Training?
The GIS Certificate of Advanced Study is ideal for:
- Recent college graduates seeking to differentiate themselves in a competitive job market.
- Early- or mid-career professionals wishing to transition to a GIS-related field.
- GIS technicians or professionals seeking a skill refresh or career advancement.
- Professionals in any field seeking to integrate GIS into new projects or initiatives.