Information Technology

7 Reasons to Seriously Consider a Master’s in Geographic Information Systems

7 Reasons to Seriously Consider a Master’s in Geographic Information Systems
Master’s in GIS graduates capture, manage, update, and visually display data about global positioning for geography-related and satellite imagery databases. Image from Unsplash
Kayla Matthews profile
Kayla Matthews April 29, 2019

No buried treasure here. Give yourself the go-ahead on a degree that could benefit you and the regions you’ll serve. As you weigh your options, check out our reasons to get a master’s in geographic information systems.

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Most of us benefit from the work of geographic information systems (GIS) teams on a daily basis. When we check the weather report, pull up Google maps, or walk the streets of our city, we’re engaging with the work of professionals who earned their master’s in geographic information systems.

Master’s in GIS graduates capture, manage, update, and visually display data about global positioning for geography-related and satellite imagery databases. It’s a program that could lead to GIS career possibilities like GIS analyst, geographer, cartographer, surveyor, and urban planner. And it’s becoming an increasingly popular field of study.

So, why should you earn your master’s in GIS?

We’ve got seven reasons right here.

1. You’ll help people get the most out of where they live and visit.
Many city managers hire GIS professionals to create maps that anyone can access. In Buncombe County, NC, people can visit a dedicated GIS website to see maps related to school districts, where to vote and more. In Danville, IL, members of the public and city staff members have access to 100 city maps detailing construction projects, police patrol areas, solid waste pickup routes and other information. After earning a master’s degree, you could assist with public-facing educational projects just like these.

2. The market’s growing (fast).
P&S Intelligence reports that the global GIS market will reach a value of $17.5 billion by 2023, which is partly due to the increased availability of cloud technology and spatial data. It’s not just nationally, either—there’s also a rising demand for regional literacy mapping applications in developing countries. By earning your master’s in geographic information systems, you’ll be ready to meet these market needs and capitalize on a rapidly developing field.

3. Smart cities? They’re more than a trend.
Smart cities feature sensors, cameras and other connected devices that gather data and help city planners make decisions to improve life for residents. Like the GIS market, the smart city market is experiencing growth. Analysts predict an 18.4 percent combined annual growth rate (CAGR) by the end of 2025.

GIS experts play a crucial role in the planning of future-focused smart cities. With a degree in this field, you could take a position at the forefront of the smart city revolution. Your job would involve helping to build these cities from the ground up, incorporating GIS technologies to best serve citizens and visitors.

4. You’ll never stop learning.
Because GIS technologies are constantly evolving, it’s important to keep pace with changes in this sector by continuing your education. Look online to explore the short-term GIS courses that are most applicable to your interests. While you could benefit from this content even if you don’t have a master’s in geographic information systems, it’s safe to say that a more advanced level of education will help you comprehend and apply new information throughout your career.

5. You’ll boost your earning potential.
Getting a master’s degree typically increases the amount you can earn in this field. According to PayScale, degree holders have average earnings of $59,000, which is slightly higher than the field’s overall mean salary of $52,987.

This level of education also increases your chances of moving into higher paying positions within the GIS sector. For example, someone in a GIS management position can expect to make over $70,000 on average, and geographers employed by the federal government can make over $80,000.

6. When it comes to your career path, you’ve got options.
Working towards a master’s degree will expose you to lots of options within the GIS industry. You’ll likely take classes on varying topics that may include map making, geospatial systems analysis and design, civil engineering, and GIS project management, which will help you decide on the kind of job you ultimately want.

You might work as a remote sensing analyst, a person who takes data from aircraft and satellites and displays the information in a more digestible way (as a map, for example). Or, maybe you’ll find work experience as a geomorphologist who studies the changing effect that lakes, mountains, and oceans have on the Earth’s surface.

A master’s degree will also prepare you for senior-level positions at organisations that require advanced expertise and leadership skills. You’ll be qualified to start out at a higher level than someone with a bachelor’s degree alone.

7. It’s more accessible than you think.
Statistics show an increase in the number of students earning master’s degrees, partly because of an increase in online programs. Research from the Urban Institute revealed that approximately 785,000 online degrees were earned during 2015-2016.

There’s more good news where that came from. According to a CareerBuilder survey, today’s employers value advanced degrees more than ever—in some cases, enough to foot the bill. Their research showed that 22 percent of employers partially fund advanced degrees for qualified employees, and 14 percent are willing to pay in full.


“I’m ready for a degree!”

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So, are you ready for a bright future?

Jobs in the geographic information systems field are fascinating and hands-on, and carry a number of important real-world applications. With a master’s in GIS, you’ll be qualified for the most interesting positions, including those in leadership. Most importantly, your decision will land you on a path towards lifelong learning and career advancement.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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