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GIScience at Michigan Tech: Helping us map the world

Image courtesy of Michigan Technological University

“If geography is prose, maps are iconography.” Lennart Meri

According to Oxford Bibliographies, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are the “collection of software, hardware, outputs, personnel, and practices that together facilitate the analysis and mapping of geographic entities and phenomena”. Quite the mouthful, huh? From determining landscape patterns, to forecasting climate change, tracking power blackouts, studying patterns of crime; Geographic Information Science (GIScience) is the driving force behind millions of daily decisions.

Geospatial Technology is the term used to describe gadgets, gizmos and processes that help calculate and map the Earth and human societies. The very-first map dates back to the prehistoric era, making this a science we’ve been honing, developing and perfecting for a very long time. A fundamental aspect of GIScience, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), lies in its ability to collate a comprehensive range of geospatial data and place it within a set of layered maps, allowing us to analyze any complexities and share them with the world.

“This ‘layering’ is enabled by the fact that all such data includes information on its precise location on the surface of the Earth, hence the term ‘geospatial’,” the AAAS points out.

Image courtesy of Michigan Technological University

The past ten years has seen an explosion in the geospatial business, with technologies evolving to influence brand-new fields, like aerial remote sensing, scientific and commercially-operated satellites, and national security, just to name a few. Such rapid expansion means the field is open to a wealth of graduate employment opportunities around the world, and there’s never been a better time to study GIScience at the university level.

“Geospatial jobs are in high-demand, have exhibited continued growth even during the recent recession and were listed among the 100 best careers in the United States,” notes Michigan Technological University – a pioneer of geospatial education.

“Geospatial training has been targeted by the U.S. Department of Labor for a high growth job training initiative, as it is a field that is expanding at a rate of 10% annually with a projected shortfall of skilled workers,” adds Michigan Tech. “Those with geospatial skills are included in a recent McKinsey Global Institute report on workers with ‘big data’ expertise. Both analysts and managers are identified, with a potential deficit of 190,000 workers by 2018.”

So, what does all this mean? Of course, it means potential.

Known as one of the top technological institutions in the United States, Michigan Tech students are known not just for their intellect, but also for being prepared. According to data from payscale.com, graduates of Michigan Tech boast the seventh-highest starting salaries among public universities in the nation, earning a solid average starting salary of US$62,800. This, paired with the fact that Michigan Tech hosts the second-largest Career Fair in the country – where more than 470 graduate-recruiting companies seek talented Michigan Tech graduates from all fields as innovative business assets – as well as the fact that MTU’s graduate employment rate stands at 93 percent, makes Michigan Tech the perfect place to master geospatial science.

Master of Geographic Information Science at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech’s Master of Geographic Information Science (MGIS) is a professionally-focused program that seeks to train students as GIS managers and specialists. Through the provision of cutting-edge, contemporary practice in GIScience and related technologies, the University instils a strong foundation in core geospatial principles, as well as interdisciplinary study in statistics, communications, environmental policy and business, helping meet increasing industry demand in the U.S. and the world.

Image courtesy of Michigan Technological University

“Though IT experience is useful for GIS users, a wide-range of skills in addition to computer literacy are required to be a successful geospatial professional,” Michigan Tech explains. “To address these shortcomings, and with prompting from both industry and the education sector, the U.S. Department of Labor has recently developed the Geospatial Technology Competency Model. The Model document outlines the knowledge and skills necessary to perform as an effective GIS professional, and was used as a guide in developing this degree program,” the institution states.

Devised as a 30-credit graduate program, the Master of Geographic Information Science is available with coursework-only and coursework with research options. Students who are accepted into the program while completing an undergraduate degree at Michigan Tech can take an accelerated version of the program with 24-credits beyond the undergraduate level.

In an increasingly connected and globalized world, employment markets can often seem cut-throat, congested and discouraging. Too often we hear stories of hundreds of recent graduates competing for just one job, or settling for positions outside their area of interest or study. More worryingly, the graduate labor market is often described as “less than ideal”. But in the midst of graduate uncertainty, there shines a beacon of hope, with students of GIScience relishing the most positive job prospects the business has ever seen. And with constant technological advances complementing our expanding knowledge of the geographic world, things could not look better for the budding GIScientists hailing from Michigan Tech.

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