Geographic information systems (GIS) are increasingly essential to our lives, as industries use spatial data in everything from smartphone apps to urban planning to farming. With demand spiking for GIS experts, the University of Wisconsin–Madison is significantly expanding its flexible and accelerated GIS programs for busy working professionals.
Building on the success of its Online Master of Science in Cartography and GIS, the university is adding three options for fall 2018 that will train people at any stage in their careers. They include two online certificate programs—one basic and one advanced—and a face-to-face accelerated master’s degree.
“Our GIS professional programs form a lifelong learning ecosystem that allows people to join the education cycle at their current level and continue as needed, taking breaks as desired,” says director Ian Muehlenhaus. “Enrollment in the programs has more than doubled in the past two years.”
A community of learners
The GIS Fundamentals Capstone Certificate is for those who are interested in a career boost but have no background in GIS, mapmaking, or coding. The 12-credit online program teaches the necessary skills for an entry-level GIS job in a year or less.
“As more businesses require GIS, the certificate will help people enhance their current careers,” says programs director Brittney Markle. “It’s also beneficial for recent undergrads who don’t have the technical knowledge to secure work in the marketplace.”
The Advanced GIS Capstone Certificate is for people already working in GIS who want to take their skills to the next level. Students choose three online courses in their areas of interest, such as geocomputing, spatial databases, and spatial web and mobile programming.
Both certificates emphasize engagement with teachers and fellow students.
“The online programs have active instructors who are willing to meet with students via videoconferencing and are extremely responsive to their questions,” Muehlenhaus says. “People participate in a community of learners who help one another out.”
A face-to-face experience
Like the Online Master of Science in Cartography and GIS, the new Accelerated/Non-Thesis Master of Science in Cartography and GIS is for anyone seeking an advanced degree from UW–Madison’s top-ranked Department of Geography. Students enjoy a traditional face-to-face experience on campus and earn the degree in only one year. The program allows those with no background in GIS to jump right in, quickly moving from intro courses to advanced work. Upon graduation, they will be ready to enter the workforce in high-level jobs.
All four GIS professional programs allow students to earn exactly the credentials they need, in a format that suits their career goals. They can earn a certificate in as little as one semester and decide to stop there, or immediately transfer these credits into one of the GIS master’s programs. The master’s degrees have a lifelong learning component, in which alumni gain access to lab updates to continually sharpen their skills.