Associate’s in Geographic Information Systems Degrees & Schools Guide

Associates Degree in Geographic Information Systems Career Options & Salary

Overview of a Associates in Geographic Information Systems


Geographic information systems is a fascinating and exploding field that promises to support many exciting careers. The field involves the aggregation of many different types of statistical data and then overlaying that data atop a map. Thus, a professional need to not only be expert at working with Big Data, but also adept at the spatial requirements of the field. GIS professionals don't work with flat maps, but with the contours of our planet itself. Further, GIS work needs to keep pace with geological events such as continental drift, and the impact of environmental disasters such as forest fires and more.

If you have an interest in geographic information systems, now is the time to get started on your academic journey. There is much to learn and explore and this page endeavors to serve as a guide for your education and subsequent career in GIS.

Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths


PROS

With an associate degree in geographic information systems, you can quickly get started accruing valuable experience in the field. If you study hard and maintain a full-time schedule, you should be able to complete your associate degree in two years. From that point, you can get to work in the field. In fact, there are many jobs available for GIS technicians, and your two-year education in the field will prepare you to expand your position and develop as a professional.

Another positive aspect of an associate degree in GIS is that you can build on your two-year degree when you pursue a four-year bachelor's degree. You'll not only have solid academics backing your application, but you'll also have the practical knowledge that admissions counselors love to see.

Additionally, the more time you spend time in the GIS field, the better prepared you'll be to make a solid decision regarding your future academic and professional choices. There are many stories of people who dive into a four-year degree only to late determine that they dislike their field. A two-year degree provides an opportunity for you to gain an informed opinion.

CONS

While an associate degree in GIS is sure to kick-start your career, there are drawbacks to this approach. The first is that you won't qualify for any further certifications that could boost your job prospects and earnings. Thus, it's unlikely that you'll be able to advance much past the technician level.

To advance, you'll need to return to school for a baccalaureate degree. That means you'll need to find a program, apply, and then make sure you have ample time for your studies. Since your salary will be capped at the technician level, financing a second degree might be difficult.

Certificate vs. Associates


There are programs that offer both a certificate and an associate degree in Geographic Information Systems. While the associate degree takes at least two years, a certificate program can get you to work in approximately one year. However, there are advantages to spending more time to complete an associate degree. If you don't yet have a degree, you are better served by spending more time to complete an associate degree. Degree holding GIS professionals earn more and have better job prospects over the long-haul. On the other hand, if you have a related associates or bachelor's degree, a certificate could be a great way to jump start your GIS career.

What Associate Degrees are Available?


  • Associate of Science in Geographic Information Systems
    An Associate of Science in Geographic Information Systems is perhaps the most prevalent two-year degree in GIS. These degrees are said to look better on a resume, since many connect an Associate of Arts with humanities subjects. Whether or not this is fair, or even valid, is up for discussion. When you compare degrees, look first at the course offerings. After all, some programs offer an option for students to have either an AA or AS degree emblazoned on their diploma.
  • Associate of Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems
    An AAS in GIS will serve you very well when you look for a technician job. Applied Science degrees tend to focus on job training skills rather than the learning outcomes that four-year colleges look for. Therefore, investigate whether your AAS credits will transfer in case you decide to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree later on.
  • Associate of Arts in Geographic Information Systems
    An AA degree is often interchangeable with an AS, however there can be distinctions. Generally speaking, an AS degree will focus primarily on learning outcomes that align with STEM subjects rather than humanities topics.

Admission Requirements


Depending on the program, you will likely only need a high school diploma and satisfactory SAT (or ACT) scores to enter a GIS program at the two-year level. However, some schools may have prerequisite courses or even a minimum GPA requirement. You should be certain that the field is for you, however. If you have a strong background in mathematics and computer science, this could be the field for you. For instance, if you completed at least Calculus I in high school or are competent with at least one computer programming language, such as Java or Python, you likely have the aptitude to pursue GIS.

How long does it take to earn a Geographic Information Systems Associates?


Associate Degrees in GIS are generally designed to take two years to complete. However, many students take up to four years to complete their degree. While this may be acceptable to the department, you should still strive to graduate within the prescribed two-year time frame. After all, a two-year degree will offer good, but limited, job prospects. For that reason, you should focus on finishing in a timely fashion so that you can get to the real work of your career as quickly as possible. After all, you will likely want to progress toward a baccalaureate degree so that you can take your career even farther.

Potential Careers in Geographic Information with an Associates


  • Geographic Information Systems Analyst:
    This position is a good place to start with an AS degree in GIS, though you will likely be in competition with four-year degree holders. You'll need to be able to code in Python and have a familiarity with common GIS software packages such as ArcGIS. The average salary for this job description is $53,300.
  • GIS Mapping Technician:
    Though you can land a position as a mapping technician with only a high school diploma, an AS in GIS will put you ahead of the pack. While the average salary for this position is $42,100, a two-year degree is sure to put you at the higher end of the scale.
  • GIS Specialist:
    When you have mastered coding in Python and working in ArcGIS, your salary in this position will rise significantly. While professionals in this position have degrees ranging from a two-year associate to a master's degree, an associate degree should help you earn the average salary of $51,200.
  • Information Technology Specialist:
    To excel in this position, you will need at least an associate degree in Information Technology, but a GIS degree may also help. On the other hand, some enter the IT field without an academic degree, but they usually have achieved an industry certification. The average salary for IT Specialists is, $55,400.
  • Database Administrator:
    A large part of a GIS career involves work with databases and Big Data. For that reason, there is crossover with database administration. In this job you'll maintain, build, and provide end-user permissions for your firm or clients. You'll need to master SQL and other specific technologies, but your GIS background should be a fantastic starting point. The average salary for database administrators is $71,900.

Options to Advance


To get ahead in this field, you should consider first completing a baccalaureate degree in the field. From there, you can pursue professional certifications that will bolster your resume and help you stand out above the pack. You can also consider regularly maintaining your knowledge and skills by attending conferences or formal classes that will reinforce your knowledge while keeping you current with the latest technology.

You can also earn certificates in related skills that will help you do your job even better. For instance, a certificate in database management might help you earn up to 20% more. You'll also want to stay current with the latest versions of Python and ArcGIS. You can also pursue a certification in big data, which is increasingly important across the business spectrum.

Best Associate of Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems Programs


  • San Diego Mesa College
    San Diego, CA

    SD Mesa has a GIS program that takes into account the full scope of what GIS entails, including business, social, and economic issues. You might opt for their certificate program, but the full major is a comprehensive deep dive into GIS including programming, databases, anthropology, and field work in archaeology.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Certificate of Performance
    • Associate of Science in Geographic Information Systems
  • Del Mar College
    Corpus Christi, TX

    Energy companies frequently seek GIS specialists, so what better place to launch your career in the field than in Texas? Del Mar includes training in ArcGIS as part of the curriculum, meaning that you'll be prepared for the real world of GIS.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Applied Science – Geographic Information Systems
    • One or two semester Certificates
  • Lone Star College
    The Woodlands, TX

    Lone Star offers a comprehensive two-year degree program in GIS that prepares students for careers in government or business. They tout a median wage of $58,900 for their graduates, which is fantastic for a two-year degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems
    • GIS Analyst Certificate
  • Atlantic Cape Community College
    Atlantic City, NJ

    Atlantic Cape is convenient to New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., so there should be ample job opportunities when you graduate. GIS is an option for Computer Information Systems students who aspire to this burgeoning field. Atlantic Cape will immerse you in both the necessary STEM and humanities knowledge you'll need to thrive.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Geographic Information Systems
    • Associate of Science in Engineering
  • Oklahoma City Community College
    Oklahoma City, OK

    OCCC will get you started in your GIS career with a strong foundation that includes spatial analysis, computer programming, and surveying, among other skills. Since GIS degrees are in demand in the oil and gas industry, you will soon be a hot commodity in the Oklahoma job market.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science in Geographic Information System

Traditional Schools Offering an AAS in Geographic Information Systems


  • Columbus State Community College
    Columbus, OH

    Columbus State offers a full range of associate degrees and certificates, including both in Geographic Information Systems. This degree focus is available online only, which can free you up for work or family obligations.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems
    • Certificate in Geographic Information Systems
  • Saint Paul College
    Online

    Saint Paul offers degree programs in GIS in online, traditional campus, and hybrid formats. They will train you to master ArcGIS, a key tool for your GIS toolkit, and arm you with all the knowledge you need to land your first job in GIS.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems
  • Itasca Community College
    Online

    Itasca Community College integrates geography and information technology systems to create a GIS degree that has few rivals. You can complete a certificate program online, but their AS program requires traditional classroom work.

    Degrees Offered:

    • GIS Professional Certificate
    • Associate of Science in Geographic Information Systems
  • Borough of Manhattan Community College
    NY, NY & online

    Though not entirely online, BMCC offers many of its courses online. When you graduate, you will be steeped in knowledge of databases, statistics, and geographic methods, to name just a few skills. Your career is bound to flourish with your AS from BMCC.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Geographic Information Science
  • Southern New Hampshire University
    Online

    SNHU is a well-known online university that delivers top-notch, accredited degrees to hard-working students. Though they do not yet offer an Associate of Science in Geographic Information Science, they can provide a Bachelor of Science in the field. When you complete a GIS degree from Southern New Hampshire you'll be a well-rounded professional.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Geosciences

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