Bachelor’s in Geographic Information Systems Degrees & Schools Guide

Bachelor's Degree in Geographic Information Systems Career Options & Salary

Overview of a Bachelor’s in Geographic Information Systems


If you’ve punched an address into your GPS app or asked Siri, Alexa, or Google how to get to the nearest gas station, coffee shop, or Taco Bell then you’ve used the services provided by geographic information systems. All that information made it into the app somehow, it just so happens there are some well-trained individuals who provide the app with the information it needs to help people like you get to that out-of-the-way restaurant or find that quirky bookstore.

If you think the process of collecting and making sense of this information, helping organizations better serve their customers, sounds like an interesting endeavor, a degree in geographic information systems could be a good option for you.

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Computer Science & Career Paths


If you’re considering pursuing a bachelor’s degree in geographic information systems, there are some things you’ll need to consider. As with any other degree program, there are pros and cons to going back to school and obtaining a degree. We’ve provided some considerations, both pro and con, below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Before making a commitment, you should decide if you are ready to take on the task, and if not, what you need to do to get ready to pursue a degree.

PROS

  • People with degrees make more money. Workers with a formal education, such as a bachelor’s degree, can request and get more money for the work they do. In most cases, a person with a degree can make more than a person with years of experience but no formal education.
  • It sets you up for career advancement. Many management positions require workers to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, so attaining a four-year degree means you would be eligible to apply for these advanced positions.
  • More knowledge helps with your work. A formal education can help you perform your job. The combination of experience and formal education is an ideal situation to be in.

CONS

  • Going to school is not cheap. Most people either pay for each class individually, out-of-pocket or they take out student loans to pay for their education. Going the pay-as-you-go route means you won’t have any debt when you complete your degree but, depending on your situation, it could mean you are in school for many more years than a student who takes out loans. However, as mentioned, those who take out loans will have quite a bit of debt at the end. Choosing which path to take is a question that needs to be carefully considered.
  • Time constraints - Going to school is a time commitment. Between attending classes, doing homework, completing projects, and studying for exams, school can take up a lot of time. If you have other commitments, such as work and/or a family, making everything fit might be a challenge. It will be important to make sure that all the important people in your life understand what your undertaking of returning to school means.

Certificate vs. Bachelor's


What Geographic Information Systems Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?


A bachelor’s degree in geographic information systems (GIS) is math- and science-based so, for the most part, the programs are bachelor of science programs. Very few are bachelor of arts programs. The designation depends on the institution and the actual focus of the program. For example, geographic information systems employees who work with mapping traffic patterns and locating geographic locations are probably going to be in BS programs, while those who help with preventing human trafficking by mapping the locations of abductions in reference to highway access might be enrolled in BA programs.

Admission Requirements


Admission requirements to enter a bachelor’s degree program for GIS can vary from one school to another, but there are certain requirements that are universal.

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Scores on either the ACT or SAT - whichever the school you are interested in requires
  • A completed application and fee
  • Transcripts from all schools attended
  • References (could be optional)
  • Letter of intent (also usually optional but becoming increasingly popular)

The best course of action is to pay close attention to the requirements of the schools in which you are most interested and following their directives for applying to the letter.

How long does it take to earn a Geographic Information Systems Bachelor's?


As with most bachelor degree programs, a bachelor’s degree in GIS is expected to take four years. This can differ depending on the student and their particular abilities. Some students can finish in less than four years, while others require four years or more. Most programs however consist of eight semesters or 16 quarters, depending on the system the school uses. How long a student takes to work through those semesters or quarters depends on the student and their particular situation.

Potential Careers in Geographic Information Systems with a Bachelor’s


Geographic information systems can land a person in many types of jobs and working with a wide range of people and organizations. Here are some career options for GIS degree holders.

  • Geographic Information Systems Technician:
    Geographic information systems techs create digital maps and geographic data using cartography and design software. They are employed by both civilian or military agencies and work on both land and sea.
    Average Salary: $44,000
  • Marine Survey Analyst:
    These workers make sure that marine vessels are in proper condition to be on the waters. They also track topographical data of the waterways so modifications to marine vessels can be made as necessary.
    Average Salary: $77,500
  • Cartography Technician:
    These professionals design maps using GPS technology. They work with businesses with logistical concerns that require up-to-date geographic graphical representation for employees and customers.
    Average Salary: $50,100
  • Geographic Information Systems Project Manager:
    These professionals supervise others on a GIS team, including cartographers, surveyors, mappers, and other geographic information system techs. Projects can include road traffic reports, defense planning, market research, GPS updating, and other geographic projects on both land and sea.
    Average Salary: $71,100
  • Mapping Tech:
    You’ll assist engineers with mapping and surveying areas for mapping and GPS purposes. You’ll mainly work outside in all types of elements. You can be employed by civilian and military agencies as well as work for local, state, or federal programs.
    Average Salary: $51,000

Options to Advance


The ability to advance in this career depends on the direction a person wants to take. The obvious path is to continue your education and progress from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree in the field or a related one. This would allow a person to command a better salary and pursue additional managerial and administrative positions. However, a person in this field can also advance through experience and expertise in their field. A combination of education and experience are the best option because it proves a person has book knowledge as well as the hands-on training to advance in their field.

Best Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems Programs


  • University of North Carolina – Wilmington
    Wilmington, NC

    UNC offers a four-year degree in computer science with a concentration in geographic information systems. Courses include cartography, intro to GIS, computer organization, computer networks and formal language and compatibility. The school and program are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science Computer Science - Geographic Information Systems concentration
  • University of Kansas
    Lawrence, KS

    Students enrolled at the University of Kansas in the GIS program prepare to enter the world and help update and improve GPS and mapping software and applications. Courses offered include Geographic Information and Analysis, History and Philosophy of Science, Cartography and Visualization, Remote Sensing, and other computer programming courses.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science Geographic Information and Analysis
  • Ball State University
    Muncie, IN

    Courses include Intro to Remote Sensing, Geographic Information Systems System Design, Advanced Geographic Information Systems Analysis, and Cartography and Visualization of Spatial Data. Graduates can find work in a variety of fields and organizations and can help with better accuracy of pinpointing locations and GPS accuracy.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems
  • Northwest Missouri State University
    Maryville, MO

    Areas of concentration include:

    • Civic/Public
    • Data and Technology
    • Earth Technology
    • Emergency Management Response
    • Geographic Data
    • Geography

    Internships are available and encouraged, though not required.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science Geographic Information Systems with the above concentrations
  • The Ohio State University
    Columbus, OH

    Courses include Elementary Computer Programming, Intro to Statistical Analysis, Human Geography of Economic and Social Geography, and Cartography and Design. Graduates are capable of creating and updating maps and GPS locations, as well as creating new mapping locations using surveying data and software.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems

Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Geographic Information Systems


  • Southern New Hampshire University
    Online

    Courses include Intro to Cartography and Mapping, Intro to Statistical Analysis, Remote Sensing, and Intro to Computer Organization. By the end of the program, graduates are trained to create new maps and GPS tools to help with directions, locating items or people, and improving other search tools.``

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Geosciences - Geospatial Technology
    • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Arizona State University
    Online

    Courses include Intro to Statistical Analysis, Cartography, Design, and Mapping and Survey courses.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems

    With a degree in geographic information systems, you are literally shaping the landscape all around you. Whether you are helping map coffee chop locations, or assisting first responders with more accurate 911 data, the work you do in the GIS field will be valuable.