Get Matched With Geographic Information Systems Programs

Overview of a Associates in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geographic information systems (GIS) 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 needs to not only be an expert at working with Big Data but also must be adept at the geospatial requirements of the field. GIS professionals don't work with flat maps, but with the contours of the planet using geography, cartography, and global positioning technology. 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 (GIS), 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. An associate applied science degree in GIS prepares students to get started in this fascinating field. And a more advanced science degree program or GIS program, such as a bachelor's degree, may or may not be required to compete and move forward in GIS. Some of the courses that you might take in a GIS program will include the following subjects:

  • General Education Courses
  • Remote Sensing
  • Global Positioning
  • Geography and Cartography
  • Big Data and Data Technology
  • Urban Planning
  • And More


With an associate in applied science degree program in geographic information systems and knowledge in using GIS under your belt, you can quickly get started accruing valuable experience in the field. If students study hard and maintain a full-time schedule, they should be able to complete their associate degree program 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 technical services, and your two-year college education in the field will prepare you to expand your position and develop as a professional.

Another positive aspect of an associate degree program in GIS is that you can build on your two-year degree when you pursue a four-year bachelor's degree in geographic information systems (GIS) or a similar field. 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 bachelor's degree only to later determine that they dislike their field. A two-year degree provides an opportunity for you to analyze your options and gain an informed opinion.


While an associate degree in GIS is sure to kick-start your career right out of college, 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 college for a baccalaureate degree program. 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, even if students attend college courses online rather than physical classes, might be difficult.

Compare Popular Online Geographic Information Systems Programs

Top 5 Best Online Associate in Geographic Information Systems Programs


Bismarck State College

Score: 83.23

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $5,195
    • Out-of-State: $7,279
  • Net Price: $11,309
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 67%
  • Graduation Rate: 51%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,771
  • Undergrad Students: 3,771
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $50,300
  • Student-to-faculty: 14:1
  • Bismarck State College

Roane State Community College

Score: 73.57

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $4,762
    • Out-of-State: $18,622
  • Net Price: $4,573
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 56%
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Total Enrollment: 4,457
  • Undergrad Students: 4,457
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $34,400
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • Roane State Community College

Rio Hondo College

Score: 68.83

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $1,388
    • Out-of-State: $9,884
  • Net Price: $6,099
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Total Enrollment: 16,139
  • Undergrad Students: 16,139
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $37,400
  • Student-to-faculty: 29:1
  • Rio Hondo College
View All Their Popular Majors and Rankings

Columbus State Community College

Score: 64.45

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $5,338
    • Out-of-State: $10,917
  • Net Price: $6,964
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 63%
  • Graduation Rate: 26%
  • Total Enrollment: 25,129
  • Undergrad Students: 25,129
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $32,500
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • Columbus State Community College

Harrisburg Area Community College

Score: 61.03

  • Undergraduate Tuition
    • In-State: $8,918
    • Out-of-State: $11,400
  • Net Price: $9,991
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 53%
  • Graduation Rate: 16%
  • Total Enrollment: 12,576
  • Undergrad Students: 12,576
  • Graduate Students: N/A
  • Grads Salary: $42,100
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Harrisburg Area Community College

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.

Find Your Online Geographic Information Systems Program

GIS Associate 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 $55,200.
  • 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 $41,200, 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 $53,300.
  • 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, $57,900.
  • 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 $74,000.

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.

Search Programs Offering Geographic Information Systems Majors

Search All Programs