I am interested in getting into GIS as a career pursuit, and
am very interested in learning everything I can about GIS and how to
If anyone can give me advice regarding how to get into this
field and ultimately get hired for work in it, I would be greatly
appreciative. I have an advanced degree in biology (population
genetics), but have soured on pursuing the academic / teaching route
as a career goal, and I am currently employed as a scientist aide at a
local regional preserve, where I am just learning GIS with ESRI
ArcView 3.0... I really like what I see in GIS so far, and am amazed
at what the potentials are for how it will permit spatial organization
and presentation of data in ALL fields in the future. I absolutely
intend to pursue GIS education and (ultimately) GIS certification...
Am I pursuing the correct course? I have several questions, and if
anyone can help me by giving me some answers to them, I would be
greatly appreciative. Namely...
1. Is pursuing GIS certification necessary to obtain at least an
entry-level position for GIS work?
2. How "big" a field is GIS? In other words, does this seem to be a
field which will experience a large demand now or in the near future?
3. Is GIS "Certification" as offered by a number of colleges really
all it is cracked up to be? Or can one make just as good inroads into
the field by self-education and experience?
4. I am considering obtaining GIS certification offered through a
local university's extension program--in particular, UC Riverside's
certification program. Is this a good program, or are there other
programs just as good (or better) offered at other colleges and
5. Do most colleges or universities offer GIS certification? Is it
a widespread phenomenon? Or is it more a money-making "scam" on the
part of college extension programs (where it seems that they are
offering "certification" for anything and everything nowadays)?
6. What is anyone's advice regarding how to best and most
immediately prepare myself for this field, and what path I should
prepare for educating myself?
7. How and where does one find employment opportunites in the field?
8. Finally, do I require a geography background or experience to
pursue this path, or can I just "pick up" the map / geography
understanding necessary on my own? Will not having a BS in Geography
hurt opportunities for me?
Any responses to any of these questions, or any advice anyone
can give me regarding my concerns here would be greatly appreciated.
Please respond via either a followup to this post here, or by emailing