Surveying Your Future: Is a Master’s in GIS Worth It?


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From the apps on our phones that allow us to navigate on road trips to the software that helps municipalities create routes for trash collection, geographic information systems are at the core of it all.

As we continue to garner a better understanding of our world, GIS technology will only get more sophisticated and intricate. This means that the need for experts in geospatial technologies will continue to increase, too, as businesses and government entities recruit analysts, planners, managers and more who can keep up.

If you are in the geospatial technology field, or you’d like to pursue it, you might be wondering, “is a master’s in GIS worth it?” or, “is a GIS certificate worth it?” If you want to master the spatial skills you need to succeed in the public or private sector, earning a graduate degree or certificate in geographic information systems is an excellent way to do so.

GIS master’s degrees or graduate certificates give you the expertise you need to set yourself apart from other candidates and existing employees and allow you to advance your career. They also help set you up to earn the GIS degree salary you want.

GIS Degree Salary: A Snapshot of the Numbers

GIS master’s programs prepare you for several careers in the public and private sectors. With an MGIS, you could become a GIS analyst, a data scientist, a geospatial data engineer, a remote sensing specialist and more. While some geospatial technology careers may require a bachelor’s degree alone, many sectors find hiring applicants with a GIS degree worth it because of the expertise they bring to the table.

If you’re wondering what a GIS degree salary might look like, several options may be available to you after you finish your degree or certificate. Here are just a few to consider:

  • GIS Project Manager: $87,700-$104,000
    The average GIS project manager base salary is $87,749 per year, according to Glassdoor. The national average salary for the position is $104,165, according to ZipRecruiter.
  • Urban and Regional Planners: $76,000
    Urban and regional planners made a median salary of $75,950, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • GIS Analysts: $71,000
    The national average GIS degree salary for GIS data analysts is $71,015, according to Glassdoor.
  • Cartographer: $68,300
    The median salary for cartographers and photogrammetrists in 2020 was $68,380, according to the BLS.
  • Land Surveyors: $65,600
    In 2020, surveyors earned a median salary of $65,590, according to the BLS.

If you’re thinking, “Is a GIS degree worth it?” be sure to consider that the more you learn, the more you can potentially earn. A report from the BLS notes that for those working as an environmental scientist or geoscientist, for instance, the difference in the median annual salary for those with master’s degrees is 29% higher than those with bachelor’s degrees alone.

Is a GIS Degree Worth It? How an MGIS Degree Can Improve Your Employability

Completing a geospatial technology master’s degree or graduate certificate program shows your future employers that you’ve invested in your training and education and that you’d bring that expertise to the workplace, too.

Those who have found a GIS degree worth it work in a variety of career fields, from science to law enforcement. Geospatial technology may be harnessed to help us solve a host of complex problems, including combating global warming and charting the risk and preparedness for wildfires. The more we learn how geospatial technology can help us, the more we will need qualified and skilled people who know how to use it—which in and of itself could make a master’s in GIS degree worth it.

Which GIS Program is Right for You? Master’s in GIS Degree vs. GIS Certificate

If you are debating between a master’s and a graduate certificate in GIS, there is much to consider here, too. If you’re not ready to invest the time needed to complete a master’s program now, a GIS certificate may be a more viable option. To earn this graduate certificate, you may have a bachelor’s degree in any area, which makes it an excellent option if you are looking to break into geospatial technology.

Like a GIS master’s program, a GIS graduate certificate program will teach you the fundamentals you’ll need to understand geospatial technology, such as the intricacies of remote sensing interpretation, geospatial programming and more. At Elmhurst University, all of the courses you will take for a graduate certificate in GIS are the same courses graduate students take while pursuing a master’s in the field.

Find Out Why a Master’s in GIS is Worth It at Elmhurst University

Whether you want a career analyzing climate patterns or synthesizing data to reduce crime, Elmhurst offers one of the most accessible GIS master’s programs available. Through the master’s in GIS program at Elmhurst, you’ll learn and master the science and skills behind geospatial technology—and how you can apply them through a career that fits your interests.

At Elmhurst, we know employers find a master’s in GIS worth it because of the expertise our graduates provide. Not only will our master’s and graduate certificate programs help you meet your personal and career goals, but either will allow you to set yourself apart from other job candidates and existing employees in the workplace, too.

Our master’s and certificate programs are designed to work around your life. You may take courses online, part-time, or through our flexible format, and complete your GIS degree within two years. Our curriculum is based on the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM), which focuses specifically on the spatial skill sets that are crucial to succeed in the private and public sectors.

You will also complete an internship and an electronic portfolio throughout your studies, which will strengthen your resume and help you gain employment. After graduation, your Elmhurst credentials will show your future employers that you’re ready and able to contribute your first day on the job, making a master’s in GIS worth it from day one.

Apply to the Master’s in GIS Program Today

We hope we’ve helped you answer whether you can make a master’s in GIS worth it for you. Request more information below about our online master’s or graduate certificate in GIS to learn more about how they could help you meet your personal and professional goals.

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Posted Feb. 1, 2022

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