Geographic Information Science is a relatively new scientific discipline and began in the 1960s when initial, rudimentary systems were developed. These were mainly for storing information about land and to get visualized outputs of geographic entities.
Understanding geography requires a wide range of data collection and mapping, now carried out in the main by computer modeling but also requiring the input of visuals and other data capture methods.
It was in the 1990s that GIS began to take off as a scientific discipline, as researchers began to develop the study of the theory and concepts that are behind GIS. It is a complex area that also looks into other geographic information technologies, and aims to address some of the fundamental questions that arise from using these technologies.
Humans have always been fascinated by the world around them, and cartography, the making of maps, has been a major way in which people have tried to understand the lands they live in and the seas they sail on. You may have seen early maps of the world with the now amusing bits on the edge, stating: “Here be dragons.” But the early mapmakers were in many cases bound into religious systems that could thwart their voyages of geographical discovery. And if they had no hard information on which to base a map, it’s understandable that imaginations were used to document the undocumentable.
For centuries, humans made new maps as new lands were discovered, maps often changing as political systems drew arbitrary lines to create countries. It’s a fascinating subject all of its own and is worth pursuing if you’re planning to study for a degree in GIS. The more knowledge and understanding you have about geography and the many facets of that study area, the more likely you are to be able to bring that to bear as you start to work in GIS.
If you’re fascinated by geography, then GIS is a field you could explore. It’s an area of research that looks to redefine geographic concepts and how they are used contextually with geographical information systems. GIS is a science that re-examines many of the fundamental themes relating to fields such as cartography, geography and geodesy. The latter is a branch of mathematics that deals with measuring and representing the Earth, and is also applied to any planet.
Spatial awareness of the planet you live on is key to developing systems that allow you to electronically input a destination into your smart phone and get the directions from your current location, with options for routes, distances and timings, together with real-time updates of traffic conditions. The development of GIS has been instrumental in the development of the satellite Global Positioning System that allows you and millions of others to use it.
If the possibilities of GIS study are something you would like to take further, then USC offers a GIS program that may interest you. It may be of particular interest if you also have a background in computer science, mathematics, statistics or psychology, as all these disciplines can feed into GIS study. An advantage of this type of course is that you can do it at a pace that suits you.
Subject Areas for Study
Geographic Information Science has many options that you could look into that will give you a good career, and also options for traveling to destinations for further study and mapping.
- Data analytics and visualization: Crunching data and developing this into visualization is an essential part in contributing to the theory of GIS.
- Programing and web applications: This is an area where programmers and computer scientists who are hardwired into producing for the Internet can have valuable input into how GIS moves forward, and create apps that make a difference to people’s lives.
- Management and planning: Any organization using GIS needs managers and planners who can take an overview of how that organization can progress in terms of finance, personnel and strategic positioning within the market.
- Geospatial intelligence: This is generally used by defense and intelligence organizations to predict where and when threats could strike. It uses predicative analysis based on data from UAVs (drones) and satellite sensors.
The variety of careers open in GIS offers many opportunities to build a career and be at the cutting edge of new technological advances in the field. Challenging and rewarding, it’s why you should consider choosing a career in GIS.