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In today’s high-tech world, you don’t have to look far to find GIS at work. Government agencies use it when responding to natural disasters. Fortune 500 companies employ it when deciding where to build new stores and distribution centers. Even police departments are getting in on the action: they apply it to identify crime “hot spots” where extra officers are needed.

And because GIS is virtually everywhere, that makes it “the perfect field for people looking to advance their careers with a master’s degree,” says Judith Bock, director of the M.S. in Geographic Information Systems program at Elmhurst College in suburban Chicago.

“Anywhere you can imagine, GIS can be applied,” Bock says. “The technology allows you to combine mapping with data and do a much deeper analysis, much quicker. That’s a very valuable skill to have.”

Grounded in reality

Students at Elmhurst are trained on the latest software from Esri, the leader in GIS mapping technology. They also must complete an internship, which gives them valuable hands-on experience in the field.

It’s a practical, real-world education that makes Elmhurst students ready to hit the ground running after they graduate, Bock says.

“You’ll build on a strong foundation in GIS while you’re here,” she says. “You’ll learn what the tools are, how to analyze data and then how to apply that information to an actual project. It’s an education that is relevant no matter where you work or what software your organization uses.”

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Careers and Outcomes | Elmhurst College

A flexible format

The M.S. in Geographic Information Systems at Elmhurst is a part-time program offered entirely online, which makes it ideal for people who are juggling work and life.

“The college has invested recently in its servers and online technology,” Bock says, “so that every student can access the professional Esri software. It doesn’t matter what platform you’re on—Mac or PC—or what internet provider you have. We make sure the GIS software performs well with the technology you have at home.”

The program uses weekly modules with live webinars and discussion boards. “That gives students the chance to participate and ask questions,” Bock says, “but it also helps them build a sense of community with one another and stay on task.”

Courses are comprehensive but compact and cover a lot of material in just eight weeks. It’s another reason the module format has been so important to the program—it almost guarantees that students proceed at the same pace.

Appeals to all students

When the program first launched, it was geared primarily toward people who had little knowledge of GIS but were interested in a career change. Today, the majority of the people in the program already work in the field, Bock says, and they’re now looking for a master’s degree to advance their career.

“I see a lot of students who have military backgrounds and are now looking to transition into civilian life. Those students are an excellent fit for the program,” she says, “because they have high-tech backgrounds and are great at managing their time.” Click here to learn more about the generous military benefits available at Elmhurst.

And with more undergraduate GIS courses being offered across the country, Bock says she often hears from people who took a class several years ago but now want to dive deeper into the field and earn a master’s degree.

Regardless of your background, an M.S. in Geographic Information Systems from Elmhurst can propel your career forward.

“GIS is a great field because it’s everywhere today,” Bock says. “The applications are endless and you can apply your degree to almost any industry out there.”

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