To become a geospatial analyst in 2023 and going forward is about more than just degrees. To give you a clear look into what you can expect, we dive into what a geospatial analyst does first, so we can understand what degrees they might need and why.
We also look at essential skills employers are interested in when hiring geospatial analysts, so you know where to focus most of your effort.
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What Do Geospatial Analysts Do?
Geospatial analysts are professionals who work with geographical data, also known as GIS data. The GIS acronym stands for geographic information system, which is the technology that allows users to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, and present spatial data.
Geospatial analysts use GIS software and tools to collect, process, and visualize geospatial data, which organizations can use to make informed decisions based on insights from patterns and relationships.
Geospatial analysts provide insight into complex geographic phenomena, which helps address critical challenges like disaster response, urban planning, and environmental management.
You could pursue many different degrees to place yourself as close as possible to a career in geospatial analysis. The field stands at the intersection between IT and environmental sciences.
As you will see in the myriad of topics it focuses on, geospatial analysis can be both stimulating and exhausting, so much so that you may find yourself reaching for coffee more than once to fuel your studies.
The undergraduate and graduate degrees you could take are a stepping stone to becoming an analyst, given it requires proficiency in other areas. There is an emphasis on specializing in GIS or mapping to get started.
The college degrees that put you on track to do geospatial analysis include:
In geography, students study the physical and human aspects of the Earth, including interactions and effects. Geography covers a wide range of topics relevant to anyone pursuing a career in geospatial analysis, including climatology, geomorphology, biogeography, political geography, urban geography, economic geography, etc.
Geography is the foundation for learning and applying GIS capabilities and insights. A degree in geography will see you gain proficiency in the essential concepts, principles, and applications of GIS, including the ability to perform spatial analysis and solve problems using various techniques.
You will also gain exposure to various geospatial data sources and formats, including maps, aerial photographs, GPS data, satellite images, etc.
A degree in geomatics sees students study the science and engineering of measuring, analyzing, and managing spatial information. Under the geomatics umbrella, you will be exposed to several fields and technologies closely and directly related to geospatial analysis.
- remote sensing
- boundary law
- mapping instrument usage
The degree will help you develop quality control, accuracy, project management, and precision skills.
3. Data Science
In this interdisciplinary field, students learn about scientific methods, processes, algorithms, and systems to extract knowledge and insights from data. Data science combines various aspects of data gathering, preparation, analysis, visualization, and communication.
Armed with a data science degree, you should be able to work with large and complex datasets with the help of various programming languages and tools. The degree will also enhance your skills in statistics, artificial intelligence, data mining, machine learning, and more.
The world will continue digitizing and collecting more data, including in geospatial analysis. Quickly making sense of everything is attractive to any would-be employers.
4. Environmental Science
Environmental Science students study the interactions and relationships between the natural and human systems, including the impacts on the environment and sustainability. Environment science covers many disciplines, including energy, ecology, conservation, pollution, and climate change.
A degree in environmental science will help you understand the environmental issues and challenges affecting geospatial phenomena, including the most valuable solutions and policies to address them. The degree will also help you better use geospatial analysis to monitor and manage natural resources, including water, vegetation, wildlife, etc.
5. Computer Science
Computer science studies take students through computation and information processing theory and practice. The degree covers data structure, programming, software engineering, algorithms, artificial intelligence, and more.
Completing the degree will see you develop the technical skills and knowledge essential for working with geospatial data and GIS technology. A degree in computer science equips you with the ability to create and use geospatial algorithms and workflows and automate tasks and processes for improved productivity.
Additional certifications are also essential to show that you keep up with the changing technologies, methodologies, and approaches developed over time. Some of the certificates to consider include:
- GISP certification: The GISCI (Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute) awards the Certified Geographic Information Systems Professional certification. It validates GIS professionals’ knowledge, skills, and abilities across domains and disciplines.
- ICC certification: This certificate is awarded by the ICA (International Cartographic Association) and recognizes the competence and professionalism of cartographers in creating and communicating spatial information.
- AGIS certification: The Geographic Information Scientist certification, awarded by the ASPRS American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing), demonstrates your proficiency and knowledge of geospatial analysts in photogrammetry, remote sensing, GIS, and related disciplines.
Each of the certifications has a different set of requirements for completion. The credentials can boost your resume when looking for work in the geospatial analysis field.
For those looking at this route as a career, it is worth knowing what kind of skills employees value the most. In 2023 and beyond, you must back up your degrees with additional skills.
You should have:
- Strong knowledge of GIS concepts, principles, and applications
- Proficiency in using GIS software and tools
- Familiarity with various geospatial data sources and formats
- The ability to perform spatial analysis and problem-solve
- Photogrammetry knowledge
- Knowledge of remote sensing
Finally, join one of the organizations for geospatial analysts. It is a great way to network and learn about new technologies and advancements in your field. These organizations include the Association for Geographic Information, the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, the International Cartographic Society, and the Geospatial Information Society.
Give Yourself An Edge On Your Geospatial Analyst Career
As you have seen, the required university degrees form the baseline, with much of the weight carried by the geospatial analysis-specific skills and certifications that come after.
With that in mind, you should be able to make a career in this exciting field to offer solutions in urban planning, environmental science, epidemiology, and more.