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A Minor in GIS

Should You Pursue a Minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a powerful tool that allows for the visualization, analysis, and interpretation of data related to locations and geographies. It enables us to understand patterns, relationships, and trends by linking data to a specific location.

In today’s data-driven world, GIS has become an integral part of various sectors, including urban planning, transportation, environment, health, and business, to name a few.

The question of whether you should pursue a minor in GIS is a topic of considerable debate. This decision can have significant implications for your academic journey and future career prospects.

This article aims to delve into this discussion, presenting arguments both for and against pursuing a minor in GIS, to help you make an informed decision.

Here is a list of podcast episodes that focus on early-stage GIS and geospatial professionals that you might find helpful

Understanding GIS

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a technology that captures, stores, manipulates, analyzes, manages, and presents all types of geographical data. It’s a system designed to work with data that is referenced by spatial or geographic coordinates. In simpler terms, GIS is the merging of cartography, statistical analysis, and computer science technology.

One of the key aspects of GIS is its interdisciplinary nature. It is not confined to a single field of study. Instead, it integrates and intersects with a multitude of disciplines, including but not limited to environmental science, urban planning, logistics, public health, and even history. This broad applicability makes GIS a versatile tool that can enhance the depth and breadth of analysis in these fields.

The role of GIS in various industries is expansive and growing. In urban planning, it can be used to analyze spatial data for site selection, zoning, or urban regeneration projects. In environmental management, GIS can help monitor and manage natural resources, assess environmental impact, or track changes in wildlife habitats.

In the business sector, it can assist in market analysis, logistics, and supply chain management. In public health, GIS can map disease outbreaks, plan health services, and analyze public health data. The versatility of GIS is what makes it a valuable tool across a wide range of industries.

Arguments for Pursuing a Minor in GIS

A. Marketable Skills: In an increasingly data-driven world, the ability to analyze and interpret spatial data is a highly sought-after skill. Industries ranging from urban planning to environmental management, public health, and business analytics are in need of professionals who can work with GIS. By pursuing a minor in GIS, you can acquire these marketable skills, making you a valuable asset in the job market.

B. Interdisciplinary Application: The beauty of GIS lies in its applicability across various fields of study. Whether you’re majoring in environmental science, urban planning, history, or public health, a minor in GIS can complement and enhance your primary field of study. It allows you to bring a spatial perspective to your work, adding a new dimension to your analysis and understanding.

C. Creative and Analytical Balance: GIS is a unique field that combines technology, analysis, and creativity. It involves technical skills to work with the software, analytical skills to interpret the data, and creativity to visualize and present the data effectively. This balance can be appealing if you’re interested in a field that allows for both analytical thinking and creative problem-solving.

D. Future Opportunities: With a background in GIS, a variety of career paths open up. You could work as a GIS analyst, a city planner, an environmental consultant, a transportation manager, or a public health advisor, among other roles. Moreover, as technology advances and more industries recognize the value of spatial analysis, the demand for GIS professionals is likely to grow, leading to even more opportunities in the future.

Arguments Against Pursuing a Minor in GIS

A. Limited Depth: While a minor in GIS can provide a solid foundation, it may not offer the in-depth knowledge and expertise that some GIS roles require. For instance, roles that involve complex spatial analysis or the development of GIS software may require more advanced skills and knowledge than a minor program typically offers.

B. Learning Curve: GIS involves the use of specialized software, and potentially programming languages like Python, which can have a steep learning curve. If you’re not comfortable with technology or new software, you may find the learning process challenging and time-consuming.

C. Job Market Saturation: While GIS skills are in demand, the job market can be competitive. With a minor in GIS, you may be competing against individuals with a major in GIS or related fields. This could potentially make it more difficult to secure a job in the field with only a minor.

D. Time and Resource Commitment: Pursuing a minor requires an additional commitment of time and resources. You’ll need to complete a certain number of credits on top of your major requirements, which could extend your study time or make your course load more challenging. It’s important to consider whether you have the time and resources to commit to a minor in addition to your major.

Personal Considerations

A. Interest in the Field: One of the most important factors to consider is your personal interest in the subject matter. GIS is a field that requires a certain level of passion and curiosity. If you enjoy working with maps, analyzing spatial data, and solving geographical problems, a minor in GIS could be a rewarding choice. However, if you’re considering it solely for its job prospects, you might find the coursework less engaging.

B. Future Career Goals: Your long-term career aspirations should also play a significant role in your decision. If you envision a career that involves spatial analysis or geographical problem-solving, a minor in GIS could be a strategic move. On the other hand, if your career goals lie outside of these areas, the benefits of a GIS minor might not outweigh the additional time and effort required.

C. Academic Load: Pursuing a minor in addition to a major can significantly increase your academic load. This could mean more coursework, projects, and exams. It’s essential to consider your capacity to handle this additional workload without compromising your performance in your major field of study. Balancing your academic load is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive college experience.

Conclusion

The decision to pursue a minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is multifaceted, with compelling arguments both for and against it. On one hand, a minor in GIS can provide marketable skills, interdisciplinary applications, a balance of creativity and analysis, and potential future opportunities. On the other hand, the limited depth of a minor, the steep learning curve, potential job market saturation, and the additional time and resource commitment are factors that could deter some from this path.

It’s crucial to conduct further research and consult with academic advisors before making a decision. Additionally, reaching out to professionals who are currently in roles you aspire to can provide valuable insights. They can share their experiences, discuss the relevance of GIS in their work, and offer advice on whether a minor in GIS would be beneficial for someone following their career path.

In the end, the choice to pursue a minor in GIS is a personal one that should be based on careful consideration and informed decision-making.

Other resources that you might find helpful

About the Author
I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.