With its multi-faceted approach, learning geographic information systems can seem daunting. Fortunately there are a wealth of approaches you can take to get started. From structured curriculums to distance learning and online tutorials, check here to find out more information on learning the field of GIS.
How to Learn GIS
There are many different ways to learn GIS. The most structured is through an educational institute such as a local college or university or online via distance learning. Those institutions provide a specific set of classes to teach students about the principles of GIS, cartography, database management, and spatial analysis. After students have successfully completed the coursework, either a certificate or a degree is awarded. These types of programs are most beneficial to students first learning about GIS or are lacking a higher education degree. For those students who already have a good baseline knowledge of GIS and are looking to supplement their background, individual courses are a more appropriate avenue. So, where to learn GIS?
Where to Learn GIS
There are different forums for learning GIS, depending on your educational objectives. Traditional academic programs provide a GIS education that results in either a degree (bachelors or masters) or a certificate. The GIS curriculums page provides pointers to resources to search worldwide for universities and other institutes of learning for coursework and certificate programs in GIS. These online databases allow users to search by geography, software type or courses offered. Unsure of how to pick a place to learn GIS? Consult the Finding the Right GIS Program page.
If you want to enroll in a structured program but can’t attend in person, distance learning is becoming a popular way to learn GIS. Many brick and mortar colleges offer an online version of their programs and there are a few Internet only educational programs that specialize in GIS coursework.
Both the classroom based and online learning tend to offer a more structured program for learning GIS. Many of these structured programs results in either a degree or a certificate in GIS (not to be confused with certification in GIS. Learn about the difference in this article: GIS Certification versus Certificate Programs.)
If you’re looking to pick up specific GIS skills, or would rather engage in a self-guided course of GIS study, there are independent learning opportunities out there. For a focus on learning GIS with open source GIS software, Sid Feygin reviews some GIS learning options in his article, “How to Go from GIS Novice to Pro without Spending a Dime“. For commercial GIS learning opportunities, you can take advantage of GIS webinars hosted by GIS vendors. For self-guided GIS courses that don’t cost anything, check out the Learn GIS for Free page and the Free GIS Books section. If you have a specific GIS task that you want to learn more about, GIS tutorials that provide step-by-step instructions are a helpful resource.
For teaching at the elementary and secondary school levels, the K-12 Education page has a ollection of references and tutorials on how to teach GIS to K-12 level students. Find lesson plans, user groups and more in the category.