The best online GIS associate degrees train individuals for careers in Geography, Geospatial Information, and Geographic Information Systems.
What is GIS or a Geographic Information System? GIS is a system that creates, maps out, analyzes, and manages various data. The system allows its users to analyze and map out data to use in the field of science and also nearly every industry.
The terms Geography and Geospatial Information encompass GIS but are broader categories. So, degrees for a career in GIS are also called geospatial, geomatics, and geography degrees with a specialization.
People can use the geographic data that is collected to understand not only specific patterns but trends in relationships as well. For example, this is the system used to create the data many of us have used on Google Maps. It is also a way, for instance, that a city manager can locate flood-prone areas. Geographic information has many applications and is a skill that is in high demand.
How We Ranked the Top Online GIS Associate Degrees
The editors at Online Schools Guide found the best schools for GIS offering online Geography, Geomatics, and Geospatial associate degrees. Then, based on cost and reputation, we ranked the best GIS programs.
|School||GIS Associates Degree|
|1. Roane State Community College||AAS in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)|
|2. Northland Community & Tech College||AAS in Imagery Analysis and Geospatial Intelligence Analysis|
|3. Saint Paul College||AAS in Geographic Information Science|
|4. Houston Community College||AAS in GIS + 2 GIS two certificates|
|5. Harrisburg Area Community College||AS in Geospatial Technology|
|6. Bismarck State College||AS in Geographic Information Systems Technician program|
|7. Columbus State Community College||AAS in Geographic Information Systems|
|8. Clark State Community College||AAS in Geospatial Technology|
|9. Front Range Community College||Associate of Arts in GIS|
|10. Austin Community College District||AAS in GIS|
1. Roane State Community College
Roane State Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) online. Students utilize high-tech equipment and software to garner a career in many fields, from business to intelligence agencies and city governments.
The GIS training students receive in this program is unique, and requires some fieldwork. Students should understand that GIS requires special and intense attention to detail. A certificate program in GIS is also available for those who do not want to undertake a two-year degree program. Although the certificate program is shorter, job prospects may pay less than with a GIS degree. However, the online GIS associates degree at RSCC is one of the best GIS programs at the associate degree level.
Founded in 1969, Roane State Community College is a public community college based in the eastern area of Tennessee. It boasts nine different campuses located throughout the state. However, the school’s main campus is in the city of Harriman. Additionally, the college operates under the authority of the Board of Regents in Tennessee. RSCC offers various programs, including 13 Health Science programs and computer technology, business management, and also police science. In addition, students can enroll in several online programs, hybrid, or in-person classes.
2. Northland Community and Technical College
Northland Community and Technical College offer an Associate of Applied Science degree in Imagery Analysis and geospatial Intelligence Analysis. Students can complete all of this GIS associates degree online.
This program teaches students to manage the tasking, exploitation, processing, and dissemination process for all geospatial-intelligence operations, including GIS. As a result, graduates can garner jobs within the GIS career field in several industries.
Located in the Minnesota towns of Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks, Northland Community and Technical College is a public institution. The two-year college has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. NTCT opened in 1969 and offers a variety of two-year degree and certificate programs.
3. Saint Paul College
Saint Paul College offers another one of the top GIS programs. The Geographic Information Science (GIS) Associate of Applied Science Degree prepares students for entry-level positions in various industries.
Graduates have the geospatial skills required to create and import unique digital data representing real-world features from the Earth’s surface with the main goals of viewing, manipulating, and analyzing the data collected to use in decision-making. The college also offers a GIS certificate program for those who only require a basic understanding of GIS. In addition, graduates work with experts, such as geologists, farmers, and urban planners, to facilitate proper planning in their fields.
Founded in 1910, Saint Paul College is in St. Paul, Minnesota. The school offers traditional in-class courses with training and state-of-the-art facilities. SPC also provides online classes and hybrid classes. In addition, the college offers 54 associate degree programs and 74 career certificate and diploma programs for hundreds of students each year.
4. Houston Community College
Houston Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree and also two certificate programs in GIS.
Students learn to recognize, evaluate, and also analyze various critical issues in the fields of geographic information systems and global positioning systems. In addition, they deal with urgent matters regarding the diversity of people, events, and places worldwide and within very specific geographic areas.
Houston Community College opened in 1971. The school has accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Thousands of students graduate with degrees in various career fields each year from this college, which offers both online degrees and also in-person classes.
5. Harrisburg Area Community College
Harrisburg Area Community College offers an Associate in Science Degree in Geospatial Technology. Students can complete this degree online, making it convenient for students who have families or work full or part-time jobs while attending college.
Students hone their computer and communication skills while learning a wealth of information about maps and geography for this program. Graduates apply their knowledge of geological techniques, engineering, and environmental skills to work in various industries. Students also learn to use the Geographic Information System and analytics in decision-making within their chosen industry.
Harrisburg Area Community College became the first Community College in Pennsylvania when it opened on Valentine’s Day in 1964. Therefore, it is the oldest Community College in Pennsylvania and the largest. HACC students can enroll in 100 programs at five different campuses or online degree programs.
6. Bismarck State College
Bismarck State College offers an associate of science degree in the Geographic Information Systems Technician program. This degree gives students an entryway into the fast-growing field of GIS.
Students learn about cartography, metadata management, scale, database management, and also other GIS applications. Graduates can create GIS maps from databases that are linked to local analytics and thus garner jobs in a variety of different areas. In addition, students can choose from three other program options and can take classes online or on campus.
The college opened in 1939 and is the only polytechnic institution in North Dakota. Thousands of BSC students each year complete various programs to prepare them for their chosen career paths. The college offers online programs, hybrid classes, and also in-person classes for most programs.
7. Columbus State Community College
Columbus State Community College offers a Geographic Information Systems Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree that is a fully online STEM program.
The program combines geography and computer technology to apply to the science of locations and analytics. A geographic information system (GIS) is designed to be able to not only capture and store important data but also to manipulate, analyze, manage and present it as well. Graduates will have the skills needed to become professionals who can edit, utilize, and also make better decisions based on GIS. This is a growing field, so students can get jobs in various industries, including business and government. Online classes are available as well as in-person.
Columbus State Community College is a public community college nestled in downtown Columbus, Ohio. It was founded as the Columbus Area Technician’s School in 1963 but was renamed the Columbus Technical Institute in 1965, then renamed once again to its current name of Columbus State Community College in 1987. The college also has a Delaware, Ohio campus, making it more easily accessible for all area students. Thousands of students earn their associate degrees each year at Columbus State along with certificates in their chosen career fields.
8. Clark State Community College
Clark State Community College offers a two-year degree program students can complete online or on campus. This Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree is in Geospatial Technology.
Students can also earn certificates within the program, which can be automatically awarded after they take the required classes within their degree program. Graduates can use, manage, and combine geospatial data for a certain purpose and also know how to interpret and analyze geospatial information. In addition, they can use GIS software to store, manipulate, and analyze geospatial data.
Its campus is in the Ohio town of Springfield. And Clark State is a public community college founded in 1962 as the Springfield and Clark County Technical Education Program. The college has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. It offers hundreds of program options for students who want to earn certificates or also associate degrees in their chosen field of study.
9. Front Range Community College
|Degree: Associate of Arts in GIS|
Front Range Community College GIS program is a two-year associate degree in GIS. Students can use this degree to either continue their education at a four-year college or university to obtain their bachelor’s degree in geography.
The curriculum teaches students to describe and analyze both physical and cultural landscapes and how to explore the features and climate of the Earth’s surface. In addition, they also learn how humans are distributed throughout the earth and the various ways they interact with the environment.
Front Range Community College offers more than 60 career degree programs for students, college certificate programs, and several online degrees. The college, nestled in the city of Denver, Colorado, was founded in Boulder County in 1968 and offers 100 degree and certificate programs at its main campus and other locations.
10. Austin Community College District
An online Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in GIS is offered at the Austin Community College District. Students begin the program with basic GIS concepts and then progress to in-depth analysis.
Courses use software and technology currently used in the profession. So, students are familiar with the programs when they graduate. There are also GIS Level I and II stackable certificates students can earn to increase employability. ACC is one of the best GIS schools to stack credentials for career advancement. Additionally, some students continue their education to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in GIS or geography at Texas Tech University or Texas A&M.
The Austin Community College District opened its doors on September 17, 1973, with only one campus. However, the college is now one of the largest in the Central Texas region. When the school first opened, it served 1,726 students but grew to serve about 76,000 students yearly at 11 different campuses.
Geography vs Geospatial vs GIS
Below is a summary of the differences in these career paths.
Geography studies the earth’s physical features and human activity using location, place, region, movement, and human environment. Two main branches are Human Geography and Physical Geography.
And Geospatial is an umbrella term for various types of geographical data and technology. Geospatial Technology is tech with a geographical component like Geofencing, GIS, GPS, and Remote Sensing. Also, Geospatial Data has a geographical component.
GIS is a specific type of Geospatial Technology that stores layers of geographic information and integrates it using the software.
Can You Get a GIS Associate Degree Online?
Yes, a variety of two-year colleges, as well as four-year universities, offer online programs in the field of GIS. Students who receive their associate degree in GIS can continue on with their education to earn their bachelor’s degree or even their master’s degree if they so choose. A GIS masters programs ranking is an excellent resource for finding bachelor’s and master’s programs.
Students who only want to attend college for two years and receive an associate degree in GIS still have an array of various jobs and career paths to choose from and can even offer their services through their own businesses. Additionally, students have several certificate options to choose from within many two-year associate degree programs in GIS.
What Do You Learn in an Online GIS Associate Degree?
Students take core courses that prepare them to continue on to a more advanced degree. They also take GIS-specific classes with a heavy emphasis on computer programming and math. Below are some common GIS topics.
- geospatial programming
- photogrammetry and aerial photography
- data collection and remote sensing
- spatial data software development and programming principles
- data science and also GIS data analysis
- Python programming and coding
- web mapping, visualization, and also quality control
Is an Online GIS Associate Degree Worth It?
Connecting information to locations is changing the way many people make important decisions. A degree in GIS is very much worth it since there are plenty of jobs and career paths to choose from. For example, a graduate with a degree in GIS can work as a GIS technician, CAD drafter, land survey technician, or even a GIS software engineer.
The pay for a GIS graduate is approximately $39,000. But, it can be as high as $90,000 or more, depending on the career path in this wide-open field. For those students who earn an associate degree in GIS, entry-level positions are available and pay between $40,000 per year and $60,000 per year. Those students will be able to work as a CAD drafter, GIS technician, land survey technician, survey CAD technician, and also cartographic technician.
As they move forward in their career, they can make up to $75,000 per year as a GIS analyst, cartographer, LiDar analyst, GIS specialist, geographer, or senior CAD technician. Additionally, there are many positions in the top income brackets between $75,000 per year to $90,000 per year or more. These professionals can work as geodetic engineers, GIS software engineers, senior geomatic software engineers, GIS project managers, senior CAD engineers, GIS developers, and also GIS administrators.
What are the Possible Careers with an Online GIS Associate Degree?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for individuals with skills and education in the field of geographic information systems (GIS) are set to grow from 10 to 20 percent over the next ten years. GIS graduates can choose a variety of careers, such as land managers, GIS software engineers, land surveyors, and even senior CAD technicians.
A Cartographer or Photogrammetrist collects, measures, and interprets geographic information to create and also update maps and charts. They work for regional and urban planning departments, government agencies, and education institutions.
Average Salary: $68,900 (BLS)
Geological and Hydrologic Technicians
A Geological Technician supports engineers in exploring, extracting, and monitoring natural resources. Many have an associate degree in GIS or a related field.
Average Salary: $50,080 (BLS)
Surveying and Mapping Technicians
These GIS Technicians use programs to make complex custom maps of the Earth by compiling and then integrating field data. Entry-level education is a High school diploma or equivalent, but an associate degree is preferred.
The Geographical Information System (GIS) field is growing by leaps and bounds. Jobs in this field also include cartographic technicians, survey CAD technicians, LiDar analysts, GIS administrators, and senior CAD engineers. Therefore, it is an excellent choice for students interested in the area first to earn their associate degree in GIS.
Graduates can work in the field to determine if they want to specialize in the GIS field. Or they can continue their education in the exciting field of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and pursue professional certifications, an online bachelor’s degree, or also a master’s degree in GIS.
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