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BCIT GIS Project Review: Good News for Canadian GIS Job Seekers

Written by Amine

To gain an edge in the GIS job market, it pays to invest in an advanced diploma program to supplement education you may have in environmental science, geography or urban planning. While students typically acquire a cursory knowledge of GIS through their undergraduate work, a GIS-focused program is really needed to differentiate themselves with marketable GIS skills that employers typically look for.

I’ve researched several graduate GIS programs in Canada and the US, and I’ll outline some of the best of them. The first is the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby. BCIT offers an Advanced Diploma in GIS designed for those with a university or college degree in a related discipline. BCIT offers students full-time or part-time programs. This is a challenging program that will provide you with much of the technical knowledge you need to excel in today’s job market.

BCIT’s Advanced Diploma in GIS has a strong emphasis on computer programming. They expect graduates to be highly skilled not only in customizing and creating applications, but also in creating web applications. Students learn GIS while applying languages ‚Äč‚Äčlike Java, Python, JavaScript, PHP, and more. Therefore, you need to understand programming concepts and design before signing up, but you don’t have to be particularly familiar with any of the above languages.

It should be noted that BCIT admits good candidates without extensive programming experience. In these cases, staff directs potential applicants to online programming tutorials to ensure they acquire basic programming fundamentals and to see if they will enjoy the programming aspects of the GIS course. Students also use the web to present material, so know how to use HTML and an HTML editor before starting the course. Students also find it beneficial to review high school math skills before class.

In addition to emphasizing programming, the BCIT program will give you an understanding of GIS as it relates to database structures, remote sensing, cartography, and spatial analysis related to environmental and business applications. Students will gain hands-on experience with the latest ESRI and Autodesk GIS software, and you will be exposed to GIS-related IT, management, and organizational issues. All your work ends with a project/internship session to gain practical experience with a GIS employer.

Applicants must have completed a college degree, BC associate degree, or technical diploma prior to entering the program. Applicants with an international degree will need to submit a full credential evaluation. When applying, students are also required to provide a resume and write a letter stating their interest in the program and how they will prepare for the challenges the program presents. This is because the program is highly intensive, with 30 hours of lab and lecture time per week and 20 to 30 hours of coursework per week.

Past graduates have explained to me that BCIT has enabled them to stay in the specific fields of Geology and Marine Biology, respectively, because they have developed GIS as a highly marketable skill through BCIT’s programs.

BCIT’s final project/internship relationships with employers are invaluable, as newfound GIS skills can be combined with degree disciplines, resulting in employment in the student’s chosen niche.

It should be noted that BCIT offers several GIS programs. They offer a number of introductory GIS courses for those who just want to gain a working knowledge of how to use GIS applications by taking a course or two. BCIT also offers a Bachelor of Technology in GIS for students who enter the program with an associate degree or technical diploma but have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree. The GIS B.Tech contains the same technical courses as the Advanced Diploma. Additionally, to earn the degree, students must complete additional management and liberal arts credits and complete six months of work in the GIS field. Additionally, in Fall 2012, Advanced Diploma programs are offered entirely online via distance learning.

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