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Degree Overview: Associate’s (A.A.) Degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Majors Overview November 2, 2013

Students planning to earn an A.A. in Geographic Information Systems will learn about how GIS are tools that collect, capture, and analyze digital and spatial geographic data. These tools are mainly used in areas of urban planning, land surveying, photogrammetry, and cartography. The Associate of Science in Geographic Information Systems is the most common program in the field of GIS.

A.A. Programs in Geographic Information Systems

Students enrolled in Associate’s degree programs in GIS are provided with broad-based skills development and theoretical instruction in the field of geographic information systems. Coursework may augment strong foundational classes in microcomputer applications, geometry, physical sciences and mathematics with subsequent study of specific GIS technologies and tools.

A majority of GIS associate’s degree programs are designed to provide practical training to students, who learn how to use and apply geographic information systems. Students are trained in the use of global positioning technology and GIS tools in the collection of data, processing of data into images, storing and maintenance of useful data, and utilization of data to create land boundaries and maps. Courses that focus on programming and designing of GIS technologies and tools are also offered by some associate degree programs in the field.

Education Requirements

Applicants for admission are often expected to have completed classes in general education subjects such as communication, English, and algebra though some schools exempt students from these requirements if they complete placement tests.


Coursework in many associate’s degree programs in GIS require the completion by students of a practicum or internship to augment core seminar courses before they earn the degree. Practicum and seminar courses may cover areas such as:

•Remote sensing
•Programming geographic information systems
•Data analysis
•Data acquisition and management
•Using GIS technology
•Introductory GIS
•GIS design with vector and radar analysis
•Database theory

Career Choices Popular for Students with an A.A. in GIS

Graduates can seek entry-level careers in various fields or pursue continued education. The career options they can choose from include:

•Mapping technician
•Photogrammetric technician
•Land surveyor-in-training
•Cartography technician

Continuing Education Choices

A majority of photogrammetrists, cartographers and land surveyors employed in the United States hold at least a bachelor’s degree; (source: <strong><a href=”” target=”_blank”>U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics</a></strong>). Graduates may consider transferring credits earned in the associate program to a four-year degree program in forestry, engineering, geography, cartography or surveying. Master’s degree programs in GIS management and technology are also offered at some schools.

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