Geosciences to add new program

Nicole Ely/The News
Handheld wildlife GPS units demonstrate the progress made in the fast-growing field of Geographic Information ScienceNicole Ely/The News Handheld wildlife GPS units demonstrate the progress made in the fast-growing field of Geographic Information Science

Story by Abby Siegel, Contributing writer

Nicole Ely/The News Handheld wildlife GPS units demonstrate the progress made in the fast-growing field of Geographic Information Science

Nicole Ely/The News
Handheld wildlife GPS units demonstrate the progress made in the fast-growing field of Geographic Information Science

The University’s department of geosciences is adding a certificate in Geographic Information Science (GIS) to be awarded to students who qualify by completing the program beginning December 2015.

Just as the department is growing in both students and program opportunities, so is the career field.  The projected percentage change in employment from 2012–22 for geographers is to increase 29 percent, according to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average increase is 11 percent.

“The current reality for employment areas where geographic data is a fundamental aspect of the job, employers both private and public are requiring proof of GIS experience,” said Robin Zhang, professor of geosciences.

The certificate will benefit students in many fields including biology, agriculture, civil and environmental engineering, environmental science, computer science and business, Zhang said. The certificate has become a requirement to be competitive in these fields and will allow Murray State graduates to stand out among other applicants.

Zhang said employers are looking for proficiency in knowledge beyond the college transcript.

The 15-hour certification program will allow students to gain experience in data collection, data management methods and techniques, data analysis and interpretation and remote sensing techniques. Students will also practice using industry standard hardware and software to explore several different geographic information science applications.

“The reason the GIS Certificate Program was created is to fill a growing demand for geospatial science skills in today’s job market, as well as to provide students fundamental knowledge of GI science necessary for today’s diverse array of fields and disciplines,” said Haluk Cetin, professor of geosciences.

The certificate’s origins can be traced to the late 1990s when Cetin initiated Precision Agriculture and NASA projects, as well as projects for the U.S. Geological Survey that required the use of geospatial technology. 

The department then studied the programs that benchmark institutions were using and began to create the certificate offered at Murray State that would benefit students across multiple departments, illustrating the multidisciplinary aspect of the program.

After many attempts at getting the program approved, it was approved in early 2015.

“The GIScience field has been one of the fastest growing fields,” Cetin said. “This certificate should provide a better leverage for a student when looking for a job, particularly requiring geospatial technology experience.”

Spencer Moran, junior from Taylorsville, Ky., said he believes that his experience in geographic information science helped him land an internship this summer with the Army Corps of Engineers.

“I was told that my experience with GIS really distinguished me from the other applicants,” Moran said.

Moran said he is very excited about his internship as a GS-4 park ranger. His dream job is to become a parks and recreation manager after completing his undergraduate degree in environmental geology and his Masters in business administration.

“It’s very competitive in the work-place; this certification will make me one step closer to landing that dream job,” he said.