Jobs growing in GIS technology at 35%, schools offering programs

Published: Mar. 5, 2014 at 2:48 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2014 at 5:15 PM EST
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Is your high school or college student looking for a career with plenty of jobs? J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College says one of the fastest growing job markets is in GIS technology, the technology used in applications like GPS and Google Maps.

If you have GPS in your car or on your smart phone, that's an example of a Geographic Information System. But now this technology, that let's you map all kinds of data, is used by many businesses and government agencies.

The Red Cross uses GIS to track flooding in communities. Hanover County has a GIS website where you can search for things like tax parcels and zoning. On your smart phone, GIS is used in apps that give you information about nearby places, such as restaurants and stores.

"It's used in almost any industry you can think of," said Michelle Fults with J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

Reynolds Community College now offers a GIS-GPS Specialist Career Studies Certificate and just taught fifteen local high school teachers how to teach GIS to their students.

Said Shawn Gross, Educational Specialist for Pre-Engineering and Industrial Careers at Henrico County Public Schools, said, "Right now, double-digit growth is projected for jobs that incorporate GIS technologies and we'd like for our students to be on the cutting edge."

GIS jobs are growing at a whopping 35% a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but there aren't enough trained people to fill them.

"The shortage is due to how quickly the field of GIS is changing and the use of applications," said Fults.

Gross says he already has students interested in studying GIS and both Varina and Glen Allen high schools will offer GIS classes next year. Gross says GIS skills students will learn apply to other fields, too.

"If they go into engineering," said Gross, "especially the use of GIS is phenomenal."

Reynolds and these educators hope to teach students about this mapping technology that can give them a map to a career in demand.

Salaries in GIS related jobs range from $23,000 to $80,000, according to VCU and the University of Richmond also offer GIS programs.