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Review of the BCIT GIS Program: A Boon to Canadian GIS Job Seekers
When it comes to gaining an edge in the GIS job market, it pays to invest in an advanced degree program to complement any training you may have acquired in environmental science, geography or town planning. While students often gain a superficial knowledge of GIS through their undergraduate work, it really takes a GIS-focused program to stand out in terms of marketable GIS skills that employers often prefer.
I have reviewed several postgraduate GIS programs in Canada and the United States and will outline some of the best available. The first is that of the British Columbia Institute of Technology located in Burnaby. BCIT offers an Advanced Diploma in GIS designed for those with a university or college degree in a related discipline. BCIT offers the program to full-time or part-time students. This is a challenging program that will give you much of the technical knowledge you need to stand out in today’s job market.
It should be noted that BCIT admitted strong applicants who did not have significant programming experience. In these cases, staff directed potential candidates to online programming tutorials to ensure they could learn the basics of basic programming and to see if they would enjoy the programming aspect of GIS courses. Students also use the web to present documents, so they should know how to use HTML and an HTML editor before starting classes. Students also find it very beneficial to hone their math skills in high school before classes start.
In addition to the programming emphasis, the BCIT program will give you an understanding of GIS as it relates to database structure, remote sensing, mapping as well as spatial analysis related to environmental and business applications. Students gain hands-on experience with the latest ESRI and Autodesk GIS software and you will also be exposed to IT, management and organizational issues related to GIS. All of your work culminates in a project/internship course to gain real-world experience with a GIS employer.
Applicants must have completed a college degree, BC associate degree, or technology degree prior to entering the program. Applicants with an international degree will be required to undergo a comprehensive credential assessment. When applying, students will also be required to provide a resume and write a letter explaining their interest in the program and how they will prepare for the challenges it will bring. Indeed, the program is very intensive with 30 hours per week of laboratories and conferences and 20 to 30 additional hours per week in class.
Past graduates have told me that BCIT allowed them to stay in their particular fields of geology and marine biology respectively because they developed GIS as a highly marketable skill through the BCIT program.
BCIT’s relationship with employers for the final project/internship can be extremely valuable as new GIS skills can be combined with a degree discipline that can lead to employment in the student’s chosen niche.
It should be noted that BCIT offers several GIS programs. They offer many of their introductory GIS courses to people who are simply looking to gain a working knowledge of using GIS applications by taking a course or two. BCIT also offers a Bachelor of Technology in GIS, intended for students who, upon entering the program, hold an associate’s degree or a technology degree and do not yet have a bachelor’s degree. The B.Tech in GIS consists of the same technical courses as the Advanced Diploma. Additionally, to graduate, the student must earn additional credits in management and liberal arts, as well as six months of employment in the GIS field. Additionally, in the fall of 2012, the Advanced Diploma program was offered in its entirety online via distance learning.
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