GIS stands for Geographic Information System. It is a tool used for environmental management, modeling, and planning. In the most basic of terms, GIS can be described as a computer system for handling geographic information in a digital form.

Due to social and technological advances, digital and environmental agendas have been elevated to a top priority spot in public policy, the global media, and the private sector. GIS has played a significant role in this.

Someone with a GIS Master’s Degree is most often working with government departments in the planning and modeling of road network changes, building design, utility provision, energy production, waste management, and much more. This kind of technology has also been used throughout political campaigns to lobby governments and execute protests concerning environmentally harmful companies.

In general, private businesses in both land management and resource extraction use GIS to develop their overall profit-making strategies.

A more specific branch of geographic information systems is environmental geographic information science or GIScience.

Job Outlook for GIS Master’s Degree Holders

With a degree in geographic information science, your future is wide open to exciting careers choices and job opportunities. Using your GIS degree qualifies you to deal with capturing, retaining, studying, and manipulating spatial and geographic data. Most often, this data represents locations on the earth, which is why it is so important in the environmental field.

Data is vital to companies these days, and so the need for GIS professionals is growing steadily. There are several different job choices for graduates of a GIS program. A few of them include:

  • Conservation
  • Land Surveying
  • Cartography
  • Forestry
  • State and Federal Biology
  • Wildlife Habitat Management
  • Research Geology
  • Land Trust
  • Ecology

The list goes on, but that gives you a glimpse into what a GIS degree can do for you. These types of professionals are vital in almost every field, so the job prospects are very positive. This degree is also great for someone who has already studied environmental science during their undergrad and wants to further their knowledge and experience.

According to a report from, in 2018 GIS developers and managers accounted for the highest percentage of job postings. Since GIS technicians, specialists, and analyst all require the same skill set, when you combine the number of these postings, it comes out to roughly the same amount of posts as developers and managers.

Basically, GIS careers are controlling the job market of one of the most used job search websites. In terms of job security and finding a job post-education, that’s a pretty great outlook.

Average salaries for these positions at the starting rate are fairly promising as well. As a general Geographic Information Systems Analyst, you could start out making about $53,000 per year. In the same field but specified in environmental science, you are looking at an average starting pay of $49,000 per year.

Other professionals listed in this field, such as an Urban Planner, a Geologist, and a Water Resource Engineer, are estimated to make an average of $50,000 to $63,000 per year.

GIS in Environmental Science

If GIS is so broad, what exactly does environmental GIS look like? Geographic Information Systems are used for many purposes and across a variety of industries, so it can be confusing to see how it directly impacts environmental science..

The field of environmental science includes a wide scope of disciplines that encompass far more than “save the trees.” This sector of professions and education takes a look at biological, social, and physical sciences in order to most effectively address the major problems that affect the planet.

When you think about how much goes into environmental science, you start to see how much data and information these professionals deal with on a regular basis. The more they study, the more there is to learn, record, and keep track of. That is where GIS comes into play.

GIS is an excellent tool for environmental scientists to use to “organize, analyze, manage, and visualize geospatial data that links models to derive outputs from environmental analysis and modeling,” according to the Oxford Bibliographies.

These two fields—GIS and environmental science—work in harmony to cover a vast variety of topics and scientific approaches. By using GIS, environmental scientists can access and address many areas, including disasters, pollution, public health, and water resource analysis.

GIS handles geographical information, which is a vital part of environmental studies. Having access to information like this helps environmental scientist study trends in natural occurrences, land elevations, population information, and pollution habits. With this information, they are able to better track changes and develop potential solutions to any negative effects.

Earning a GIS Master Degree at Unity College

With today’s education programs, the options are limitless. In fact, you can get a GIS graduate certificate in the study of Environmental Geographic Information Science or GIScience. What does a degree in this field entail?

Earning a master’s degree in this field means you are learning to combine the efforts of environmental scientists and geographic information systems scientist. An environmental scientist is someone who analyzes and interpret environmental data. A geographic information systems scientist manages and manipulates data.

So, if you put the two together, you get someone who can integrate the use of technologies alongside environmental data.

Some more great news about this degree is that you can earn it online. Through Unity College, you can achieve your master’s in professional science and environmental geographic information science using GIS distance learning.

For those who can commit to a full online course load, you can complete your master’s in GIS in as little as a year. You still receive the same quality teaching as you would in a classroom, but with smaller class sizes, flexibility, and an affordable cost.

Unity College works with you and your schedule, offering five different start dates per year. If you are looking to further your career and have a bachelor’s degree, this could be the path for you. Those who should especially consider furthering their education include people who already have GIS experience like:

  • State and Federal Biologists
  • Environmental Scientists
  • Professional Ecologists
  • Wildlife Habitat Managers
  • Environmental Science Teachers

Take the next step

Exploring your options before making a final decision is important. Take some time and do your due diligence when evaluating your options—earning a degree is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re ready to take the next step, visit our GIS graduate certificate degree page for more information. We’re looking for changemakers ready to make the difference our world needs!