After getting his bachelor’s degree, Steven Marks worked a variety of jobs but couldn’t find the right fit. Then he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Geographic Information Systems Certificate (GIS) Program and discovered his true passion.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made to enter this program,” Marks says. “After only two semesters of schooling, my employment prospects have gone through the roof. I love what I learned and I love what I do.”
The Geographic Information Systems Certificate Program fills a growing demand for geospatial science skills in such fields as economics, conservation, and public health. The graduate-level program provides a mix of GIS theory and practical experience, covering data capture, analysis, modeling, and cartographic representation.
Students can complete the program in a year or attend part-time. It includes an internship that offers hands-on experience and lays the groundwork for getting a job.
“The GIS program gives such a well-rounded education in the field that my choices after receiving my certificate were limitless,” Marks says. “I could go in any direction, from programming to cartography, from working for a startup to working for the government.”
Back in the swing of things
Marks hadn’t taken classes in a while, but the Geographic Information Systems Certificate Program smoothed his way back to college.
“It took a little time for me to get back in the swing of things,” he says. “I had to relearn how to study and organize efficiently. But the program director and program itself made the whole transition, from my application to planning the classes I would take, very easy.”
Once he settled in, Marks found his classes relevant and rewarding.
“I learned to use GIS software, to program in Python, to create beautiful maps, and to understand the geography behind all of it,” he says. “The classes also gave me an incredible view of what I could do with the GIS degree, from analyzing satellite images of the Earth in infrared wavelengths, to effectively planning where to build a new laboratory in a city, to analyzing poaching problems on the African continent.”
The UW-Madison Department of Geography is highly rated nationally, and
Marks appreciated the quality of the instruction.
“My instructors were effective because they all seemed to understand what would be required of us students after we graduated,” he says. “They did more than just teach us interesting information; they made it useful. They knew what employers would be looking for, and they prepared us every step of the way to find jobs.”
Launching a career
When it came time to launch his career, Marks discovered the value of the global UW alumni network.
“I communicate with my program director, former professors, classmates, and other alumni all the time,” he says, “whether it’s to ask for help finding a job, to volunteer to teach new students programming, or simply when I’m curious about a field within GIS that I would like more information on.”
After finding a job, Marks took what he learned in the GIS Certificate Program right into the workplace.
“I use what I learned in the program every day at work,” he says. “Unlike my undergraduate degree, every single thing I learned and did in the GIS program was exactly what I would later do at my job.”
Looking back, Marks considers the Geographic Information Systems Certificate Program a key to his success.
“It’s a yearlong program that gives you two or three years’ worth of knowledge,” he says. “It’s interesting and inspiring to be in these classes, and it has made it so much easier to find jobs that pay well and that I am passionate about.”
For more information about the Geographic Information Systems Certificate Program, see here.