Online master’s in GIS and Web Map Programming helps busy professionals keep up with changing technology

Dorn Moore already had a master’s in geography when he enrolled in UW-Madison’s online master of science program in GIS and Web Map Programming. The seasoned spatial analyst earned the first degree from the University of Arizona in 1998, when coding and cloud computing were the premier tools of the trade. These days, the tools are quite different.

“It was another world,” Moore says of late-’90s GIS, noting how much the technologies have evolved over the past 20 years.

It’s just a matter of time before today’s technologies become obsolete, too. Moore knew his next graduate program had to impart more than the latest tools and techniques.

Enter UW-Madison’s online program in GIS and web mapping. Designed for working professionals and international students, it provides training in GIS programming and smooths the transition from desktop to web GIS. Students learn how to develop GIS tools, mobile GIS apps, and fast, interactive, data-driven web maps to solve real-world problems. They can customize the program to fit their schedules and earn a master’s degree in under a year while staying at their jobs.

Moore was confident the skills, knowledge, and perspective the program provides would have a long shelf life. For starters, students gain the theoretical framework and practical building blocks they need to adapt and advance in the field. Second, the program includes a lifelong learning component to help students keep up with changing technology after they’ve received their degrees.

Both of these benefits appealed to Moore, who works on conservation projects at the International Crane Foundation. He’d learned how to use many technology tools on the job, but his knowledge felt incomplete. It wasn’t clear how some of the pieces fit together.

“The underlying theory and basic training were missing,” he explains. “I wanted the solid foundation and grounding that come from a graduate program rather than a technical course.”

Moore also chose UW-Madison because of the geography department’s sterling reputation. The geography graduate program consistently receives a top-five ranking nationally.

Plus, the degree is a career booster. For Moore, a new master’s means moving up in the field and leading others with confidence.

Real-world problem-solving

The flexible nature of the GIS and web mapping program has been crucial to Moore’s success at school and the office. At first, the thought of squeezing coursework and labs into a busy workday was daunting. But soon he learned how to use the online format to his advantage.

“In my second semester I scaled back to one course to avoid overload between work and school. One course a semester is manageable, even if you have a busy life,” he says. “Also, if I know there will be a major work deadline, I can work ahead on the course so I don’t have to split my focus during a stressful time.”

Instructor and program director Ian Muehlenhaus has motivated Moore to keep going when the going gets tough.

“I cannot say enough about his enthusiasm and passion. He’s been extremely instrumental as a mentor, and has worked very hard to get feedback from students on how to improve the program,” Moore says.

In addition to exploring key topics such as spatial databases and graphic design in cartography, instructors impart practical knowledge students can apply on the job. Moore and his team have already automated a number of processes thanks to the Python training he received in his first semester.

“I work with databases almost daily. Now I have a much deeper understanding of them, and I’m able to approach problems in more sophisticated ways,” he says.

Moore is excited to translate even more knowledge into practice at a job he loves. Changing the world for the better seems more possible than ever.

“My work makes a difference and shapes the future of conservation every day. I want to keep doing that and keep expanding my knowledge,” he says.

For more information about the Online Professional Master of Science in GIS and Web Map Programming, see here.

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