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New Certificate Programs Support Increasing Demand for GIS and Drone Technologies

To meet the increasing demand for new GIS and drone technologies, the Department of Geography, GIS and Sustainability is launching two new GIS certificates in fall 2023, GIS and Cartography and Drone Operations and Spatial Analytics.  

A 2020 report from Geographic Information System Market estimates that by 2025, the global Geographic Information System market is projected to be a $14.5 billion industry, up from $8.1 billion in 2020. Its growth is largely attributed to the adoption of GIS for highways and transport management, but that’s not the only driver. According to GISLounge, Geographic Information Science (GIS) skills are in demand in a growing number of industries, from healthcare to real estate. Annual salaries can range from $40,000 to $115,000 and Colorado is one of the top-producing states for GIS jobs. Additionally, the global drones market is expected to double from $24.8 billion in 2022 to $48.1 billion by 2028, led by increasing use in construction, e-commerce, agricultural practices and the entertainment and media industries. 

To meet the increasing demand for these new technologies, the University of Northern Colorado’s Department of Geography, GIS and Sustainability is launching two new GIS certificates in fall 2023, GIS and Cartography and Drone Operations and Spatial Analytics.  

According to Jim Doerner, dean of UNC’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), the new programs will support career pathways for UNC students after graduation by providing individuals with skill sets and endorsements that are in demand and tailored to the current job market.  

Faculty members leveraged their strong professional networks in northern Colorado in the design of the new curricula to provide students with distinctive hands-on educational experiences using the latest tools and technologies in the growing GIS industry.  

“The use of GIS and drones is becoming more prominent in a lot of different industries and at all levels of government,” said Jessica Salo, chair and associate professor in UNC’s Department of Geography, GIS and Sustainability program. “These certificates provide the education, techniques and technologies that will prepare students to take advantage of those workforce opportunities. 

The 12-credit hour GIS & Cartography certificate teaches students to collect, analyze and present geographic data while honing their skills with GIS software and related tools. It can be completed in one year and is ideal for professionals considering a career shift or who want to develop GIS skills in their current positions. It’s also a good fit for students in other degree programs, such as biology, earth and atmospheric sciences, anthropology, sociology, economics, history and criminal justice, where GIS and cartography tools are being used to investigate environmental and societal issues. 

The 12-credit hour Drone Operations and Spatial Analytics certificate provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary to complete the FAA Part 107 certificate (drone pilot license), providing the skills necessary to work in a variety of business and public sector domains as drone pilots, drone image specialists, data technicians or remote sensing technicians.  

As the field grows and technology advances, Salo said that industries such as anthropology, water management, oil and gas and environmental monitoring, are requiring entry level employees to have some level of GIS experience. Additionally, as the use of drones to collect data continues to be a rapidly growing sector of the economy, it has led to rising demand for individuals with experience as drone pilots and spatial analytics.  

“These growing industries continue to have strong employment and competitive salaries for individuals in a wide range of positions who have the necessary theoretical knowledge and practical skills to use this technology,” Salo said. “Our certificates will prepare students for these careers.” 

Job market data sets direction for new English degree concentration

In keeping with efforts to ensure UNC students are career ready, HSS faculty in the English Department also updated programming last fall to align with current market trends when they expanded the Bachelor of Arts English degree to include a new Writing, Editing and Publishing concentration.  

Several years ago, faculty members began exploring ways to aid English majors and writing minors in their transition to employment after graduation. That desire to ensure students are equipped to compete in today’s job market prompted Assistant English Professor Marc Santos to begin researching job postings. He looked at 500 jobs ads between 2018 and 2022, trying to uncover what prospective English graduates and other humanities majors should expect to see when searching for a job after graduation. 

“What’s happening is we’re getting this new job,” Santos said. “It’s not an editor. It’s not a marketing person. It’s not a social media person. It’s not a writing job. It’s all of them, and they call it a hybrid job.” 

According to Santos, between 2018 and 2022, the language used in job postings started moving away from the traditional single title of editor or writer and instead focused on a combination of skills that might include marketing and social media. And those hybrid, ‘jack-of-all-trades’ jobs increased dramatically, leading faculty to create a degree program with an interdisciplinary approach. 

The new concentration equips humanities students with the tools for effective communication across constantly evolving media platforms. The program includes courses in English, business, art, journalism and marketing and offers students the choice to specialize in either design or social media marketing or to focus on editing and writing. It’s meant to be flexible and classes in the new concentration, like ENG 301, give students the opportunity to work with a variety of organizations as part of community-engaged learning assignments. The approach is intentional so students graduate with real-world experience that their future employers may require. 

“These new programs exemplify how a liberal arts education in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences contributes to the career competencies that our students develop,” said Doerner. He added that there are other departments in the college that are also in the process of new career readiness micro-credential programming. 

— written by Deanna Herbert

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