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Thread: GIS, urban planning, and database programming

  1. #1
    Apr 2009
    Richmond, VA

    GIS, urban planning, and database programming

    How much of a prerequisite is a degree in database programming if one wants to study GIS?

    I understand that there is a bit of a dichotomy between studying GIS in order to develop it and studying GIS in order to use it (for example, in a field such as urban or transportation planning, which are the fields Iím trying to break into). I have taken a few programming classes and have basic knowledge of a programming language (Java), but my bachelorís degree was not in database programming. Now I am thinking of going to grad school to study geography with a concentration in GIS. Of the three places to which Iím applying, George Mason University does not list a degree in database programming as one of the prerequisites. The head of the program there tells me that some 40% or all applicants were ďtraditional geographyĒ majors. At Arizona State University, I was told that their program does focus on the programming side of GIS. Finally, Ohio State University says on their programís web site that ďexposure toĒ programming is helpful. None of the three places requires it, though.

    At the same time, I hear the opinion being expressed that GIS should only ever be studied as an add-on to database programming. Even if the program does not require it, that person says, the real world does. If I want to study GIS, I need to get a bachelorís in database programming first, even if this means getting a second bachelorís. My plan, meanwhile, is to get a masterís in geography with a focus on GIS, and then a certificate in database programming right after that. Is this a good plan, or will I have to get a second bachelorís after all?

    Does anyone know anything about the Master of Science in Geographic and Cartographic Sciences program at George Mason University? What about the Masterís of Advanced Studies in GIS program at Arizona State University or the M.A. in Geography program at Ohio State? Or, for that matter, does anyone know anybody who is or was enrolled in one of those programs, and what they have to say about them?

    Thank you for the information.

  2. #2
    Don't know anything about the schools you are interested in (not those specific programs), but Clark University is supposed to have the best geography programs in the nation.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Where the weak are killed and eaten.
    In my mind the heirarchy is Planning, Database, then GIS.

    In order to use GIS effectively you must first understand how relational databases work. Otherwise, you are just slapping layers on top of each other and not using any of the analysis capabilities or able to create your own layers.

    Learning databases is not all that hard, but it does require work and the ability to understand how one table relates to another. I can't tell you how many times I or others in my office try to query the database and end up with 3,000 records when we know that the layer should only contain 300. The more better you are at finding out why your query contains 3,000 records, the more accurate the analysis will be from your map. For example, if you want to know how much you are spending in a certain geographic area on projects, you will want to have the map portray those projects accurately and not double-count them.

    I am amazed at the number of people who post here that have the flexibility or money to attend whatever university that you want to. Its almost like there is no recession or no consequences to borrowing $20,000 a year for school.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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