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GIS / spatial Python or Java for GIS skills?

jberg93

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Hi All,

This question straddles the line between the Student Union / Workplace and Careers forums but ultimately it's about gaining workplace skills so here I am...

I'm in a GIS Certificate program with three tiers: I, II, and Associate's Degree. Right now, I'm just focused on tier I - thus far it's been a great introduction to using both QGIS and ArcGIS. I don't plan to be the "GIS" guy, but I'm not working in the field, and GIS skills on my resume are one thing I hope to bridge the gap between my current role and planning. I applied to a bunch of schools as well and GIS again was that bridge between a somewhat irrelevant background and planning.

That being said, having spoken to professors at some of the grad programs, GIS is integrated into course instruction and not viewed as a distinct discipline like it might have once been. Whether that holds true in the workplace who knows.

I have to take two (2) Software courses. My options are:

1) Object-Oriented Programming Methodologies in Java and Object-Oriented Programming Methodologies in Python
2) Object-Oriented Programming Methodologies in Java and Database Management Systems (Java, and not Python, is a pre-req).
3) Object-Oriented Programming Methodologies in Java and Intro to Stats (not required) and Data Visualization

Option 3 intrigues me because Data Visualization sounds very interesting. It would set me back one quarter (3 months), but Stats/Data Visualization seem like valuable skills. Python, oddly, is not a pre-req to any of the next possible required courses. It would be a standalone course and the only other course I take could be Java as I would have no pre-reqs, Java is the foundational pre-req.

Does anyone have any real-world insight into the above? Thanks in advance for your help. Stay well.
 

Dan

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Personally, I would say "no", unless you're doing some kind of scripting work, or making plugins to extend the capabilities of a program (and existing plugins). For example, Sketchup plugins are written in Python. Advanced Sketchup users don't need to worry about knowing Python, unless they're trying to do something esoteric that the program or existing plugins don't handle. Same thing with Word and Visual Basic -- 99.9% of what you'll do with any part of the Microsoft Office suite won't call for writing a script.

For any kind of data visualization I've done with GIS, I never needed to code. Granted, this is with the ArcGIS suite, and not QGIS. I had to use bare-bones SQL for database queries years ago, but I never needed to code in PHP (aside from modding scripts that query databases for making dynamic Web sites).

That being said, Java and Python can be very handy. Maybe someone else can chime in.
 

jberg93

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Interesting - SQL is a big part of the Database Management course. All of the course assignments are submitted in the form of SQL scripts, the quizzes are said to "reinforce knowledge of SQL commands", and the final is "a project that focuses on relational databases and SQL using the MySQL system". In that case Option 2 may be worthwhile.

Sketchup and AutoCAD seem to be more in the design/modeling realm if I'm not mistaken - which is intriguing but professionally not where I see myself.

In my uninformed opinion, it brings up a larger topic about the role of software in planning - granted I'm not in the workplace so I wouldn't know much. The question being for how much longer will a software skill set be a centralized/niche one? I watched a talk by Steve Steinberg, the GIO for LA County, and he spoke of GIS as if it should be it's own department. A centralized hub where all County agencies direct GIS tasks/projects that the GIS office sends back. Yet, a friend working for Dep't of City Planning in NYC said GIS was a common skill for entry-level planners to have, and that it was not outsourced in the way the LA County GIO would hope. But I digress...
 

nrschmid

Cyburbian
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2,877
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22
Python.

I think it's a more versatile programming language that is used in many applications outside of GIS. Think AI.
 

Clange000

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10
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1
Agreed. Python is more common however, having been doing GIS (as a planner) for 5 years I haven’t needed to code myself. I have borrowed python script but never needed to actually code.
GIS is typically housed in individual departments, especially larger jurisdictions. However, GIS skills are very valuable to land a first planner gig. It looks good on a resume and makes you a more diversified candidate. Plus I really feel critical thinking through GIS can make you a better planner in being able to problem solve through various issues.
 

estromberg

Cyburbian
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269
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11
Java is not used in GIS at all, except in older, stand alone runtime applications that have been completely replaced by newer, more modern systems. Javascript is used in web gis, but they are not the same. Python is used a lot in GIS and understanding the fundamentals of database management is a good skill to have in GIS. While you may not be managing the enterprise database instances personally, you will likely be creating data and dealing with file geodatabases and understanding schema and data types is a good thing.
 

jberg93

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Agreed. Python is more common however, having been doing GIS (as a planner) for 5 years I haven’t needed to code myself. I have borrowed python script but never needed to actually code.
Java is not used in GIS at all, except in older, stand alone runtime applications that have been completely replaced by newer, more modern systems. Javascript is used in web gis, but they are not the same. Python is used a lot in GIS and understanding the fundamentals of database management is a good skill to have in GIS. While you may not be managing the enterprise database instances personally, you will likely be creating data and dealing with file geodatabases and understanding schema and data types is a good thing.

@Clange000: I figured as such. It's a requirement nonetheless, though I would imagine (see: hope) I wouldn't need to go to deep down the Python (or Java) rabbit hole for the Cert to still be of value to me professionally.

@estromberg: Unfortunately, Java is the only pre-req for the Database Management course as they use JDBC. If I were to take Python, it would be on its' own, for the sole purpose of taking an intro Python course. My schedule permitting, I might do this if it's worthwhile to know. I'm going to email the department for their suggestion - though I don't think anybody is really in the planning field, so I guess we'll see.

Really it comes down to what's more important - Python or Database Management?

Appreciate everyone's help and hopefully it's helpful to others in GIS Cert programs.
 

estromberg

Cyburbian
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269
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@Clange000: I figured as such. It's a requirement nonetheless, though I would imagine (see: hope) I wouldn't need to go to deep down the Python (or Java) rabbit hole for the Cert to still be of value to me professionally.

@estromberg: Unfortunately, Java is the only pre-req for the Database Management course as they use JDBC. If I were to take Python, it would be on its' own, for the sole purpose of taking an intro Python course. My schedule permitting, I might do this if it's worthwhile to know. I'm going to email the department for their suggestion - though I don't think anybody is really in the planning field, so I guess we'll see.

Really it comes down to what's more important - Python or Database Management?

Appreciate everyone's help and hopefully it's helpful to others in GIS Cert programs.
Much of your database management will be done using python scripts.
 

jberg93

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Thanks everyone for your help/suggestions.

Since there were so many responses recommending I take Python, I reached out to the department head to ask why Python was not a pre-req for the Database Management course. Turns out it is - it was a typo in the syllabus and course description online. They're fixing.

Not only was I helped, but you all made the (GIS / CS) world (at that community college) a better place! Thanks all!
 
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