Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a relatively obscure field. Its obscurity makes many people think it is a young field, and, in the grand scheme of things, it is quite young. But in the realm of computer science, it really isn’t that new.
In fact, it dates to the 1950’s and 1960’s and was originally born of work in the public sector in Canada. An ambitious plan to gather important demographic data exceeded existing technical ability to complete the project. Instead of failing to meet the goal, the project resulted in a marriage of technology, data and data visualization techniques never before seen.
In essence, GIS has a long history of being a cutting edge computer technology pushing the bounds of current technical ability. So, it should come as no surprise that you can pursue a degree in it online. In fact, it is available online at some rather prestigious educational institutions, online gis degree programs generally do not have the shady reputation some online educational programs suffer and are typically quite high quality.
This high quality is due in part to the fact that GIS is a computer science niche, thus you have to use a computer to learn it whether your instructor is there in person or via remote connection. Since it requires substantial hands on technical work, traditional GIS degrees mostly get taught in a computer lab rather than a standard classroom. Lectures constitute a relatively small part of the traditional curriculum.
Thus, it is a very natural transition to let your work station be your own computer at home instead of requiring you to log in to a university computer on campus. Unlike some other subjects, it is comfortably close to what you would do in a traditional classroom setting. The subject lends itself very well to the online learning format.
In an increasingly plugged in world, this is good news for anyone wanting to pursue a degree with promising career prospects. Like computer sciences generally, GIS is a well paid field and the positions can be difficult to fill. It has a bright future. It can be part of a brighter future for students or career changers looking for new challenges. It is intellectually gratifying, well-paid, and positioned to remain an important part of our ever more technological future. In an unstable economy, few fields look as promising for a real career as this one.