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I am a final year software engineering student, and I'm keen to make a career in GIS. I am a beginner-intermediate at C++. What should I work upon to possess the adequate skills? Also can you recommend some good colleges for a GIS-oriented Postgraduate course?

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A good way to get your hands dirty is to contribute to one of the many FOSS projects out there. For instance, there are over 600 bugs in the QGIS database. It also has a good plugin architecture, so if you can think of something that hasn't been covered, then write and contribute your own plugin. I'm on the developer mailing list, and they're a good bunch of people always on the lookout for people willing to contribute.

Have a look at the OSGEO website which has a number of open source projects under its auspices that you could contribute to, which gives you a chance to find an area you're interested in. In fact, as you're educated to degree level, it would be a good idea to start thinking about concentrating on a few areas of expertise - do you want to deal with database programming, cartography, or like me combining my degree in archaeology with my love of all things maps and programming to advance the use of GIS in archaeology.

A possibility might be to see if your national mapping agency is hiring. I worked for the Ordnance Survey in the UK as a GIS programmer with no prior GIS experience apart from a love of maps.

As for colleges, it depends on which country you're in and whether you're willing to move. In the UK, Leeds, Edinburgh, and Sheffield, to name just a few, have GIS courses, but they tend to be part of a more general geography degree.

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Leeds has a masters in GIS program. –  iant May 7 '11 at 19:16
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There is a lot more to GIS than programming. –  Matthew Snape May 7 '11 at 19:49
    
@Matthew - True, but I made an assumption that as he's a software engineer, that's where his (and my) main interests lay. –  MerseyViking May 7 '11 at 20:13
    
@Matthew @MerseyViking Yes, that's my primary skill-set. But here I feel the need to mention that I'm quite good at hand-drawn maps. Its one of my hobbies and I love dealing with maps. And relatively much better at CAD and 3D modeling subjects than my peers. No doubt I'm interested in GIS. –  Kunal Vyas May 7 '11 at 20:37
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my recommendation to have look : sketchup.google.com which move your CAD and 3D modelling to world and demonstrate it easily to others. –  Senthil May 7 '11 at 21:18

Making sure that you understand geodesy..to me..the kind of ideas underpinning GIS is paramount. I have taken trigonometry and an assorted list of math curriculum. Please correct me if I am wrong, I think Trigonometry is important in GIS programming for figuring out route and relationships between GIS data..for example, if the user picks a point and then wants to create the nearest point on all lines in a line dataset in relation to that point...programmatically...

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+1 for making sure you understand geodesy. Besides basic math and trigonometry, you will need a good understanding of coordinate systems, cartographic projections and reference datums –  Matej Feb 14 at 15:51

In Canada, Fleming College, Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) and BC Institute of Technology (BCIT) are good choices. All I would recommend beyond the scope of what you'll absorb in a post-grad is that you familiarize yourself with a greater range of open-source software. Mostly you'll learn using the ESRI suite, which is licensed to colleges free I believe, but many in the industry will opt to avoid the licensing fees or they like to juggle different software. Job postings frequently mention FME, PostGIS, Geoserver, etc.

One more thing. Even with a programming focus, you would do well to create a portfolio with some stellar maps. The industry cites map-production skills frequently.

The demand for fresh, skilled GIS workers does not seem great anymore though.

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