I'd like some input on choosing an elective for my GIS study. My choices are:

1) Database management in GIS 2) Python and Spatial Analysis in GIS 3) Project management in GIS

From what I understand, programming and database skills are both hot commodities; however, I think I would enjoy project management and the "big picture" approach.

I already have a Master's in Geography and have taught undergraduate geography, but I'm going back to get these skills so that I can do geography outside of the classroom.

Would each of those classes match up with a different role within the GIS field, or is there more overlap?


I think you are right when you ask if these line up with different areas of focus within GIS.

Project management is going to be important, especially if doing consulting/contract style work (even if basically contract internally for other departments), but will set you up for more of a project manager type role. This may be good for higher level initial employment or help you rise through the ranks of some organizations a bit quicker, but won't likely help as much with working with GIS data in a lot of the basic core edit/analysis type duties. This would be good in combination with some other business/administrative, IT, or generic project management experience and/or education.

Python/Analysis will set you up for a basic GIS analyst role (may help with entry level/getting in the door). I would personally recommend having a class such as this no matter what direction you are going to go because it will help you understand the core end result of most GIS projects (most GIS projects in the end involve a lot of either data collection and/or analysis, unless it's cartographically/data-visualization intensive, but you have a geography background, so I'm assuming that's side not going to be as steep of a learning curve anyway). I don't know of many GIS people who at one point or another are not asked to perform some analysis on data, much of which could be made easier, especially in the newer versions of ArcGIS, by having a working understanding of Python essentials.

Database will help with being a DBA (database administrator), but if that's your route, you need to look into taking more IT focused courses. I would not suggest this as the only class of the 3 if you aren't sure which you want. A well designed and administered database can be an absolute life saver and make some projects a whole lot easier, but if you're going to be in a small GIS shop without a dedicated DBA, you aren't going to necessarily need all the fancy things the class might teach you (so you may get more out of one of the other classes) and if you're going to be in a larger GIS shop, they are likely to have a dedicated DBA position, either in GIS or in IT.

Just some thoughts

And all of that is assuming you are planning on working in a GIS department/organization. If you want to work solo, then take all 3 (and I'm not kidding on that; I'm a one person GIS office in my organization and I wish I had all 3 because I have to do a bit of everything)!


I would prioritize the elective choice based on your interests. Database admin. and project management come with the job, and in my opinion, play a supporting role to the analysis. Also in my opinion, they are a bit boring compared to the analysis side.

With that said, if your spatial analysis and programming skills are lacking, by all means take the Python and Spatial Analysis elective. However, if your Geography degree already equipped you with those skills, take the database management elective. I would avoid the project management elective because I believe most employers will hire GIS project managers based on work experience rather than coursework.

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