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I graduated from the Geography and Regional Planning department in the spring of 2003 with a Master of Science Degree in Geography specializing in GIS/Cartography. I decided to pursue a degree in geography because I was interested in maps. I received my undergraduate degree in history and all of the stories I was reading had some type of map involved. I have always been fascinated with location and regional differences, so I figured geography was a good fit for me. In addition there is less than 7 percent of minorities with a degree in geography, so I wanted to start my own trail.

The aspects of the program that are marketable are the assignments given to the students by the faculty. Learning GIS and the jargon is one thing, but developing the problem-solving skills is the most important part of the field. Knowing what a clip does is one thing, but knowing when to execute a clip to accomplish a task is another. That is the difference in the program at IUP that sets it above the rest. I felt that the courses were difficult at IUP, but the reason I made it through is because the staff did not let me fail.  I am happy that the courses challenged me the way that they did because it made me stronger and tougher. The best result from my experience is that I feel that there is nothing in this field that I can’t accomplish because I have been through the toughest in my master’s study. I really believe that the department’s best attribute is the faculty, not only because the staff didn’t let me fail but they were very nice and invited me to attend events outside of school and class to make me feel comfortable in my surroundings. I had never played basketball with my teachers nor been at one of my teacher’s houses for dinner, but those experiences made me that much closer to the people that were preparing me for my career, and that is something I will always take with me.

I am currently a technical support analyst for Environmental Research Systems Institute (ESRI), and I love it. I am on call everyday to assist clientele with using ArcGIS currently version 9 and 9.1. I mostly educate users on how ArcGIS operates and how to maintain their data to avoid corruption. In addition I help users in problem solving to execute a task, fix corrupted data, fix errors that occur within the software, walk users through working with tools and pointing them in the right direction based on what they are trying to accomplish in their everyday jobs. I am currently supporting Desktop, Catalog and Toolbox but eventually I will decide on the specific aspects of the software I would like to concentrate on. (For ex: Survey Analyst, SDE, ArcIMS, Raster, ArcObjects, Network Analysis, etc). It is up to me to make the decision on what I prefer and I am excited that I have this option. Before this I was a technical support analyst for an ESRI business partner in Nashville, Tennesee, called Smart Data Strategies. I performed well and learned enough to apply at ESRI for my current position and I was blessed to receive the job.

This is a wonderful field and it is not yet reached its potential. For prospective students looking for the career path, geography is the way to go. Spatial knowledge is becoming more and more important to our society and the field is continuing to grow. In my two years of experience I have worked with real estate agents, cartographers on the city and county levels, 911 emergency centers, General Motors, Cell phone companies, school districts, commercial airlines, land appraisers, college and university faculty. In addition I have worked with a number of federal government agencies, all of the Armed Forces (Army, Marines, Navy, and the Air Force) Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), US Census Bureau, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) along with others.

There is no lack of work in this field because so many people are affected by geography but there are not enough people in the field to occupy the jobs. In lots of cases there are people that have been granted jobs but not skilled enough in GIS to be effective in their positions. This sets companies back because there is a learning period that their workers have to go through to get them up to speed. Anyone who pursues and completes a degree in geography at IUP should have a lot of opportunities based on the skills that they will have and will get hired for a decent salary because of their advanced preparation. Apply to the Department of Geography and Regional Planning at IUP so that not only will you get the tools but the “map” to follow to become a great success in GIS.

Joseph Beard
M.S. (2003): Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Current: Technical Support Analyst, ESRI

  • Geography and Regional Planning Department
  • Leonard Hall, Room 9
    421 North Walk
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-2250
  • Fax: 724-357-6479
  • Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 8:00 a.m.–Noon
  • 1:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m.