Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

GIS word cloud, including geo spatial knowledge support cartography

Geographic information systems (GIS) is one of the top emerging industries in the 21st century. It combines cartography, spatial analysis, and data management to support research and inform decision making. The Geography Department at Portland Community College offers a one-year GIS Certificate that combines GIS concepts, technology, and real-world experience.

Are You...

  1. A student who wishes to acquire technical and topical knowledge to support your major or professional field?
  2. A student who wishes to acquire specialized training to meet current or future job requirements calling for GIS knowledge?
  3. Spending hours looking at maps to better understand the world you live in?

What is GIS?

GIS is a framework to acquire, store, manage, analyze, and visualize spatial data. Traditional paper maps are able to display just one view of data, at one point in time. Using GIS allows the display of information in various spaces and times. GIS provides a suite of tools used to support many kinds of decision-making, as well as statistical and spatial analysis.

GIS Program

The GIS Certificate prepares students to apply GIS with a solid theoretical foundation. A diverse range of GIS skills are covered including data capture, spatial and statistical analysis, modeling and cartography.

The GIS courses take a practical, hands-on approach. Students will not only learn how to use a specific software – they will apply GIS using a variety of projects and methodologies. With a combination of lab exercises, individual projects, and a community-based, collaborative long-term project, students will learn how to plan, design, and execute GIS projects.


The curriculum consists of 20 required credits and 24 elective credits. See the Geography Catalog or the GIS Program Brochure details. The required coursework consists of the following classes:

  • Geo 264: Maps & Geospatial Concepts
  • Geo 265: Introduction to GIS
  • Geo 266: GIS Analysis
  • Geo 267: Application topics in GIS
  • COMM 111: Public Speaking

GIS Job Market

The Bureau of Labor Statistics have categorized GIS related jobs as an emerging industry and one that should experience higher than average employment growth over the next 10 years. Geographers with GIS experience or knowledge have the strongest job outlook, especially with government, business, local municipalities, real estate developers, utilities, and environmental consulting. There will also be an increase in job opportunities to apply GIS skills and technologies in areas such as emergency assistance and other non-traditional areas. Oregon has the 2nd highest concentration of people employed in the geography field, with a mean annual wage of $61,420.

Below is a chart of the projection Bureau of Labor Statistics data for industries with a strong GIS focus.

Occupational Title Employment 2010 Projected Employment 2020 Mean Annual Wage 2010
Geographer 1,600 2,200 $74,170
Cartographer & Photogrammetrists 13,800 16,900 $60,110
Geoscientist 33,800 40,900 $82,500
Surveying & Mapping Technicians 56,900 66,000 $42,050
Environmental Scientist and Protection Technician 29,600 36,600 $41,380
Urban & Regional Planner 40,300 46,800 $67,350


Oregon Universities that have 4-year degree in Geography or GIS:

  • Portland State University
  • Oregon State University
  • University of Oregon
  • Oregon Institute of Technology
  • Western Oregon University
  • Southern Oregon University

What's Next?

  1. Apply for admission to PCC.
  2. Talk with an academic advisor.