Is spatial really special?
Many GIS professionals come into the field from a specific discipline and become interested in GIS as a tool with which to accomplish their goals in their original field and by attrition or intent begin to shift their focus towards GIS. I followed this path myself. After going to school to study wildlife biology, I learned about GIS and enrolled in a minor program in GIS and spatial analysis. I think that this is a good thing in many ways. People with an interest in solving problems in other disciplines will push the field forward in directions that someone who’s sole focus was on GIS would be unlikely to go. We need those people in the industry.
But GIS is a technical discipline. At its core GIS is database technology, albeit with a spatial focus. In my humble opinion many university GIS departments, especially at the certificate level, focus too much on the “spatial” aspects of GIS and not enough on the underlying database technology. As a result these programs produce GIS professionals who are very good at cartography and spatial analysis but who find themselves unprepared for the modern GIS job market where there is an increasing need for people with skills in enterprise level database administration, SQL, and web-based GIS. Even if they are not performing those tasks themselves, GIS professionals should at least have an understanding of the technology in order to be able to communicate effectively with those who will be performing those tasks. Continue reading “What can a spatial database do for you?”