Need for Geographic Information Sciences

Geographic Information Science is a powerful tool, applied by researchers in diverse disciplines.  The need for accurate, multi-dimensional geospatial information is routinely used at all levels within academic, public, private and governmental units.  There has been and will continue to be a need for faculty and students to become more skilled in the use of GISci in order to meet the demands of academic research and applications in the private and public sectors.

Student demands.  In recent years, student demand for the core GISci courses have experienced marked increases in enrollments, with many courses doubling and more than tripling in enrollments.  New courses have been developed in Remote Sensing and the use of GPS technology.  Historically, students from Geography, Biology and Geology constitute the highest number of enrollees, however, each semester students from Sociology, Economics, Political Science, Business, Computer Sciences and non-traditional students participate.  The GISci Laboratory provides a state-of-the-art facility for faculty to improve the delivery of an appropriate, integrative curriculum to meet the diverse needs of our students.

Faculty demands.  Faculty demands for tools to facilitate and strengthen their research endeavors often include the need to accurately collect, compile, analyze, and report geospatial relationships.  A diverse set of GISci application programs to meet specific requirements of users from varied units across the campus are available in the lab.  We upgrade our software when new versions are released, providing the most current applications to meet the needs of users.

Research, Contract and Outreach demands. There have been repeated requests for specialists associated with the GISci Laboratory to enter into contractual work with a variety of outside units.  Most of the Geography faculty actively conduct research with their students and many of the projects utilize GISci techniques. Faculty have been successful in obtaining external or internal funding to pay students for participating in the research.  Many contracts involve paid student interns or recent graduates to collect data, oversee work projects and assist in production of deliverables to the clients.  Within the university, a variety of offices request analysis of geographic data and maps that summarize the results of the projects. 

A partial list of partnerships is provided below:

U. S. National Park Service
Illinois Counties: Coles, Macon and Edgar
Illinois Cities: Charleston, Decatur and Tuscola
Charleston Cemeteries Inc.
Cochran’s Grove Cemetery,
J. F. Edwards Electrical Contractors (wind farm infrastructure mapping)

Research grants
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Illinois State Water Survey
Vermillion County Soil and Water Conservation District
Embarras River Management Association
EIU Council on Faculty Research (numerous projects)
EIU Zeller Excellence in Geographic Research (numerous projects)
Colorado Historical Society

EIU partnerships
Facilities Planning and Management
Office of Enrollment Management
Office of Admissions
Honors College
Biological Sciences Department faculty and students
History Department faculty
Sociology Department faculty

Additionally, there exists more than a decade of collaboration with geospatial analysts from SIU Carbondale and the University of Illinois.

Workforce demands.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, the job outlook for cartographers, photogrammetrists, survey & mapping technicians and allied disciplines that use GISci should experience faster than average employment growth for the period 2008 – 2018.  Mapping specialists from a variety of disciplines, who have a bachelor’s degree and strong technical skills, should have favorable job prospects.


Job prospects for graduates with GISci experience


Employment growth potential

Expected job growth




Environmental Scientist

Much faster than average


Cartographers & Photogrammetrists

Much faster than average



Much faster than average


Social Scientist

Much faster than average



Much faster than average


Biological Scientist

Much faster than average


Surveying & Mapping Technicians

Much faster than average


Urban and Regional Planners

Faster than average


Geoscientist & Hydrologist

Faster than average


Biological Technician

Faster than average


Political Scientist

Faster than average


Atmospheric Scientist

Faster than average



More slowly than average


Geological & Petroleum Technician

Little or no change





Information gathered online from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition