Beyond the Map – Geography in the 21st Century

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Geographic Information Systems, or GIS technology is everywhere. You use it every time you play Pokémon or check the weather on your phone. Beyond your cell phone, GIS technology is embedded in many career fields, including agriculture and natural resources, urban planning, transportation, retail and food service, and law enforcement.

GIS is technology that captures, stores, verifies, and displays data related to positions on Earth’s surface. It can show many different kinds of data on one map in sets of data called layers.


GIS is part of the MCC Associate of Arts Degree with a concentration in Geography. This pathway is designed for students interested in a career as a GIS Technician or a career in information technology, urban planning, surveying, cartography, the geosciences, or teaching.

“In a nutshell, GIS gives people and companies the power of data-driven information to make better decisions related to geographic space,” said Frank Sobie, Associate Professor of Geography for MCC.

“Having GIS skills is definitely a plus in today’s job market,” Sobie said. “Our Introduction to GIS class (GEOG-143) provides very valuable skills for students in many degree pathways, including business and entrepreneurship, marketing, and graphic design,” says Fine Arts & Social Sciences Dean Mary Cusack. “If you can map where a business’s clientele are coming from and identify gaps where more targeted advertising could help grow the business, you become a valuable employee or consultant. We can teach you how to do that.”

Students who pursue a bachelor degree in a GIS-related field will find themselves highly employable. Estimated growth of GIS jobs ranges from 11- 35 percent annually. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates over 3,600 new jobs in GIS through 2024, making it one of the top 20 fastest-growing occupations nationally. With a median salary of $60,000 for entry-level jobs, students who enjoy working with cutting-edge technology will find GIS a rewarding career in more ways than one.

For more information about the Associate Degree of Arts with a concentration in Geography, visit or call the Fine Arts & Social Sciences Division at MCC
at 810-762-0332.



GIS in the Field

The Genesee County 911 Emergency Central Dispatch Center uses a GIS mapping system that incorporates pictometry imagery, street and road maps, street addresses, and fire hydrant locations to help dispatchers guide law enforcement and emergency personnel to locations during a 911 emergency call.

Frank Sobie, Associate Professor of Geography for MCC, takes both his Crime Mapping and Intro to Geographic Information Systems classes to the Genesee County 911 Dispatch Center to experience how GIS technology is applied in a professional setting.

The Genesee County 911 Central Dispatch Center uses an electronic mapping display that dispatchers use to track police, fire and ambulance units during a call or a chase. The electronic map is synchronized with pictometry imagery, creating a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area so the dispatcher can help personnel on the ground with information such as the location of outbuildings, barriers, hiding places and natural features like creeks, bodies of water or wooded areas.

Pictometry imagery is a series of photographs taken by an airplane and stitched together into a photographic map. Unlike satellite imagery (e.g. Google Earth), pictometry imagery is taken from a lower altitude.



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