Learning to Invest in your Future

05-31-2022 07:27 AM
Esri Contributor
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Chances are you’ve heard the term “lifelong learning” – the ongoing pursuit of knowledge for personal or professional development. Because the GIS industry is so dynamic in terms of both technological change and growth in application areas (e.g., health, public safety, infrastructure), lifelong learning is key to career success.



Wondering where to begin?  A wide range of resources from 2-minute video tutorials to professional certificates and masters degrees are available. Choosing the right resources for your needs depends in part on understanding your goals.

A distinction is often made between “training” focused on learning the skills one needs to do a job and “education” focused on broad, conceptual understanding.  Daniel Burrus summarizes the distinction concisely:

“You train people for performance. You educate people for understanding.”

Both are valuable. Learning to solve a short-term problem often can be addressed with training while learning to design or change an entire system is often better addressed through education.  Below are resources progressing from shorter, training-focused activities to longer, education-focused activities.


  • Esri Academy includes many free hands-on tutorials ranging in length from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Many Esri Press books include tutorials
  • ArcGIS Pro “quick start” hands-on tutorials range in length from 15 to 60 minutes.
  • ArcGIS Developer Tutorials are hands-on activities for learning to build apps
  • Esri Academy Training Seminars are videos ranging in length from 30 to 60 minutes.
  • GeoTech Center’s Concept Modules and Demonstration Videos range in length from 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Many colleges/universities publish free GIS tutorials online; search “GIS tutorial” in a web browser or YouTube.  If you want to learn a specific skill, add it to your search (e.g., GIS hotspot tutorial).


Many professional associations and GIS user groups offer workshops as part of an annual conference, and many colleges/universities offer workshops through a continuing education/extension unit.

  • Many Esri User Groups list workshops under the heading ‘Education’, ‘Events’, or ‘Training’.
  • Professional associations such as URISA, ASPRS, NACo, and many others also list workshops under ‘Education’, ‘Events’, or ‘Training’.

For the purpose of this blog, a workshop is rather arbitrarily defined as an episodic experience, in contrast to a course that has regular offerings.


Colleges/universities as well as commercial entities offer courses of varying lengths (from a few hours to several weeks) and varying formats (online, hybrid, instructor-led). In many cases, courses contribute towards the completion of a credential such as a certificate or degree.

  • Many college/university GIS courses can be found with a web search or by searching the institution’s website.
  • MOOC providers such as Udemy, Coursera, and edX offer GIS courses.
  • Esri Academy offers web courses, instructor-led courses, and MOOCs.
  • Several Esri Partners offer courses; one with a unique model is Bootcamp GIS, which follows the model of coding bootcamps.

Credentials and degrees

  • Hundreds of colleges and universities offer certificate and degree programs; you can search by specialty (e.g., GeoInt, resource management, data science), location or format.
  • The GeoTech Center National Program Finder provides a directory of certificate and degree programs in the United States.
  • Esri offers a Technical Certification Program that validates expertise in Esri products.
  • The GIS Certification Institute offers the GISP certification program based on a combination of education, experience, ethics, and contributions to the profession.

I hope blog this provides a helpful starting point, and I welcome comments and suggestions on additional resources for GIS training and education, especially collections of resources available outside the United States.

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About the Author
Esri Education Manager. Promoting value of Geo in learning and research to improve decision making. Firm believer that a map is worth a thousand words (at least). Midfielder. Chocolate fiend.