Uni of Redlands vs Uni of Arizona for MS-GIS
August 27, 2012 3:39 PM   Subscribe

I got accepted to the MS-GIS program at the University of Redlands as well as the MS-GIST program at the University of Arizona. Looking for experiences, advice, opinions.

I've done a lot of research, but the pro/con columns always come out equal!
So what I'm after is any anecdotal or personal stories about what anyone did/did not like about the programs, quality of classes, professors, financial aid/scholarships, etc. Things I can't find on the program website, you know?
And *Most Importantly* (for me)...did the degree lead to job offers?
Thanks in advance!
posted by tillei to Education (5 answers total)
I am not personally familiar with either program. However, Redlands is about 20 minutes from Riverside. I have a Certificate in GIS from UC-Riverside which is the equvalent of master's level work. It was an excellent program, in part because it is so near the headquarters for ESRI, the maker of the dominant GIS software on the planet (at least it was at the time, and I am guessing still is).

One of the staff said they sometimes got calls from other universities trying to set up GIS programs and they would get asked "How on earth do you find people who can teach it?" They had no such problem. They were hip deep in such people.

If you have nothing else to go on, I would guess that Redlands likely has a geographic advantage over U. of Arizona in terms of finding very well qualified professors. I also attended the annual ESRI conference while in school. It was in San Diego that year. Not sure if it is always in San Diego, but that might be something worth considering.

I heard that hiring rates were really high for the program I attanded. My resume had a 50% call back rate and I was interviewing for fairly well paid entry level jobs. But I have a serious medical condition and was on a lot of prescription medication at the time, which was very evident when I interviewed. So I tanked the interviews. After I got off the strongest drugs, I ultimately got an unrelated entry level job which, while above minimum wage, paid only half as much as the GIS jobs I had been interviewing for.
posted by Michele in California at 5:40 PM on August 27, 2012

I'm not a GIST or geology or related student, but I am a student at the University of Arizona. Our geology program is consistently ranked top three in the nation, so I can only assume our MS-GIST is quality as well.

I would not make any assumptions about the quality of our professors based on geography--we have many very well qualified geography professors at least.

I hope someone more qualified answers your question!
posted by Precision at 7:13 PM on August 27, 2012

I went to the University of Redlands, though not for GIS. They're making a huge push (that degree is somewhat, though not terribly, new), what with ESRI being based in Redlands. The Redlands degree's really starting to get name recognition and man, ESRI's also doing well in the field.

Two points: Redlands is very very very hideously expensive. For master's, my experience (I have a friend who's getting a master's degree there now in music) is that they do not offer tons of aid. Redlands relies a little much on tuition for funding so there's not a lot of discount unless you're an excellent student (I ended up with an awesome scholarship, but that was for undergrad). To their credit, they are very upfront with you about that: they state very clearly that program fees are high and scholarship opportunities are low, unless you go through the federal or private process (have you applied to the places listed on the fin aid page? I know you said you've looked at it already).

Second, I looked at their GIS program and it's clearly oriented towards the practical and towards ESRI's software--is that what you want to do and where you want to take the degree? Because that's where they're going to steer you.

I'm guessing--and you should check with ESRI and other GIS firms you might be interested in for a straight answer--that the practical orientation of the U of R program feeds neatly into the job market. But you should press them on whether you will learn the skills you need for the future and not just for now.

The University of Arizona program does not require a thesis to graduate, does not require GRE scores for entrance, and meets in the evenings for one year. That, to me, is not as demanding a degree as you might get elsewhere. I'd ask to speak to a current student and press them about workload. I'm looking at the U of R entrance requirements and they are much more demanding, which is likely to lead to a better outcome as far as job preparation.

I hope that helps a bit--I'm sorry to say I don't have anyone in my Redlands acquaintance who can speak directly to your concerns. I spent four years at Redlands and the past ten years in higher ed, and though I couldn't give you as much anecdotal info as I might wish, I did try to interpret their website in light of what I know about the reality.

Note: it's U of R. Never ever Uni of Redlands. Always U of R.
posted by librarylis at 7:17 PM on August 27, 2012

Note: it's U of R. Never ever Uni of Redlands. Always U of R.
True! And don't forget the Och Tamale!
posted by 6:1 at 11:00 PM on August 27, 2012

ESRI, the maker of the dominant GIS software on the planet (at least it was at the time, and I am guessing still is).

The whole galaxy I believe. How I hate ESRI. Anyways, I'd go to Redlands if possible based on the description if it's reasonable financially but keep in mind that GIS specialists are in pretty high demand and don't go broke getting a masters in it. Unless something changes radically in the next two years you'll get a good paying job fairly easily. I know several people who took ESRI certificate courses back in the day and have never had a hard time finding work.
posted by fshgrl at 11:33 PM on August 27, 2012

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