This is mostly for my mom, dad, and various close friends who are vaguely interested in my impending career path.
A month and a half ago, I may or may not have panicked over grad school. And by “may or may not,” I mean there was a lot of crying, a bit of desperation, and a whole ton of soul-searching. On the other hand, I have had a month and a half to figure my shit out, and I’d like to share all the progress I’ve made.
I’ve learned a lot about what my end goals are, and consequently what I want from Grad School. For example, I would prefer to attend an applied school than a theoretical school – meaning, I dislike research. I want a Masters with which I can step out into the real world and say, “Look! I have a skill! And I’m good at it! Hire me!” I do not want to go into research for the rest of my life. I do not want to be a professor. I want to work for the government or a company – mostly because I want my work to have a result. A visible, physical result.
On the other hand, I am not inherently opposed to research. It is a necessary, vital part of work. And in fact, I have learned something quite interesting about myself: I like statistics. In a gooey, makes me sit on the edge of my seat kind of way. In reality, like I said, I like producing a visible, physical result. Thus, I believe I have found my specialization: Geographic Information System, or GIS. Essentially, I want to collect data (or take data that has been collected by someone else) to create maps. In particular, I want to create maps that answer questions and visually explain results.
There are a lot of reasons this focus is important to me, but what it boils down to is that I don’t want to research one particular system or animal or disease; instead, I want to research and collect all the data I can physically manage, put it in a map, and make it easier to find the results that we may or may not have been looking for in the first place. And then I want to make that data accessible to any researcher who needs it.
What I’m looking for in a School
So what do I need for a career in GIS? First, I need a broad understanding of Environmental Science as a whole; as such, I am looking at broader programs which are more technical based than research based. Second, and more importantly, I need a school with a moderately good GIS program. So, I’ve narrowed it down to the following schools, where the bold schools come closest to what I am looking at:
- Louisiana State – Emphasis in Forestry Resources or Renewable Natural Resources
- University of California at Berkeley – Emphasis in Forestry
- University of California at Davis – Emphasis in Ecology or Conservation Biology (high in GIS)
- University of Denver – Emphasis in Ecosystems or Geospatial Analysis (GIS)
- University of Georgia – Emphasis in Forestry or Ecology
- University of Washington – Emphasis in Forest Ecology or Wildlife Sciences; alternatively, Masters of Built Environments.
The next steps are as follows:
- This week, I will research 1-3 professors for each school. I will then email each professor to try to set up a phone conversation, which is both easier to schedule and manage, as well as more memorable and more useful.
- After talking to professors, I will re-evaluate how close each school comes to meeting my needs. Subsequently, I will see about arranging a trip to see these schools and meet some professors and graduate students in person. I hope to visit late October, but the possibility of this happening depends heavily on both time frame and financial situation.
- I will start talking to professors, employers, and whomever necessary about recommendation letters by the beginning of October.
- By the end of November, all my applications will be filled and sent off. And then I can cry and be stressed again – but only then!
So there you have it. I’ve figured out what I want to do, I’ve narrowed it down to some programs I think will work, and I have a plan about talking to professors, seeing if a visit is possible, and making this all happen. Boom. And if it doesn’t work this go round? Better luck next year.
But really. I want this to work. Now.