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How to Learn ArcGIS: The Best Courses, Resources, and Training

Maureen McCall - December 31, 2020


Learning ArcGIS involves working with geographic information system technology that is used to gather, manage, and analyze data related to its geographical location.

Using ArcGIS software, you can turn spatial locations, data, and layers of information into maps and 3D models. This tool, maintained by the Environmental Systems Research Institute, can give deep insight into data patterns and relationships.

ArcGIS software has applications in many fields, including public safety, government, manufacturing, natural resources, and public health.

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What Is ArcGIS?

Scientists, geologists, and data analysts all work with ArcGIS software to map their data and organize geographic information. It is increasingly being used to explore how events are linked to geographic patterns. For example, it was recently used to help visualize the electoral changes during the US election. It also has important applications in data management related to medicine and public health, especially in connecting communities during emergencies.

ArcGIS is maintained by the Environmental Systems Research Institute . By looking at more ArcGIS applications and how they are being developed, we can get a better understanding of the power of this innovative tool. Below, we will also explore the courses and training options available to those interested in learning how to use ArcGIS applications.

Applications of ArcGIS

There are many ways that ArcGIS can be used. Let’s look at some of the most common fields it can be applied to.

Public Safety

ArcGIS is used to make communities safer by using real-time data tracing and integrating data from sensors and businesses.

Health

ArcGIS technology can reveal health coverage gaps in populations and improve crisis response plans to mitigate major health events, such as an outbreak. Applying GIS approaches can lead to better access to health care across communities. It can also be used to analyze COVID-19 strategies and share best practices.

Transportation

From ports and airports to railroads, public transit, and highways, ArcGIS can be used to coordinate functions like planning, operations, and safety.

Electric and Gas Utilities

ArcGIS can provide complete data models for electric, gas, water, and telecommunications utilities. It can ensure connectivity, and offer real-time business insights, and facilitate digital transformations.

Government

National, state, and local governments all must collect and manage vast amounts of data based on location. ArcGIS can make sure this data is visualized in a way that can help leaders make informed decisions.

Natural Resources

ArcGIS enables workflow and productivity optimization by managing natural resources and ensuring environmental regulatory compliance.

Learning ArcGIS

Depending on whether you are new to ArcGIS, or already have a background in data science, the amount of time it takes to learn the software will vary.

The best approach is to choose the learning format that fits your circumstances and your current experience with ArcGIS.

You may want to take online courses alongside your other formal studies to get a better understanding of ArcGIS.

It’s also possible to get a professional certificate in ArcGIS software through an Esri training program.

How Long Does It Take to Learn ArcGIS?

The amount of time it takes you to learn ArcGIS depends on the course you choose. It may take several weeks to finish a program, or as long as a year if you are studying for a certification exam.

The Best ArcGIS Courses and Training

A pair of eyeglasses sit in front of a computer screen displaying data.
To learn ArcGIS, it’s best to go straight to the source and sign up for a course offered by Esri.

Best In-Person ArcGIS Courses

ArcGIS was built by Esri, and the software creator has dozens of in-person training centers dotted around the US. Its offerings include both one-year and multi-year training programs. You can explore their in-person course offerings here , although these classes are all temporarily offered online for the time being due to COVID-19. Below is just one among the hundreds of courses offered by Esri.

Environmental Systems Research Institute

  • Course : Putting ArcGIS to Use Across Your Organization
  • Length : 3 days
  • Prerequisites :
  • Price : $2,100

This course will bring you up to speed on the fundamentals of using ArcGIS. An Esri certified training instructor will teach you how to use the program to visualize and manage data, as well as how you can share that data. It will also fill you in on how to use location-based data to improve decisions at your business.

Best Online ArcGIS Courses

Like the in-class options, the best online courses on ArcGIS are also offered by Esri.

Environmental Systems Research Institute

Esri offers dozens of training courses online that are open to all levels of ArcGIS experience. In these courses, you will obtain a rich understanding of ArcGIS tools and concepts, as well as program workflows that are commonly used by businesses.

Best Free Online ArcGIS Courses

Here is a free online course that gives you the basic concepts of ArcGIS before deciding to do further studies.

Environmental Systems Research Institute

This non-certificate course is a great place to start learning the ArcGIS Pro desktop application. In it, you will learn the basics of ArcGIS Pro, and how to use its tools to visualize, analyze, and share your mapped data.

UC Davis

In this course offered by UC Davis in cooperation with Coursera, you will explore the world of spatial analysis and cartography with geographic information systems. Over four weeklong modules, you will learn the basics of ArcGIS.

ArcGIS Certifications

Follow up on your online training courses by earning a professional certification in ArcGIS. Again, Esri offers an array of accreditations that will allow you to demonstrate your skills with ArcGIS.

  • Courses : ArcGIS Desktop Entry, Desktop Associate, and Desktop Professional
  • Length : Varies
  • Prerequisites : Foundational knowledge of ArcGIS
  • Price : Varies

These three professional certifications will validate your knowledge of ArcGIS. The Desktop Entry certificate covers entry-level mapping, basic concepts, and data visualization. The other two certifications build on this by testing your knowledge in applying these concepts in advanced scenarios, and your ability to develop your own workflows and projects.

Best ArcGIS Books

Books are a great way to get insight from experienced ArcGIS professionals and other users.

A to Z GIS: An Illustrated Dictionary of Geographic Information , Tasha Wade and Shelly Sommer

This book is a comprehensive guide to GIS written, developed, and reviewed by more than 150 experts. It explains everything you need to know about geospatial data through more than 1,800 terms, 400 full-color illustrations, and seven encyclopedia-style appendix articles.

Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro 2.6 , by Michael Law and Amy Collins

This book will introduce you to all the basic tools and capabilities of the desktop mapping tool ArcGIS Pro. It covers practical project workflows and demonstrates best practices for productivity.

Should You Study ArcGIS?

If you are interested in developing skills in geographic information systems, learning ArcGIS can either enhance your existing career or lead you down a new path. It can lead to employment in a wide variety of fields such as government, real estate, public health, crime mapping, landscape architecture, and community planning. Choose an area that interests you then start taking courses on how ArcGIS software can benefit your industry.

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Maureen McCall

About the author: Writing for Career Karma, Maureen covers a range of topics, including higher education, software, and technology. Maureen earned her bachelor's degree in creative writing from York University. She joined the Career Karma team in November 2020, lending her expertise to assist readers in finding career paths. A longtime contributor to various publications, Maureen's writing can be found The BOE Report and EnergyNow.ca.

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