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Career Outlook: GIS Specialists

Geographic information systems (GIS) is a dynamic field and has become a necessary tool in many industries. Organizations utilize GIS technologies to share information, communicate data, perform analyses and solve complex problems globally. So what is a GIS specialist?

The Role of a GIS Specialist

According to Environmental Science, GIS specialists build and maintain GIS databases and use GIS software to analyze the spatial and non-spatial data within in them. GIS specialists perform essential data collection and analysis duties, including compiling and entering various types of data into GIS databases, digitizing maps, reviewing data for accuracy and currency, and performing geospatial modeling. Spatial analysis, data visualization and cartography skills, plus practical experience with GIS tools and programming languages like Python or ArcObjects are key. Attention to detail, along with strong communication and teamwork skills, are also essential as GIS specialists often need to work with external and internal stakeholders to incorporate and present information.

Jobs in Demand

Industry Stats

  • $60,000-75,000 average salary for GIS Specialists, GIS Analysts, Cartographers and Geographers
  • $75,000-90,000 average salary for advanced Senior GIS Analysts and other management roles

Source: GISGeography

GIS specialists usually begin as technicians or analysts, and can advance to supervisor or managerial roles, such as GIS coordinator, GIS project manager or GIS developer. Many GIS specialists have a background in geography or other environmental science programs and some states require cartographers to be licensed as surveyors. GIS specialists can also earn certifications, such as a Certified GIS Professional (GISP) through the GIS Certification Institute or Esri Technical Certification for Esri’s ArcGIS software, which can help you stand out in a competitive market. There are also several professional organizations that GIS specialists can join for networking and educational opportunities, including The Imaging & Geospatial Information Society (ASPRS), the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), the American Association of Geographers (AAG) and the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA).

Because GIS technologies are used by organizations around the world, GIS specialists can find jobs in nearly every field. GIS careers have long been available in fields such as urban planning, environmental sciences, public utilities, government, military and resource management, but recently GIS jobs have emerged in fields such as agriculture, real estate, gaming and app development, public health, climate science and conservation. GIS work can also take place in the structured setting of an office or out in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California offers some of the most GIS career opportunities, along with Texas, Maryland and Colorado. While the GIS job outlook is only expected to grow by 1% from 2020-2030, there are opportunities to bridge your GIS skillset within the in-demand field of data science.

Getting Started

Acquiring specialized training and education in GIS is a great way to build foundational knowledge and develop practical skills in the field. No matter where you’re at in your professional journey as a GIS practitioner, our GIS program can help you reach the next level.

Need help getting started?

Contact an enrollment coach for one-on-one support finding the right courses to fit your schedule and goals.

If you’re new or trying to break into GIS, our classes on the Coursera platform are a great place to learn some basic skills. For an instructor-guided learning experience, GIS beginners should enroll in Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, while more experienced GIS users may want to consider courses like GIS Database DesignAdvanced GIS: Productivity, Geoprocessing and Analysis or one of our other courses that offers hands-on experience with the ArcGIS software package and other practical skills. Whether you want to start a new career in GIS or expand your existing GIS skill set, our courses will help you gain a clear understanding of GIS technology and terminology, along with the training and expertise to put them to use.

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