Monday, January 5, 2009

Thoughts on your career in GIS: Do you want to be a GIS Professional or a Professional using GIS?

It seems to me, the GIS professional has split into 2 tracks and maybe more. When considering what you may do with your life and with GIS in your job, consider this.

In the workplace, there are GIS Professionals and there are Professionals who use GIS.

GIS Professionals are those people who work with GIS all day, every day (for the most part). They have job titles like GIS Technician, GIS Analyst or GIS Programmer. These type jobs are computer intensive and involve creating and maintaining datasets, updating of data, analysis, database design and implementation, integration of GIS with other information systems and more. People in these jobs will need a background in computer science as much as GIS so should consider other classes like programming and database design. Most people start as a technician and are promoted through the ranks to higher level GIS positions.

Professionals who use GIS are people who get a degree in something like Environmental Science, Forestry or Planning and will get a job in one of those fields but will most likely get the job (over someone else) because they can demonstrate a knowledge and proficiency in Geospatial Technologies. These are jobs like Environmental Technician for a consulting firm or Planner for a county or city.

There is a considerable amount of overlap and often someone might get a job with a consulting firm because of their GIS knowledge and paired with a scientist. Other jobs like E-911 Technician might not sound like a GIS job but many 911 Technicians spend a considerable amount of time updating the county street centerline GIS layer. Whatever you do, experience is key if you can volunteer at a conservation organization or consulting firm because there is no replacement for real-world experience. I may have some ideas on places you can volunteer and maybe even get a little money possibly.


Buddy Tignor said...

There are also professionals that have the first goal of hoping to understand GIS a little better :-)

Deja said...

I would love to spend some time volunteering somewhere where I could help them manage/display data, while improving my hands on skills. I am currently attempting to do a project for RiverLink, and would be interesting in any other ideas you have!