Geographic Information Systems Specialists typically display the CONVENTIONAL Occupational Personality Type.
Greeks are credited with drawing the first maps on paper by hand using surveying techniques. Although paper maps are still useful, geographic information systems (GIS) produce digital maps that are dynamic. GIS is more than just software. It is a computer system that combines visual elements and features on a map to link the characteristics of these geographic features in databases in relation to its positions on Earth’s surface, referred to as spatial data. They are used as tools in both problem solving and decision making processes, and have various applications. Geographic information systems can be used in almost any field, allowing for collaboration with specialists in other fields.
Certification is not required, but the two most common GIS certifications are:
- Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP)
- ESRI Technical Certification
Pathway 1: Surveyor
Surveyors use data drawn from satellite imagery and global positioning systems, among other methods and tools, to make precise measurements and establish markings that determine property boundary lines and prepare sites for construction to prevent legal disputes. Geographic information systems software allows surveyors to create detailed maps and reports that guide planning decisions. Surveyors provide data for engineering, construction, and mapmaking projects that are customized to meet their client’s needs. Surveyors need a state license, work experience and testing before they can certify any legal documents and offer their services to the public.
Each state licensing board has its own laws regarding Professional Surveyor licensure, but the general requirements to become a licensed surveyor are:
- Education: At minimum, surveyors must have a high school diploma, but most states require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
- Experience: Surveyors can gain experience through an apprenticeship, verifiable work experience under the supervision of a licensed surveyor or meet the minimum education requirements with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
- Exam: Candidates seeking to become a licensed surveyor must pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam, the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam, and/or a state-specific exam.
Pathway 2: Cartographer
Cartography is the art and skill of developing visual representations of a space or place with maps. Cartographers are literally map-makers. They gather and interpret geographic and spatial data to create and update user-friendly maps. The maps they create are used for educational purposes and decision-making related to business and marketing approaches, policies, science and land-use planning.
- Education: At minimum, cartographers must earn an associate degree, but most employers require a bachelor’s degree in geography, physical science, forestry, GIS or a closely related field from an accredited college or university. For more advanced job opportunities or increased specialization, a graduate degree is typically required.
- Experience: Developing specialized maps that depict:
- Spatial locations and relationships between real-world features such as extreme weather events.
- The frequency or density of an event or location and the relationship between places.
- Characteristics of a specific area or region.
- Change in a specific geographic area over time to predict future conditions.
Pathway 3: Geographer
A key word in GIS is Geography – this means that the data used exists for all types of geographical features and can reference specific locations on the earth spatially. Geographers study how earth’s aboveground physical features develop and change over time at various scales and how it impacts humans. They gather and interpret data from different sources such as field data, census data, photographs and satellite imagery to create graphs, diagrams, maps, reports and research papers.
- Education: There are two-year programs that offer an associate degree in geography, but geographers typically need a bachelor’s degree in geographical sciences, physical/Earth science, GIS, geology or a related field from an accredited college or university for entry-level positions. A master’s degree in one of the previously mentioned fields in addition to extensive knowledge and experience may be required by some employers.
- Experience: Prior experience with GIS is very important and often required.