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How to Become a Geographic Information System (GIS) Analyst

How to Become a Geographic Information System (GIS) Analyst

A geographical information system (GIS) analyst stores and manages digital geographical data. CareerStint tells you all about how to become a geographic information system (GIS) analyst.
CareerStint Staff
"The early days of GIS were very lonely. No one knew what it meant."
― Roger Tomlinson, Father of GIS

Considering the limitless usage of GIS as of today, it would be impossible to believe the above statement by Mr. Tomlinson. However, it is certainly true; since the advent of GIS, it has taken a while for it to be accepted into the scientific fold. Once the initial inhibitions were shed, the field has been rapidly growing and just ... well, growing. GIS is used to store all kinds of geographical data, analyze the same, document observations, and make important predictions. The field has attracted a lot of people; many aim to become GIS analysts. In the paragraphs below, you will learn how to become a GIS analyst.

Job Profile
  • A GIS analyst works on collected geographical data.
  • He uses cartography to create digital maps.
  • He reads data from already-created maps and enters it into the system.
  • He helps convert hand-drawn maps and diagrams into the GIS system, i.e., he digitizes the written data and creates datasets.
  • He helps retrieve stored information and works on them to prepare documentation.
  • He uses different software to generate spatial data.
  • He helps create newer and more efficient databases.
  • His primary responsibility is to work with the GIS system.
Requirements

Some of the essential skills for a GIS analyst are given below.
  • Programming skills
  • Presence of mind
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical mind
  • Creative ability
  • Innovative thinking capability
  • Math and statistical skills
  • High imagination and visualization skills
Education

The education requirements and training for a GIS analyst are given below:

High School
  • If you want to be a good GIS analyst, you have to start preparing right from the beginning.
  • For your high school diploma, subjects like mathematics, statistics, trigonometry, geography, geometry, etc., will be a good start.
  • These subjects will strengthen your foundation and help you better understand the courses of your graduate degree.
  • Remember that to be a GIS analyst, a degree in geography may be necessary, but not compulsory. You may go ahead with a math or a technical degree as well.
  • You can consider taking computer-related courses as well, while you are still in high school. Early preparation always helps.
College and Specialization
  • You are spoiled for choice when it comes to taking subjects for your bachelor's.
  • You can go in for an AAS (Associate of Applied Science) or B.S. (Bachelor of Science) program in GIS analysis.
  • You may also choose geography, earth sciences, statistics, mathematics, geology, computers, geomatics, etc.
  • Your coursework will comprise the following:

    ▶ Mapping techniques
    ▶ Computer software
    ▶ Remote sensing technology
    ▶ Field surveys
    ▶ Geographical information analysis
    ▶ Marine and hydrographic surveying
    ▶ Geophysical studies
    ▶ Global positioning system (GPS)
    ▶ Data compilation and interpretation
    ▶ Geographic database technology
  • Once you are done with your bachelor's, you may get yourself certified, try for internship programs or part-time jobs, or better still, you can opt to go in for a master's degree.
  • In your master's, you may choose to specialize in a particular subject, like city planning or land use zoning.
  • Some even go in for a Ph.D., if they have a particular thesis in mind and wish to conduct extensive research.
  • A senior GIS analyst may require additional certifications as well.
Training
  • You may require to be a certified professional; it will help you learn more and will pay better as well.
  • You will need to give the GISP (Geographical Information System Professional) certification through the GIS Certification Institute.
  • If you take this certification after your bachelor's degree, your level of expertise may be considered equal to that of someone who has a master's degree.
  • This program consists of crime mapping, urban planning, spatial data representation, project management, and database modeling and design.
  • At an entry-level position, you will need to undergo a lot of training.
  • There are lots of companies that provide part-time jobs as well. You may even try for internships, which are relatively common and provide you with sufficient technical knowledge.
  • Many agencies provide on-the-job training as well. During the course of your training, you will deal with real world data - manipulating digital images, research about the different terrain, help in data representation, etc.
As a GIS analyst, with sufficient experience under your belt, you may even qualify to become a geophysical surveyor, crime mapping expert, GIS supervisor, etc.

Salary
  • The average salary of a GIS analyst may be between USD 45,000 to USD 60,000.
  • At an entry-level, most analysts are paid around USD 45,000.
  • With sufficient experience, you could be paid more than USD 65,000 as well.
  • If you run your own consultancy, or work for the government, your remuneration may be much higher than this figure.
  • All said and done, a GIS analyst comes under the wing of those professionals who are satisfactorily paid.
Job Outlook
  • The career path of a GIS analyst may culminate in a couple of other job options as well, like geographers or surveyors.
  • The job growth in the field of GIS seems to be pretty decent, as compared to many other fields. The BLS predicts a job growth of more than 20% over the next decade.
  • As geographic databases are always going to be used for various predictions, GIS analysts are likely to enjoy increased job opportunities over the next few years.
Remember that a GIS analyst needs to be skilled in many other disciplines besides his principal subjects. He has to be well-versed in computers, math, geography, etc. The field of GIS is a wide spectrum; it is used for the government, business, earth and other sciences, etc. If you intend to carve out a career in this field, keep in mind that you need to keep abreast of the latest technology and surveying techniques.