I received the following letter this week
that I thought I would share with readers. Perhaps some of you have the
I would like to see an article about how Geographers and
others outside of the GIS field can successfully find employment in the
field with little training. Other than simply stating that course work
or certification needs to be required, which is obvious, what companies
and/or government organizations in the field are even willing to discuss
even entry level job opportunities with individuals that are not currently
in the field, but are geographically oriented, tech savvy, and have a base
understanding of what GIS is, how it benefits society, etc. What
skills is the field looking for in it's work force other than software
programmers and engineers?
Having been in this field for over 23 years, let me take this apart and
give my advice on each question:
How do I find employment in GIS when I have little training, even though
I'm a geographer by training and have an understanding of the technology?
MY ADVICE: Get into sales. If you are "tech savvy" as you say, then
you can pick up the nomenclature of products and build on that. Obviously,
you need to have the mindset for sales, but without technical training
in GIS, other positions are not open to you. Sales allows you to use your
understanding of the potential use of the technology for applications in
which you were trained as a geographer.
What skills is the field looking for in it's work force other than software
programmers and engineers?
MY ADVICE: Many software companies are looking for project managers.
As they transition from pure product sales to consultative project implementation,
companies are looking for professionals with excellent management skills
who can multitask and interface with clients. Again, it will require the
employee to get a very good understanding of the products as well as the
skill set of the project staff, budgets, and client expectations.
Other than simply stating that course work or certification needs to
be required, what are companies and/or government organizations willing
to discuss even for an entry level job opportunity with individuals that
are not currently in the field?
MY ADVICE: Entry level GIS analyst positions will require a fundamental
knowledge of some desktop mapping/GIS system. You can do it on your own
or take courses. You can attend conferences as well as take college courses
to work toward certification,
but eventually you will need hands-on experience with a GIS software system.
Today, geography graduates with a B.A. degree are going to be required
to take courses where GIS fundamentals are taught. If you've graduated
some years ago and were not exposed to the technology, you're at a major
disadvantage for an entry level position. And if that's the case, you need
to evaluate your strengths. Ask yourself: "In what areas of geography am
Demography - Look for a job with a demographic data company that
is compiling estimate and projections of census data.
Land Use Planning - Look for a job with a company that is selling
a solution for spatial visualization, urban development or site selection.
Cultural/Ethnic/Political - Look for a job with a government agency
or non-governmental organization (NGO, such as the United Nations) that
is training GIS professionals in what to types of analysis should be conducted
in a broader, land development project.
Cartography - Map making is an art in many ways; but now, GIS is
the painter's palette. Get to know map publishing software capabilities
and learn the new tools of this trade.
Environmental & Natural Resources - You need to know how to
think spatially in order to transfer your skills about environmental planning
and the impact of development on the biosphere to GIS technology. This
should be a skill that only grows as you become more familiar with GIS.
Still, the bottom line is that it helps to know GIS technology because
more and more disciplines are using it...not just geographers.