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What Does a Geospatial Analyst Do?

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  • Written By: M. Kayo
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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A geospatial analyst collects and analyzes the real-time geographic positioning information from global positioning systems (GPS) information and raw data collected from positioning satellites. This data is entered into a database for use by government agencies, private companies, the military, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Many employers require their geospatial analysts to have a college degree but also offer mentoring and on-the-job training. Those working as geospatial analysts must be familiar with environmental modeling, computer science, geographic information systems, and other related disciplines. A geospatial analyst may also collect and analyze data used to provide a variety of types of information, from damage done by a tornado to the total number of home foreclosures in a specific area.

Most of the professionals working in this position have a master's degree in cartographic science, civil engineering, computer science, or geographic information systems (GIS), however, some geospatial analysts have only a bachelor's degree in a related discipline. Two or more years experience in geographic information systems or related technical field may also be required. Those with previous experience as surveyors, cartographers, drafters, geologists, and engineers make the best geospatial analysts. Some employers offer on-the-job training and mentoring programs to train geospatial analysts while they work.

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A geospatial analyst knows a great deal about geocoding, the process of entering precise the longitude and latitude of various locations into a single database used to create the maps that are used with common geographic information systems like global positioning systems (GPS). With their knowledge of computer science, they may use both hard copy maps or electronic map models to collect and analyze this geographic information. This process requires a great deal of time as well as knowledge of environmental modeling. Those who do this must go to great lengths to ensure that the geographic information collected and entered is as accurate as possible. A good example of the type of work produced by this collected geographic information can be seen by anyone who uses Google Maps™ or Microsoft® Earth.

Information collected by a geospatial analyst can be used in many different ways, including utility planning, property appraisals, marketing, environmental analysis, and transportation planning for roads and highways. Meteorologists use the vast amounts of information being collected by geospatial analysts to create images that show damage from hurricanes and tornadoes. GIS data and images are also used to monitor melting icebergs and to keep track of deteriorating beach lines, which may help in determining how quickly the oceans may be warming. The information collected by geospatial analysts and stored in a GIS database may also be used to locate buried cables, home foreclosures, or information regarding population demographics in a certain geographic area. This geospatial information can be manipulated and presented via electronic imaging, 3D imaging, maps, tables and graphs.

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