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What Does a GIS Manager Do?

A GIS manager will oversee the production or charts and maps that help either cities or businesses.
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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2014
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A geographical information science (GIS) manager, also known as a GIS specialist/project manager, works in a developmental and managerial capacity to implement the use of digital technology to collect geographic data. This information is used for the purposes of analysis and planning. A GIS manager usually is responsible for directing the GIS unit of a governments or a private firm. The position requires an understanding of not only GIS, but of effective communication and leadership methods. A great depth of experience is required to succeed in this position, so most GIS managers are promoted from other positions in the GIS field.

A GIS manager can oversee the creation of charts, maps and text that help clients such as cities and businesses to visualize, analyze and solve problems. They work in a wide array of areas, including municipal planning, real estate and the study of natural phenomena. For this reason, many GIS managers are highly specialized.

The GIS field covers several disciplines, including spatial analysis, geography and cartography. A GIS manager provides oversight to several of these elements, and ensures that all the team members have the resources to complete projects such as plotting land, and determining boundaries. They track budgets, oversee personnel and ensure adherence to organizational protocol.

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Most GIS managers have had an average of five or six years experience in the field. A solid education is crucial to success in the GIS field and includes the study of subjects such as programming, cartography, database management and general GIS. GIS managers must have a strong overall understanding of the variety of disciplines related to the field. Though there are several GIS certificate and associates programs available, bachelor’s degrees are highly recommended and desired by employers.

A GIS professional can take a variety of routes to become a manager. Internships provide a popular entry into the field. With the proper experience, an intern can bypass the entry-level position of digitizer.

The next level is a technician, which requires at least a year of experience with GIS software and usually at least basic programming experience. Most GIS professionals then progress to analyst positions, which require more complex analytical skills, advanced programming knowledge and occasionally some managerial ability. A GIS manager can be hired from an analyst position, but he or she might work as a coordinator before attaining that title. Ultimately, a GIS manager must combine strong technical knowledge and ability with solid project management skills.

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