How do I Become a GIS Specialist?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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A geographic information systems (GIS) specialist is a person who uses software and various types of technology for the creation and maintenance of maps and related data. This person may also have the responsibility of rendering, analyzing, and manipulating a range of geospatial data. The requirements a person will have to meet in order to become a GIS specialist may depend on the employer with which he seeks a job. Many employers prefer applicants who hold bachelor's degrees or GIS certificates, however.

An individual who becomes a GIS specialist may be called on to perform a wide range of tasks, and the specific duties he'll have depend on where and by whom he is employed. This person may have the job of using special GIS software and tools to create maps and graphs. He may also perform research to find existing databases, collect and analyze spatial data, and determine how to integrate the data and display it. An individual in this field may also analyze data in order to get geographical statistics that can be included in various types of documents. Often, a person in this field uses plotters, digitizers, GIS software and hardware, printers, and video cameras in the course of doing his job.


In order to become a GIS specialist, a person typically either completes a GIS certificate program or earns a bachelor's degree in geography, GIS, environmental science, or a related major. Many employers give hiring preference to individuals who've earned bachelor's degrees in geography or GIS instead of certificates. There are, however, some employers who may be willing to hire applicants who do not have degrees or certificates, as long as they have several years of experience in GIS.

In addition to a degree, certificate, or experience, a person who wants to become a GIS specialist may need other qualifications as well. A person who is pursuing this career typically needs good geography skills, including the ability to describe land, sea, and air locations and characteristics. He should usually have good verbal and written skills in order to communicate GIS information to non-technical people. Analytical and mathematical skills are necessary for performing duties in this field, as are information gathering and ordering skills. Additionally, a person who wants to become a GIS specialist is sometimes required to have computer science skills in order to not only use programs to solve problems, but also help develop new programs.


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