Understanding typical GIS job titles

So you have heard of fancy GIS job titles out there and you wonder what they mean, or what exactly the guys in those capacities do. You want, say , to be a GIS analyst, but don’t know the right requirements for you to be able to fit in. Or you are puzzled in the difference between a GIS developer and a GIS programmer. This article is just for you.

GIS has evolved over the past years, and so is everything associated with it, including these job titles.

Well, you will agree with me that there is no formal uniformity or consistency in the naming of these titles, because this greatly varies with an organization, and you may find that a certain GIS position has the similar duties, responsibilities or qualifications as another one.

But with that said, here are some of the common GIS job titles that are well known, and which are mentioned in most Job advertisements. By GIS job titles , I mean jobs that are out of the box regarded as purely GIS jobs.

GIS Technician

Usually, this is a junior grade GIS specialist, but with a vast experience in performing GIS functionalities. Typically, a bachelor’s Degree in GIS or related courses, with the requires skills will land you this job easily.

Some of the work of a GIS technician include:

  • Capture GIS data in different formats using GPS, electronic data recorders, digitizers, and other means.

  • Perform GIS data quality control, including reviewing data for completeness and accuracy;

    identifying and correcting errors or omissions in the data.

  • Input, update and maintain GIS databases, including backups and also maintaining linkages to other databases, and also perform spatial analyses,

GIS Specialist/Expert

This is anybody who believes GIS is his or her thing, usually above the level of the GIS technician, not for any reason, but how the term is used. Confused..huh. Well, take a GIS specialist as someone with a deep understanding of GIS,and has not really majored into any specific specialization.

Typical tasks include:

  • Undertaking discipline specific GIS user needs studies.

  • Designing, developing (implementing), customizing and maintaining (enhancing) the discipline specific GIS

  • Serving as the GIS technical lead and point of contact on discipline specific GIS and related matters.

GIS Analyst

More experienced in GIS matters that deal with but not limited to data analyses. Usually, an analyst specializes in a given field, for example oil, business, marine, defense etc, where you do the analysis functionalities.

GIS Developer/Programmer

A GIS developer,at the core, usually is a programmer who does GIS stuff. The work  here concentrates on adding value to existing software by developing new functions or UIs, or coming up with completely new GIS applications.

Here you need to have a solid knowledge of programming languages like C++,Java, Python etc , and a wide range of programming tools with you, because you life will be all about coding. The developing can be further divided into desktop, Mobile or web GIS development.

Some of the work involved:

  • You life will be just on a computer, coding or automating GIS stuff. Just like that.

GIS Manager

A more senior role that will involve managing staff and taking overall charge of all GIS related matters in an organization, as well as providing expertise advice to, say, the company on GIS.

To be here you need a solid experience in GIS over some time, with relevant masters or PHD qualifications.

Typical duties include:

  • Setting project goals and objectives.

  • Developing GIS policies and procedures.

  • Designing and implementing organization-wide GIS standards.

  • Planning, setting budgets, and implementing GIS projects and applications, and many other related tasks , varying with the company setting.

Other titles that I have come across, which in a way or other are more of similar or an elevation of the mentioned one include:

  • A GIS coordinator, who usually reports to a GIS manager

  • GIS director, senior than a GIS manager

  • Lastly, GIS intern

This list is not in anyway definitive of the whole GIS job positions that exist out there. It is just a guide to give you some light of what exists. There are of course other job titles that out of the box make no reference to GIS, but at the bottom the job heavily uses GIS.

If you have come across any other GIS job title, feel free to comment below. Otherwise you now know what you are or at least want to be, as far as GIS is concerned.

Erick Otenyo
About Erick Otenyo 4 Articles
A hardcore lover of GIS,passionate and interested in the world, and dedicated to making a difference,spatial technologies being my tools...