GIS has become an important technology in a growing number of industries and uses: petroleum and natural gas, real estate, retail, financial services, agriculture, mining, logistics, and utilities, just to mention a few.
As many technical people with a GIS degree have learned, that translates into significant career opportunities. A recent survey conducted by GeoSpatial Training Services showed a wide variation in salaries, with 30 percent of respondents making between $50,000 and $70,000 a year.
However, GeoSpatial Training called the survey “informal,” probably because potential respondents weren’t necessary representative of the field as a whole. However, other surveys of GIS salaries showed average salaries fairly close to the same range. For a second view on salary levels, the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) conducts annual surveys. According to its 2011 salary survey, the average respondent had a salary of $61,540, an increase of 2.5 percent over the previous year. GIS managers saw a 3 percent increase over the same period to $69,842.
There’s more detail to be found from the site PayScale.com. According to that data, salaries increase with experience, as you might reasonably expect. People with 1 to 4 years experience had an average salary of $48,494. From 5 to 9 years, the average was $55,384. For those with 10 to 16 years in the field, average salary was $67,486, while those with at least 20 years of experience saw an average $79,648.
Education was clearly an important factor to people in the field. Almost 39 percent had a master’s degree, with 43.7 percent having at least a bachelor’s degree, possibly with some post graduate work. Degrees were most frequently either in geography (37.5 percent) or GIS (43.3 percent). As use of GIS systems by companies and governments increase, it seems likely that demand for well-trained employees who understand the technology could help raise salary levels. But those wanting to enter the field will need suitably advanced education to differentiate themselves from others in the market.