New Stealth IT Career Aid: GIS

Margaret Yagen is a 22-year-old college senior who was profiled in the Chicago Sun Times. It seems that her career focus, geospatial technology, is one seeing growth. Lots of it. Personally, she’s already busy as an intern, collecting data on public works issues and tasks in the suburb of Westchester, and getting ready to attain her degree in applied geospatial technologies.

And she’s not alone. Geographic information systems (GIS) is a high-growth industry, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That means Yagen stands a good chance of finding not just a job, but a career with advancement potential. It’s a point that anyone with an information technology degree should remember. GIS is an area of technology that is quickly becoming important to most industries, and yet it’s one where there aren’t enough people who know how to use the systems and analyze the data.

Knowing GIS could give you a leg up on the competition by bringing skills that many companies need today. According to the Department of Labor, the geospatial technology industry is growing at close to 35 percent a year overall, while the commercial, non-public aspect is growing at 100 percent a year.

A third of the work is in the public sector, whether federal, state, or local. On the private side, regulated industries, such as utilities, telecommunications, and transportation, are the biggest users of the technologies. The entire industry is under served largely because it effectively operates in stealth mode:

The public is not aware of the necessary skill sets and competencies needed to prepare for the diverse career opportunities available within the geospatial technology industry. Reaching an industry-wide consensus that defines “geospatial,” its technologies and its applications is of utmost importance. There is also a need for better industry promotion by creating a national image campaign that raises awareness about the industry and dispels stereotypes and misperceptions.

Although this may be a problem for the industry, it is good news for people who already have an IT background and who would like to use it in this new field. Any use of GIS means data analysis and the use of an organization’s infrastructure and stored information, and someone with the additional IT knowledge should have a head start in being able to implement the technology.

To make the shift, though, an individual must have the GIS understanding that companies seek. That could be gained on the job, if an employer is willing to fund the process, through some combination of classes and on-hands experience. Another alternative is to enter a GIS program, possibly part-time or online to allow someone to keep working while learning.

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