Many people talk about the opportunities in the geographic information systems, or GIS, field. And it’s true, many companies, governments, and other organizations are actively looking for those with the technical and analytic skills to use location as a way to bring vast amounts of data together and find insights from it all.
But there’s a difference between trying to fill a market need and building an actual career. That takes time, preparation, and a systematic approach to developing your professional credentials and experience, as Caitlin Dempsey notes on the GIS Lounge blog. In fact, taking her points and adding some additional ones, there are five different steps you need to consider.
1. Get educated
GIS uses computers but goes into other specialties such as data analytics and technical geography that goes far beyond anything you might have learned in primary or secondary school. You need to learn such areas as cartography, map-making, and different geographic data systems; web technology, database management and design, and programming; and even statistical skills. Depending on the type of job you would like, you will need a different degree of education, whether a GIS undergraduate degree, masters of geospatial information systems, or geospatial information systems graduate degree certificate. Decide whether you want to learn in a traditional classroom or undertake an online program like the ones American Sentinel University offers.
2. Get the software basics down
You also need to learn how to effectively and efficiently use some of the major GIS applications. That can be part of your formal education, such as the background you get in American Sentinel programs, or you might decide to learn on your own. You might find that a potential employer that interests you uses a less common package, in which case you might take a separate class or experiment on your own with a book or computer instruction. Ultimately, you want to show a perspective employer that you can hit the ground mapping, so to speak.
3. Get your first experience
Will your first job be the dream one? Maybe so, maybe not. The important thing is to remember that you need some solid professional experience to help round out the base of your preparation. You need practical experience to cement into place what you have learned. You could consider working as an intern for an organization that could use help and provide some real world experience in return. After an internship, it’s time for your first job. Depending on your aspiration and level of education, you might consider becoming a GIS technician or GIS analyst.
4. Expand your resume
After the first job, you want to work your way up the ladder. In some cases, the title may be the same, only with greater responsibility or more challenging duties and projects. Other times, you might explore a promotion within your current organization or the chance to advance by switching employers.
5. Getting into management
Although some people are happy to be practitioners in a field, others want to move into management. For that step, you might consider not only experience but some additional schooling, whether getting a master of geospatial information systems degree or perhaps an MBA with a data analysis concentration so you can bring the new education to bear on what you already know.