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GIS Technician: Job Description & Career Info

Keep reading to learn what GIS technicians do. Find out what kind of education and skills are required for employment. Get the career outlook to decide if this field is for you.

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Career Definition

GIS technicians make maps and customized geographic information systems (GIS) applications and manipulate data to serve a variety of purposes. They read and interpret maps, manipulate and understand digital land data, and manage data entered into a GIS database.

Become a GIS Technician

Education Requirements

GIS technicians typically earn a Bachelor of Science degree in geography, computer science or engineering. Typical courses in these programs include GIS, geography, geosystems, historical geography, and computer architecture. GIS internships are especially important for gaining experience in the field. A bachelor's degree usually takes four to five years. A master's degree in geography can increase opportunities for career advancement and salary potential.

Skill Requirements

GIS technicians must have good attention to detail in order to maintain and enter data in a GIS database. They also need to have superb written and oral communication skills for creating and presenting data reports and training other people how to use GIS technology. They may also need to work on GIS programming.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects jobs for surveying and mapping technicians, the category under which GIS technicians fall, to see a 14% increase from 2012-2022, which is slightly faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS noted that demand is growing for fast and accurate geographic data in order to synthesize GIS data with maps made the traditional way. The BLS reports the median annual salary for surveying and mapping technicians in general was approximately $40,000 as of May 2012.

Alternate Career Options

Surveyor

Surveyors use specialized instruments to measure distances and features along the Earth's surface; their data is used to make maps and develop the details in construction and engineering projects. The work of surveyors is also used to establish boundary lines on parcels of land.

Surveyors hold a bachelor's degree in surveying; in states where licensing is required, this must often be from an ABET-accredited program. Professional licensing requirements can vary by state but typically require post-degree work experience and testing. The BLS reports that surveyors can look forward to job growth of 10% from 2012-2022; they earned median pay of $56,230 in 2012.

Drafter

A drafter takes the designs of an architect or engineer and, using specialized software, turns them into technical drawings or schematics that can be used for construction or production. Areas of specialty include aeronautical, architectural, civil, electrical, electronic, mechanical, and pipeline drafting. Drafters usually hold a certificate or associate's degree in drafting. Voluntary professional certification may be earned. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for drafters is expected to remain roughly the same from 2012-2022; median pay for this occupation was $49,630 in 2012.

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