The geographic information science (GISc) field is a diverse and rapidly growing industry in which some roles are projected to grow by 14% by 2026,1 which makes the role of a GISc technician all the more vital. As we watch natural disasters unfold and the effects of human interference take shape on our planet, the need for GISc expertise and spatial technology prowess is featured daily, worldwide. Additional GISc experience can help environmental protection professionals make significant impacts in solving major global crises like water resources or climate change.
GISc is currently transforming industries like agriculture, finance, real estate, and even emergency response and the government. But much of the work done in these fields would not be possible without the efforts of a GISc technician.
What Does A GISc Technician Do?
At its core, GISc is an information technology that melds cartography with digital manipulation and analysis. According to National Geographic, “A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface. By relating seemingly unrelated data, GIS can help individuals and organizations better understand spatial patterns and relationships.”2 A GISc technician uploads data and ensures that it’s correct, relevant and up to date.
The information gathered from GISc is utilized in climate science, environmental conservation, archaeology, anthropology and regional planning. The GISc technician is responsible for digitizing, inputting, updating and guaranteeing that the data in the system is trustworthy and coherent. These individuals typically update the data but don’t actually utilize it. Types of data they typically handle include aerial photographs, environmental readings, population density, satellite imagery and sonar readouts.
Where Does A GISc Technician Work?
GISc technicians are also known as GISc analysts, GISc coordinators or GISc specialists. Given the flexibility of titles a GISc technician can hold, the roles and locations you’ll find them in vary. The bulk of employment opportunities lie in scientific and technical consulting and are usually done by independent contractors.3 GISc experience is also highly valued in specialist departments within companies in the scientific and technical services fields. A prime example of this is the oil and gas industry, which utilizes a large amount of GISc data to survey land and resources and plan new developments. On the flip side of this are environmental agencies which use GISc data to develop conservation strategies and track animal populations and species of plants.3
Some GISc technicians work for local, state and federal government in an array of roles. This can involve anything from transportation planning and construction to natural resource management and civic planning. At the federal level, GISc experience can open up doors at agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In these agencies, GISc technicians provide data that will be used for policymaking and academic study.3
GISc Technician Duties And Skills
The specific day-to-day tasks of a GISc technician may depend on the industry or specific role they hold. In general, the daily GISc experience for a technician involves the following:4
- Cartography: Creating maps to be reviewed and critiqued. GISc technicians should be skilled with map projections and cartographic principles
- Database management: Offering insight on how to store, manage and then extract the relevant information from structured sets of geographic data
- Spatial analysis: Using techniques to manipulate, locate, pull and analyze geographic data. This includes identifying and exploring relationships using maps, graphs and/or tabular data
- Programming: Writing code and automating redundant or outdated GISc processes
- Remote sensing: Attaining data without physically being in the location. This includes utilizing satellite, aerial or sonar imagery to map the earth
- Surveying: Measuring physical and geometric characteristics of Earth
GISc Technician Technology
Given the technical precision necessary to excel in this role, it is recommended that GISc technicians be familiar with the following programs and software:
- Esri ArcGIS
- ArcGIS Server and ArcPad
- Microsoft Visual Studio
- Practical Extraction and Reporting Language (PERL)
- AutoDesk AutoCAD
If you are interested in analyzing environmental data through technologically advanced processes, a position like GISc technician may be the right fit for you. Consider how additional GISc experience from an experiential program like Kent State University’s online Master of Geographic Information Science (GISc) could help you excel in new and exciting roles.
1 Retrieved on July 3, 2019, from www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geoscientists.htm
2 Retrieved on July 15, 2019, from nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/geographic-information-system-gis/
3 Retrieved on July 15, 2019, from environmentalscience.org/career/gis-technician
4 Retrieved on July 15, 2019, from gisgeography.com/gis-technician-jobs-salary/