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Introduction to GIS
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is an emerging industry throughout the world. It is a tool that allows users to visualize and present data in several ways. This enables them to observe and report patterns and relationships within a given area, subject or between given variables. These patterns and relationships are generally displayed on maps, but they can also be represented on a globe, on charts and in reports. Its importance lies in its ability to bring together information from a number of different sources and ensure that specific work is carried out. Latitudes and Longitudes are usually applied, and the locations are pinned to their corresponding geographical grids. . This paper discusses the work of GIS professionals, the employment opportunities and perks offered to them and the educational and professional qualifications and competencies required for a GIS professional.
What do GIS Professionals Do?
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) professionals work with interrelated software and programs, in order to create, maintain and update data and (or) maps that can easily be combined with geographically referenced data. GIS software has the capabilities to co-relate different types of data; such as demographic, socio-economic, political and administrative boundaries, land usage, land cover and topography, infrastructure and transportation networks and environmental factors. .
GIS Specialists generally perform some, or all, of the following tasks:
- Create and charting maps and graphs, using GIS software and related equipment.
- Meet with users to define and specify their data needs, output requirements, and project and task managements, or to develop applications.
- Conduct research and investigation to locate and acquire any existing databases.
- Collect, analyze, and consolidate spatial data from staff members and determine the best possible manner in which the information can be displayed using GIS.
- Compile and consolidate geographic and topographic data from different of sources such as censuses, satellite images, field works, aerial photographs and existing maps.
- Interpret spatial data for geographic statistics, incorporated in documents & reports.
- Design and update database.
- Apply any additional knowledge obtained regarding spatial feature representations.
- Enter latest map data through the use of either a digitizer or direct input, by applying the principles of cartography; including coordinate systems, latitude, longitudes, elevation levels, map scales and topography.
- Analyze geographic correlations between different and varying types of data.
- Prepare metadata and similar documentation.
- Maintain and operate GIS system hardware, software, and plotter & color printer.
- Copy, delete and add/remove files, drawings and maps to and from output reports, both in hard copy or electronic transfer.
- Present information to users in a user-friendly design and answer all relevant questions.
- Locate, retrieve and procure stored maps.
The majority of GIS specialists and professionals are employed in government agencies or utility companies. They usually work in a clean, well-lit and well-ventilated office, with their own cubicle/workstation equipped with automated mapping equipment computers. Their work often involves long hours of computing. Some GIS professionals conduct fieldwork to collect datawhile some work as consultants and technicians to help private and public entities select the hardware and software best suited for their geographical information needs.
Any other educational qualification that enables a student to acquire the following skills, knowledge, and abilities is useful for the purpose of GIS profession:
- Geography: knowledge of characteristics and interrelation of land, sea, and air masses.
- Communication: written, oral and cartographic.
- Analytical Skills: the ability to analyze and solve problems using the GIS tools.
- Mathematics: using algebra, trigonometry and calculus to solve problems.
- Information Gathering: identify essential information sources and their validity.
- Information Ordering: the ability to organize things or actions in a specified order.
- Computer Science: using and designing computer programs to solve problems.
- Systems Evaluation: observing and analyzing indicators of system performance.
Salary, Job Titles and Perks
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for GIS professionals (cartographers to be precise) was $51,180; with the majority earning between $39,510 and $69,220 in 2010-2011. Depending on the position job title and job description, various annual salaries and job titles (as of 23 June 2014 in USD) are listed below: .
- Crime Analyst ($51,000)
- GIS Programmer ($55,000)
- GIS Programmer Analyst ($56,000)
- GIS Analyst ($63,000)
- GIS Analyst Developer ($59,000)
- GIS Systems Analyst ($62,000)
- Cartographer ($52,000)
- Development Analyst Programming ($91,000)
- HRIS Business Analyst ($71,000)
- GIS Data Analyst ($80,000)
- GIS Technicians ($50,000)
Apart from the lucrative salaries, GIS professionals are also offered challenging tasks and other benefits, depending on the organization they are employed with. For instance, GIS professionals working in the government sector and utilities department are entitled to healthcare, vacations, sick leaves and vision and dental care and treatment.
Briney, A. (2014, May 09). An Overview of Geographic Information Systems. Retrieved from About.com/Geography: http://geography.about.com/od/geographyintern/a/gisoverview.htm
California Occupational Guide Number 554. (2002). GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS) SPECIALISTS. Retrieved from Employment Development Department- Labour Market Information: http://www.calmis.ca.gov/file/occguide/geogspec.htm
Morais, C. D. (2012, July 20). What Do GIS Professionals Make: GIS Salary Surveys. Retrieved from GIS Lounge: http://www.gislounge.com/gis-salary-surveys/