What Does a GIS Specialist Do?
A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist designs, develops, and implements systems and databases to access and store geospatial data.
GIS specialists design digital maps using geospatial data and analyze spatial and non-spatial information. It is common for GIS specialists to design maps for internal use (corporations and governments) or to create mobile and online applications.
GIS specialists commonly make assessments and recommendations to support engineering and construction business units. It’s important for people in this field to have exceptional problem-solving and analytical skills. By analyzing and visualizing geographic data in an easy-to-understand and actionable way, GIS specialists enable organizations and individuals to make more informed decisions.
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National Average Salary
GIS specialist salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site zengig.com.
The average U.S. salary for a GIS specialist is:
GIS Specialist Job Descriptions
The first step when hiring a great GIS specialist is a well-crafted job description. Below are real-world examples to help give you the best chance of success on your recruiting journey.
[Your Company Name] needs a new GIS specialist to join our team. As a GIS specialist, you will work to store and interpret geospatial and geographic data. You will be responsible for performing the daily tasks and remedial work required for this position, as well as researching and learning new technology relating to the GIS field. The ideal candidate will have experience navigating computer systems, geographic software, and data. Previous experience in the GIS field is not required but preferred. Please consider applying to this position if you would like the opportunity to work with our company and further your career as a GIS specialist.
Typical duties and responsibilities
- Design, develop and implement systems and databases for geospatial data
- Standardize geographic data
- Research and conduct tests on new tools
- Perform geospatial modeling and spatial analysis
- Review GIS data for accuracy
- Build, update, and maintain database, GIS software, and hardware
- Administer and troubleshoot applications and GIS solutions
Education and experience
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field required
Required skills and qualifications
- Proficiency with GIS desktop software and data management
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Ability to effectively configure data
- Experience with various technology methodologies and applications
- Detail oriented and analytical thinker
- Knowledge of multiple programming languages
- Ability to process and analyze data
- Strong team player
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Outstanding critical thinking skills
- Detail oriented
ABC Company is seeking a GIS Specialist to join our team in our (City, State) office. ABC Company has a highly experienced and dynamic team of individuals dedicated to providing high-level professional services to our clients.
Duties and responsibilities
- Spatial analysis is the dominant portion of the job duties envisioned for this position, but will be balanced with a variety of cartography, field staff support, and research and development
- Provide independent data interpretation while effectively maintaining data documentation
- Create and modify GIS datasets, manage and maintain legacy GIS datasets develop and implement GIS-based analyses supporting civil engineering, electrical engineering, and survey projects
- Produce technically skilled and detailed solutions to include preparing clear, complete, and accurate representations of spatial data using hardcopy and/or electronic media
- Core responsibility includes processing data and graphics requests from project team members and anticipating information needs and presentation format as part of engineering and survey workflows
- You will work on energy projects, such as transmission, solar and wind, and land projects, such as residential and commercial development, to compile available information for project proposals
- Develop and maintain geospatial data on desktop and mobile applications. Ensure data meets appropriate data accuracy and content standards for quality assurance and quality control
- Must have a degree in GIS, geography, environmental studies, or related field with demonstrated capabilities in GIS
- Hands-on knowledge of Esri ArcGIS desktop software, including ArcMap and ArcPro
- Strong understanding of geodatabases and geodatabase applications
- Ability to work with vector and raster datasets
- Experience using ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Portal, or another web mapping system
- Familiar with GPS data collection and data management, including Collector for ArcGIS
- Ability to use and edit shapefiles and geodatabases (personal, file, and enterprise)
- Experience working with different coordinate systems, map projections, and datum’s
- Familiarity with standard cartographic methods, theories and principles
- Ability to independently manage multiple assignments, determine and set job task priorities, and work with limited direct supervision
Preferred but not required
- Previous work in/familiarity with consulting engineers and/or surveyors
- Experience using AutoCAD and DWG files
- Experience using Google Earth and KMZ files
- Familiar with LiDAR datasets and usage
- Experience using Python, ModelBuilder or another common GIS scripting language is desirable, as job duties will include creating scripts to streamline frequently performed tasks
Provide CAD, GIS and Project Coordination support for tasks performed in support of Facility Utilization Studies, Planning and other engineering or consulting services by developing maps or documents pertaining to project deliverables. Facility Space Utilization (FUS) and Facility Condition Assessments (FCAs). Tasks include but are not limited to maintenance of various GeoBase data layers, creation of new data layers, performing spatial analysis, collection/maintenance of GeoBase features. Project assignments will include field collection of data to support projects performed at multiple Air Force facilities across the country. Must have experience working with Spatial Data Standards for Facilities, Infrastructure, and Environment (SDSFIE). Position requires traveling to project sites for data gathering. Must be able to utilize ESRI ArcGIS to prepare data sources and maps in support of planning charrettes. Able to perform migration of CAD to GIS, various GeoBase functions, i.e. build data sets, perform QA/QC, develop queries, create maps, etc. in preparation project deliverables.
- Perform GIS database development, qualitative/quantitative analysis, and mapping
- Produce detailed, high-quality cartographic products (digital and hardcopy) and accompanying reports in accordance with technical guidelines and project requirements
- Communicate with project team members and other stakeholders to define data needs, project requirements, and desired outputs
- Compile, manipulate, and refine geographic data from a variety of sources including but not limited to, CAD, field observation, satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and existing maps
- Perform quality control checks of GIS Data and non-spatial databases with minimal supervision to ensure data integrity
- Manage individual project tasks related to GIS, database design and management, and data visualization
- Customize GIS workflow and software programs for data collection, engineering, and environmental applications
Skills and qualifications
- Minimum 5 years of ESRI ArcGIS experience AS/BS in Engineering or related field
- Previous experience in developing GIS project deliverables
- Able to perform field data collection activities requiring long durations of walking and climbing of stairs
- Able to travel for extended periods of time for up to three weeks at project locations
- Proficiency using ESRI ArcGIS Software, AutoDesk Software, and Microsoft Office is desired
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Resourceful and self-motivated
ABC Company is seeking a GIS Specialist with knowledge of using Esri ArcGIS 10.x desktop to perform editing of existing utility datasets, creating maps, file research, data mining, creating data models, management of project mapping and geodatabase information. Will be working at client sites in the (City, State) area, must be able to drive between locations for meetings and training.
- Candidate must be proficient in creating and maintaining Esri geodatabase models, creating GIS Web Apps and Web Maps through ArcGIS Online
- Ability to conduct field GPS GNSS data collection
- The position is office based with occasional field data collection
- Travel to field sites and client sites in (state)
- Assist clients with Esri desktop data edits and provide client guidance in the use of GPS GNSS field operations
- Esri Certification or GISP is a plus
- 1-5 years experience in ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Onlin.
- 1-5 Years experience in GPS GNSS field data collection
- State Driver’s License
- Candidate must have good communication and writing skills, with a responsibility in documenting meeting minutes, and assist in the writing of GIS/GPS standard GIS operating procedures
Candidate Certifications to Look For
- Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) – A GISP, or Geographic Information Systems Professional, will gain real experience as well as education on geographic information systems. Although this certification requires 2 or more years of work experience, it is extremely beneficial to any GIS specialist who is looking to prove their ability through relevant certifications and training.
- Geographic Information Services (GIS) Professional – Offered by the GIS Certification Institute, the Geographic Information Services Professional certification provides proof of expertise and establishes confidence in a GIS specialist. This certification is one of the most recognized for geographic information systems specialists.
How to Hire a GIS Specialist
When hiring a GIS specialist, first consider the following:
- Recruiting: Do you have the knowledge, tools, and resources to attract and screen candidates?
- Complexity: Do you need a senior professional, or will mid or junior-level skills and experience suffice?
- Duration: Are you hiring for a one-time project or an ongoing need?
- Management: Do you have the time and expertise to direct the work effectively?
- Urgency: How soon does the work need to be completed?
- Headcount: Do you have the budget and approval for an internal employee, or should you consider alternate options?
Answering these questions will help determine the best course of action for your current hiring need. Fortunately, great options exist for every scenario. These are our recommendations:
1. Use a professional recruiting firm
When working with 4 Corner Resources, the heavy lifting is done for you. We source, screen, recruit, and deliver only the most qualified candidate(s), saving you significant time and effort throughout the hiring process while you remain focused on your core business. This is the best route to take when:
- You need to fill the position quickly
- Your position is suited for temporary hiring services, contract staffing, or contract-to-hire recruiting, and you intend to direct the work activity.
- You are hiring an employee as a direct placement but aren’t able to recruit effectively or efficiently with your internal staff.
2. Advertise your opening on a top job board
Your best option may be to advertise your opening on a proven job board. There are many widely used job sites out there that draw visits from qualified candidates. If you have someone internally who can dedicate the time and energy to sort through applications and screen individuals effectively, this can be a great choice.
We recommend using a job board when:
- Your internal recruiting team has the knowledge and experience to assess candidate qualifications
- You are hiring a direct employee and have time to manage the entire recruiting effort
- You have a process for receiving, screening, and tracking all resumes and applications
- You are prepared to respond to all applicants
We recommend CareerBuilder for GIS specialist openings:
CareerBuilder has been a trusted source for hiring since 1995. Reach 80+ million unique, diverse U.S. job seekers annually by posting your jobs through their talent acquisition channels. Through CareerBuilder, you can engage candidates and drive them into your sourcing pipeline. We recommend using CareerBuilder for hiring when you have the internal resources and processes to review, screen, and reply to all applicants.
3. Hire an experienced freelancer
The freelance, or gig, economy continues to grow, with more talent available daily. Freelancers provide high-quality work without a long-term commitment. They can offer you a fresh perspective, more flexibility, and increase efficiency. While the freelance market isn’t ideal for every position, GIS specialists are often a great fit.
We recommend this option when:
- Your need is project-based
- The work can be performed remotely
- You do not intend to direct the daily work activity
- You are hiring for expertise your internal team does not possess
- You do not require an employee to work onsite or follow a specific schedule
We recommend using either Toptal, Upwork, or both.
Upwork is a freelance talent network that helps individuals connect with experts in a variety of fields to accomplish project-based needs. When you have a specific, well-defined goal in mind, this can be a great path to hiring an experienced GIS specialist. If you are satisfied with the outcome you can continue to book the same freelancer through Upwork’s easy-to-use project interface.
Toptal is an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, finance experts, product managers, and project managers in the world. Toptal vets its freelancers before making them accessible, ensuring their legitimacy. Top companies hire Toptal freelancers for their most important projects. Hiring a GIS specialist on Toptal can help you quickly get the results you need.
4. Leverage your internal resources
You can utilize your own website, social media, and employees to assist in your search for top candidates.
A company website posting should be the first step in notifying prospective candidates that you are hiring. Social media can also be a powerful tool for spreading the word about your new opening. As far as exposure is concerned, this option can be as good as some job boards when you have a large enough following across various platforms, like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter.
Current employees are every organization’s greatest asset. Encourage your internal team to promote job openings to their network by offering cash and other incentives.
We recommend these options when:
- Your brand has great name recognition
- You can consistently monitor and respond to candidate activity through your website and social media accounts
- You have a process in place to quickly and broadly communicate job openings and requirements
- You have an effective employee referral program in place
If you aren’t sure which path is best, schedule a discovery call today with our seasoned recruiting professionals. The 4 Corner team is on standby to help you find the best option for your unique hiring need.
Sample Interview Questions
- What would you say are the most valuable software for a GIS Specialist?
- Would you be able to tell me more about your experience with GIS software and tools?
- When developing a new GIS project or research question, how do you create a research plan?
- Would you be able to describe a particularly complex GIS project or analysis you have conducted, and how you overcame any obstacles you encountered?
- What steps do you take to minimize sources of error and bias in your analysis and visualization?
- Is there a time when you had to communicate complex GIS concepts or findings to a non-technical audience, and how did you handle it?
- What are your methods of staying up-to-date with the latest trends in GIS and how do you apply your knowledge?
- Which research project or study are you most proud of, and what impact has it had on your field or industry?
- What measures do you take to ensure the security and privacy of sensitive geographic data?
- Can you explain the difference between geo-coding and geo-referencing?