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Geographic Information Specialist Job Description, Career as a Geographic Information Specialist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Bachelor’s degree and certification

Average Salary $62,000 per year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Geographic information specialists work with programs and software to create and update data including socioeconomic and demographic standards, political boundaries, land use and cover, environmental practices, infrastructure comparisons within different boundaries and transportation services and networks. They use information they gather through data to create graphs and maps, create information needed by city builders or land owners for specific projects, or create statistical data for census studies. They are responsible for updating technology and programs used to gather the data, and providing information to customers looking for specific information as well as explain to them precisely what it is they have gathered for them.

Education and Training Requirements

There is no specific degree for someone who wants to work in the field of geographic information. Many specialists have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in geography or science with a concentration in statistics or other data gathering studies. Some states require geographical information specialists who plan to work for a government agency to take a state administered test and obtain specific certifications. Someone who plans to work in the field of geographic information could also benefit from sociology, political science or business courses, as many government agencies have broad horizons that branch off into these studies.

Most geographic information specialists land an internship or apprenticeship job through the government to observe other specialists on a day to day basis, as well as assist in conducting research and gathering statistical data. Once an information specialist becomes certified through the state, an internship may turn into a full-time job. The best way for a specialist to get a job is to work for an agency while still going to school so the education and hands-on experience can develop together.

Getting the Job

To get a job as a geographical information specialist, the ideal candidate will understand different ways of explaining land, sea and air masses and the location in which they sit in comparison to one another. They will have excellent written and oral communication skills and be able to easily break down mathematical and statistical data to solve problems. They must be able to gather data and organize it for specific jobs or systems, develop computer programs to present the data and organize it into graphs or maps, and analyze programs to make sure they are updating information properly.

Communication is an extremely important part of working as a geographical information specialist. They often have to communicate with government agencies to explain data information and results of experiments being performed or outlines they have created for projects that are in the works of being created. They will be able to use any technology or programs needed to gather the data and create effective ways to present it and put it to use.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Employment for geographic information specialists is continually on the rise as more technology is emerging that benefits government programs. Many government programs involve location, including transportation services, welfare programs, education programs or infrastructure developments, so the use of data compiled by geographic information specialists is constantly being used to create efficient plans.

Someone who has spent time working for the government as a geographical information specialist can often move on to a career as a research analyst or drafter to help create programs and systems involving geography for the government. This can involve creating geographic tracking systems or other security programs to secure country and state borders.

It is important for anyone working within government agencies to maintain a good reputation and consistently increase their track record of successful data reports or findings. Many government employees, including geographic information specialists, work within different departments and can develop new opportunities if they maintain trust and a good work ethic from one department to the next.

Working Conditions and Environment

Geographic information specialists typically work in clean, well-lit offices to provide a calm working environment. They will have their own computer and mapping system to analyze and input data for current projects. Occasionally, geographic information specialists will work in fields or along roads and within city boundaries to collect data for projects including measurements, geographic latitude and longitude information and building measurements and compositions to create city boundaries or limits.

In most cases, the job involves spending long hours in front of a computer screen entering data and observing information to collect for graphs and reports.

Salary and Benefits

The average annual wage for a geographic information specialist is $62,000. They typically work 40 hour work weeks, but for a specialist conducting studies in the field, longer hours during nights and weekends are not uncommon.

Most geographic information specialists work for government agencies, which allows job security and a full range of benefits including health, visual, dental, a 401K plan, and vacation and sick leave.

Where to Go for More Information

Center for International Earth Science Information Network
61 Route 9W, PO Box 1000
Palisades, NY 10964
(845) 365-8988

Association of American Geographers
1710 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009-3198
(202) 234-1450

Urban and Regional Information Systems Association
1460 Renaissance Drive, Suite 305
Park Ridge, IL 60068
(847) 824-6300

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