Career Profile: Geographic Information Specialists
Maps and charts can be useful, whether they are online or on paper. To be helpful, these types of documents need to have a lot of information, including street names, land formations, and much more.
Someone has to collect that information and put it together in a form that people can use. Geographic information systems (GIS) specialists collect the information needed for maps and charts and then put it together in a way that people can understand and use. If you like small details and interesting facts, you might want to consider this career.
Think about the different types of maps that you have at home or school. You might have a globe showing the whole world, a map of Canada, and a map of your province or city. Each one shows a different level of detail. Some are political maps, showing countries and cities, while others are topographical, showing mountains, hills, and streams.
Charts usually show information that is useful for a particular field, such as shipping. Without the information from these documents, getting to an unfamiliar destination would be difficult.
GIS specialists gather that information and decide how to put it together into a form that people can use. They might gather the information themselves or get others to gather it for them. The information could include rivers and streams, hills, buildings, streets, and much more. The job sometimes involves going out to gather the information, but much of the work is indoors, working with computers and analyzing data.
GIS specialists can work in universities, government departments, geographic organizations, and even tourism departments. Annual salaries start at about $43,000 and can rise to $81,000 with experience. Many employers ask for at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a field such as geography or environmental science. However, GIS certificate or diploma programs are also available in much of Canada. Usually, the degrees take at least three years to complete, and the certificate or diploma courses are shorter.
Not all GIS programs are the same, and students should be sure to check out what courses are available in each one. In high school, courses in geography and mathematics are useful, as well as statistics if possible. Making maps easy to read and pleasant to look at is also important, and it can be helpful to take courses in graphic design or art.
Generally, the work of a GIS specialist involves working alone some of the time, but also working with others. Most parts of the world already have maps or charts about them, and people in this field spend a lot of time updating or correcting work that has already been done. Annual city maps, for example, would not need to be completely redone. There might just be a few new streets or housing developments that need to be added. If a map is very old, however, the GIS specialist might need to redo large parts of it to make it accurate. Consulting with colleagues can help make these decisions easier.
Working as a geographic information specialist is a good choice for people who are precise and enjoy details. It could be a good choice for you.
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