[BLOG] GIS Job Titles to Search for as a Recent Graduate

  • Posted on: 3 June 2017
  • By: Kirstin Rochel

Applying for a job can be difficult and frustrating, especially when you are not even sure if you are qualified for the posted job opening. Or maybe you are just about to graduate, like me, or have already finished your education but are not sure what kind of jobs you are even supposed to look for now. What is the official name for an entry-level GIS job? Do you count your school work as experience? What do you type into the search bar on the job portal site?

When I first started applying for jobs, I had these exact questions. On general job websites, I just searched for the keyword “GIS” or “entry level GIS,” but reading through all job descriptions that contained these keywords was extremely time consuming. However, going through this process has helped me filter out which jobs I would most likely qualify for, although this pattern is not always consistent.

Before I list a bunch of different positions, I should probably mention that a uniformity in terms of how GIS job titles correlate to the described job tasks and requirements does not exist. Oftentimes, the job titles vary by employer and location, making it even more difficult to figure out which specific position matches your abilities and skill level. One company's "GIS Specialist" does not necessarily have the same required skills and duties as another’s. Nevertheless, I have found a general pattern that will help new GIS people to search more efficiently for GIS jobs.

Many people start their career as a GIS intern and then move up the ladder. Typically, the entry-level position you want to apply for after your internship or graduation is GIS Technician. Most employers will require their candidates to have a Bachelor’s Degree in GIS or a related field like geography or urban planning, and 1-2 years of experience for this position.

Whereas a GIS Technician’s focus is on spatial analysis and the actual mapping applications, a Mapping Analyst is concerned with the analysis and presentation of geospatial data. But this position can also be considered an entry-level position, with similar expectations to that of a GIS Technician.

On the other hand, a GIS Administrator can be considered an entry-level or mid-level position, depending on the amount of responsibility and type of company. Expected years of experience can range from 1 to 6 or even more, but the essential responsibilities are to support, maintain, and administer geospatial databases and applications. Mid-level positions usually require more experience and experience in specific areas such as management.

Another position you should search for is the GIS Analyst. It oftentimes is considered a more experienced job, but some employers only require 1-2 years of hands-on experience, although 3-5 years is more common. But do not disregard posts for this job completely; you might be a great match for the company even with less than the typical work experience. In fact, some employers regard this as the entry-level position.

Some of the positions typically requiring greater work experience are GIS Specialist, Senior GIS Analyst, GIS (Project) Manager, and GIS Coordinator, so it is likely that such positions will not be a good match for you if you just finished your GIS degree. There are also specialized positions, such as the GIS Developer or CAD Designer, whose focus is on GIS programming. If you have a programming or computer science background, these might be what you are looking for.

Although it seems like you just need to search for anything that starts with “GIS” since every position I just listed follows that pattern, there are several great jobs you would probably miss. So, make sure you also search for positions such as Cartographic Technician, Data and Visualization Specialist, Mapping Technician, Geospatial Analyst, and Cartographer. You might qualify for these with as little as one year experience.

Speaking of experience, it can seem somewhat odd that an entry-level job requires 1-2 years of work experience. Isn’t this is the job you do to enter this field or even the job you want to do to get initial experience? Keep in mind that if you have taken GIS courses that required you to utilize GIS software and create extensive projects on a regular basis, you might be able to count that towards your experience. For example, my current employer considers my two years of GIS coursework at UCLA hands-on experience. Make sure you give yourself credit for all of the work you put into your classes. Your resume should reflect the knowledge you have acquired since you started using GIS. There are many different ways to highlight your skills in your resume which I will talk about in more depth next week. Stay tuned!