Top 5 Essential Skills for GIS Technicians
Organizations are increasingly depending on Geographic Information Systems for applications ranging from navigation services to location-based scavenger hunts. According to a market research group study, global revenue generated by GIS will be worth $25.6 billion by 2030. This is owed, in part, to the advancement in cloud technology and surging demand for location-as-a-service solutions.
The growth isattracting many people to the field especially people who want more than just collecting a paycheck. People who:
- Are fascinated by data
- Want to empower local communities
- Are curious about the world
- Want to work outside
- LOVE MAPS
Many professionals in this field start out as GIS Technicians and work their way up. To get you started, these are must have skills:
Regardless of whether you’ll be working with ESRI products or some other available GIS software, you need to be comfortable finding your way around. This includes navigating the interface, connecting to different data sources, and adding different data formats. The ability to customize your workspace to your liking is will positively affect your work proficiency.
Introduction to Programming
GIS uses programming languages in a variety of ways. From automating tasks, customizing existing models, to writing applications from scratch. Start with a basic understanding of what programming is and how it can deal with specific issues.
Concepts of object-oriented programming and scripting (Python, VB) become very handy. Use script to performing simple tasks, for example, labeling features using multiple fields.
You can always go into using programming for more advanced tasks if you so choose.
Databases and Queries
GIS uses data for visualization and analysis. Data used, by and large, is organized and stored in spatial databases. Spatial databases are optimized to store and query spatial data.
You need to have a basic understanding of database models and data types. The basics of tables (fields, records) and the concept of primary and foreign keys. Ability to conceptualize simple designs and put together Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERD)
Your most important database skill, however, will be to use SQL. You use SQL (Structured Query Language) to retrieve and manipulate data. Spend some time getting familiar with SELECT statements. Retrieving ALL or DISTINCT data FROM tables using the WHERE conditions, simple data manipulation (INSERT/DELETE), AND how to use GROUP and JOIN.
Depending on the nature of your project, you could go for months without having to make a map. Data integrity projects, for example, do not usually involve making maps. But as a GIS Technician, you need at least the basics of cartography. You will be expected to know how to make maps.
Most requests are likely to be simple maps, for a presentation, or something similar. Depending on your organization, exhibit quality maps may be a common thing.
You should know the difference between working in ‘Data-view’ and ‘Layout-view’. Symbolizing using categories, quantities, and single and multiple attributes. Working with legend, manipulating labels, working with multiple data frames and neatlines.
Neatlines are borders that separate different map elements.
Your ability to work as a part of a team will have a very high impact on your success. In GIS, just like in any other profession, big projects are completed by splitting them into smaller tasks.
Your co-workers need to be able to rely on you to complete your assigned task on time. You should be ready to contribute to the success of your team at any stage. Professionally communicate your ideas and respectfully listen when other team members express their ideas. This will enable you to learn faster.
Working in a team will also bring out awareness of your capabilities and maximize your strength.
If you’re seriously considering a career in GIS, these skills are more than enough to get your ‘foot in the door’ so to speak. Together with a lifelong learning attitude, you’re sure to find a bright and rewarding future in this field.