Geographical information systems are computer systems used to analyse spatial and geographical data.
Geographical information systems combine social, economic and topographical data that is used for a variety of purposes including flood defence planning, healthcare, road traffic management, and market research. GIS managers supervise their production.
Responsibilities of the job vary, but typically include:
- supervising a team of staff including programmers, cartographers, data managers, analysts and support specialists
- managing budgets and project costs
- consulting clients to ascertain project purpose, needs and information required
- recruiting and training staff
- negotiating contracts
- managing the development of GIS software packages
- evaluating the functionality of systems
- purchasing new equipment to improve project efficiency
- keeping up to date with new technology
- making sure that projects keep to pre-determined deadlines
- investigating new GIS applications.
- Specialist software development companies and consultancies
- Utilities companies
- Telecommunications companies
- Insurance companies
- Local authorities and police authorities
- Emergency services
- Government departments (such as HM Land Registry)
- Motor vehicle rescue services
Vacancies are advertised by careers services and specialist recruitment agencies, in local and national newspapers, online, on local authority jobs lists (for example, that of the Association for Geographic Information) and in relevant publications including Computer Weekly, Computing and New Scientist, plus their respective websites.
Initial professional positions can be difficult to secure, so networking and speculative applications are worthwhile.
It is possible to enter this profession with a university degree in any subject. However, some employers favour relevant subjects such as geographic information science, geography, computer science, surveying or urban planning. Gaining a postgraduate GIS qualification is advantageous, particularly for graduates without relevant qualifications and/or experience.
Graduates often enter the industry in GIS technician roles and work up to management positions with several years’ experience. Any work experience gained via industrial placements, summer internships or insight programmes is beneficial.
Employers look for candidates with strong problem-solving, project management, analytical, organisational, time management, interpersonal, leadership and communication skills. Candidates must also be able to demonstrate a genuine interest in and commitment to the field.