Today’s blog post is brought to you by Xander Kalna
Since some of our students in the YCITYSCI Program are interested in learning about different careers that exist in the STEM field, today’s blog post is going to explore the GIS career fields in St. Louis, MO. GIS stands for geographic information system, like the Google Earth program that we have used this semester. A career focused on GIS may have a variety of titles such as GIS analyst, GIS technician, GIS specialist, geospatial analyst, geographer, cartographer, surveyor, or photogrammetrist. There is a wide variety of job titles as there are a wide variety of applications for GIS technology. If GIS doesn’t sound like a perfect fit for you, don’t worry! Having some background or skill in GIS can drastically increase your abilities in many other professions. GIS is a way for scientists and other professionals to display data geographically. Esri defines GIS as “a framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing data”. Essentially GIS programs are like any other computer program like word or excel. What is unique is that GIS “analyzes spatial location and organizes layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes… to reveal deeper insights into data such as patterns, relationships, and situations.” This is important as many times if data is put onto a map, there is a definite pattern that appears. Look at the 2020 U.S. Election results.
Just looking at the table of state names and numbers might give you some idea of what is going on, but when it is put onto a map, it is much clearer. In this case, blue colored states are states who voted for President-elect Biden while red colored states are states that voted for President Trump. Generally in the United States, the East and West states usually are more likely to vote for the democrats like President-elect Biden while states in the Midwest usually are more likely to vote for republicans like President Trump. This is a good example to show how culture (or political values) can be represented spatially in an easy to understand way.
GIS professionals can be found in a wide variety of fields such as: government, geology, healthcare, emergency management, natural resources, engineering, construction, business and marketing, regional planning, or national security and defense. In these fields, GIS professionals will find themselves studying the earth and the distribution of land, features, and inhabitants, or collecting precise data and making maps, or measure and interpret information geographically for regional planning or decision making. Your day to day tasks may include: visiting sites to collect data, researching and analyzing historical imagery and data, creating maps or other visual representations of data, analyzing spatial relationships, and presenting findings and other created products.
To begin a career in or with GIS, a bachelor’s degree is a great way to start! Many schools do not offer degrees specifically in GIS, but they do offer degrees in related fields such as geology, geography, environmental science, computer science, and ecology. A GIS degree may include classes such as: GIS, remote sensing and digital imaging, vector based GIS, raster based GIS, applications of GIS in a particular topic, cartography, and human geography.
References and Additional Resources
Esri, “What is GIS?”
National Geographic, “GIS (Geographic Information System)”
U.S. Geologic Survey, “What is a geographic information system (GIS)?”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Surveying and Mapping Technician
- Cartographer and Photogrammetrist
USGS, “What is a geographic information system (GIS)?”
- (Credit: Sexton, Pamela Ann. Public domain.)
2020 U.S. Presidential Election Map, Associated Press, screenshot by Xander Kalna
Xander Kalna screenshot in ArcGIS Pro 2.6