Software

IT enthusiasts should check out the GIS field

For people just getting into IT or IT pros who are looking to give their careers a jolt, you might want to look at the field of geographic information systems.

What technology could retail chains, crime scene investigators, and farmers have in common? They can all use geographic information systems (GIS) tools. Retail chains use them to determine where to put a franchise, police use it to analyze data, and some farmers use it to plan what crops to plant and where.

GIS degrees appear to be up and coming and they may help bridge the gap between people who know business and people who know tech, something you've been hearing a lot about lately. GIS professionals are problem-solvers who like applying technology to new fields. According to American Sentinel University's website, the GIS industry is perfect for someone who wants to work with software that visualizes data rather than displays numbers and charts, and who also wants to learn fundamental business principles.

There has been a lot of activity in the GIS space lately:

SuperGeo Technologies recently released the Mobile Cadastral GIS 3.0 to assist in cadastral navigation measuring and field survey.

Eka Technologies Inc., recently announced new FotoSpot and FotoMapr geo-tagging digital cameras.

The IT staff of the city of Sacramento, California, worked with GIS software provider ERSI to create a customized app to open its redistricting process to the public.

Qbase LLC recently created the second GeoSearch Toolkit, which brings geospatial document search to Solr, and adds polygonal search.

Degree or certificate programs in GIS are offered by higher educational institutions all over the world.  You can go here to find the right GIS program for you.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

35 comments
travellingpolander
travellingpolander

GIS is indeed very useful, especially for us that work in the IT Office of the Philippine Red Cross. However, like most GIS implementers were having difficulty measuring up the amount of technology and its usefulness. Meaning, its only as useful as long we can afford it or liberally given to us: training included. Ever, if there's someone out there interested in mapping the whole Philippines and identifying disaster-prone areas and up, up there a satellite for all GPS-enabled devices and mobile phones that are GPS-capable, everything's still in the long, long run. Storms, earthquakes, tsunamis and the likes of that won't wait for us. Neither should technology be.

rsoly777
rsoly777

Many of the problems encountered using Arcview 2.1 while running Windows 3.1 can be attributed to DOS???s limited memory handling capabilities. Even in enhanced mode, many of the Windows 3.1 resources are located in memory below the 640 Kbyte memory barrier. Those limitations did not exist under Windows NT and Solaris.

WorkingDigital
WorkingDigital

This article brings back memories for me. My first professional "active" web site (back in 1996) was a searchable and partially-zoomable map for a local municipality. The map data came from ArcView on Windws 3.1 which was running on our "power" machine with 8 megs of RAM! I used CGI perl scripts to crawl the data and link it to a segment of the map to display on the web site when you typed in your address. I have fond memories of making that site, but 1990s ArcView on the other hand... slow slow slow!

santeewelding
santeewelding

You missed a terrific opportunity to inform more than you already have with this article (good job!). By using "cadastral" twice, without so much as a "cadastre", you left out a big chunk of geopolitical history, and just how important GIS grows to be. Did I say, neat article?

paul
paul

For someone looking to get into GIS I suggest utilities. Utiltiies are big users of GIS. All of them use it and have been doing so for years. I have been in utilities IT since 1993 and GIS has been there since then and longer. Also like Google is dipping their toe in this area. Google Earth Builder. If I were a GIS vendor I would be watching this closely. Interesting that this article didn't mention Google.

jfuller05
jfuller05

I help out the GIS department where I work. GIS is very interesting. There are some days I have the privilege of working in GIS for well over half of my shift, which is a lot of fun. Mapping, collecting points, and thinking of ways to utilize mapping technology breaks up the regular IT day at work.

DKuida
DKuida

I have been using and developing for ESRI products for nearly 5 years now , including advanced implementation of the available tools ( toolboxes) and various extensions. Developing for arcGIS mostly is python and VB. The big Q here is will ever the salaries of the GIS industry will be the same as IT ? SInce these days this is not the situation - which leads to the questionable edge of the GIS formal education ( BA BSc) and ESRI certifications, very often a DB manager or programer can easly take over the IT part of GIS and leave just the surveying and processing for the "specialist" whilst profit wise both small bussiness and working by hours won't get the same check :) think about it.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

I have just started exploring GIS as a solution to an issue I am addressing, and I am not yet ready to invest heavily in the infrastructure. I have found, as dhohls pointed out above, "...nowdays opensource tools such as GRASS, QGIS, PostGIS (etc. etc.) have made GIS accessible to anyone with an interest in it. " (dhohis did not mention GMT, which apparently is the Grandaddy of GIS). A lot of Open Source GIS packages are directly supported by government agencies or educational institutions. There are also a lot of Open Source, easily accessible data bases of GIS information that are freely accessible. It is now possible to run GIS applications on PC's (even my Toshiba laptop) that not long ago required significant computing power. However, "accessible to anyone with an interest in it" is a bit of a stretch- it takes a LOT of effort to just get a handle on the basics. This is not a field where just handing someone a package and expecting results in short order is unrealistic. As others have pointed out, we are looking at a merger of several different technologies and skills. If you are interested in the field, and there is good reason to be interested, plan on dedicating a LOT of study time before expecting your first results...Fortunately, you can accomplish the studies with Open Source tools.

obritik
obritik

Like jrutkowski, I've had some formal training in GIS over the past 5 years, but in my case not much real world experience. I also see in the local government organization where I work, a very few analyst staff will get the limited license/package of GIS software and expected to be able to use it right away. I've never seen any maps being produced here using the ArcGIS app and I think these analysts and management don't understand the training that is needed to use these GIS apps. I'm trying to add GIS map production as another skill I have to offer as an IT technician (with hope to cross over to analyst), but am having a difficult time borrowing the copy of the expensive software from other staff and getting the uninterrupted time to work on it. There are not many GIS jobs in my area (Silicon Valley, California) nor do I see much listed on LinkedIn. The goverment certification list I have been on this year for a GIS tech has about 85 prospective job applicants and we are all sitting waiting for the next opening to come up. I think its good to know this before you invest a lot of time and money in the GIS training as I have.

learn4ever
learn4ever

In Ontario Canada we have Teranet.

iDemoApps
iDemoApps

Best advice to all who require a visual representation of computing rather than the back end stuff. I am certainly a big fan of GIS. it's absolutely wonderful and it will never go out of fashion (as they always say in the business world)!!

gwjones12
gwjones12

GIS software from ESRI is the best of class no doubt about it but beware of the costs of getting into GIS. Hardware and software are expensive!

DMobley232
DMobley232

I've been in IT for about 10 years all in Oil & Gas mainly end user support, and over the past 2-3 years starting to work more with the support of the G&G applications. Starting to look more into the GIS field and looking for any advice or recomendations. I'm Colorado.

jrutkowski
jrutkowski

I have a degree in GIS and have been in the field for a dozen years. I have seen in many organizations where GIS software is dropped on someones desk and they are told to "learn this". As most can imagine, knowing what to do and why you are doing it should come before learning how. I have crossed over from strictly GIS to the IT field. I am now a web developer and build applications for others to utilize GIS tools. The bridge between IT and GIS is critical and our GIS team is part of the IT department which has been invaluable. I have been following TechRepublic for years and it makes me smile to see a nod to GIS!

vikasfrndz4u
vikasfrndz4u

Hi guyz, I'm BCA grad and pursuing MCA ,Good Knowledge on Java . so, is dere any oppurtunity for me in GIS , wil it give me new height in my carrer

fmortara
fmortara

I jumped off the GIS wagon in 2002, after working for 9 years mostly with ESRI here in Brazil. At that time it was very challenging to sell the GIS concept - processing power, data production and interdisciplinar knowledge requirements were hard to get. Back then i had the opportunity to work with talents that i saw no match on the "traditional" IT world. Now sattelite immagery got cheaper, Google maps made maps popular, but, at least here, GIS is still a small niche where people keep trying to fit problems to existing solutions, without too much creativity and with a narrow view about its continuity over time. But i have to confess... reading the article gave me tickles.

dhohls
dhohls

The range of software tools for GIS is also much wider than it used to be. The field used to be dominated by commercial companies such as ESRI and MapInfo - nowdays opensource tools such as GRASS, QGIS, PostGIS (etc. etc.) have made GIS accessible to anyone with an interest in it. Combining that with open standards from groups such as OGC means the field is really growing fast.

mikep
mikep

I used to support ArcInfo running on Windows NT and Citrix Metaframe 1.8 for an electric utility 10 years ago. I thought it would be interesting to just do GIS, but it wasn't very well known at the time and weren't too many opportunities.

roddersm
roddersm

Hi guys, I'm a .Software developer (.Net, SQL Server, ASP, C#, Javascript etc.) and I recently completed a PGDip in GIS. I'm not sure what the best route into GIS from IT is as I don't have a lot of practical experience using GIS software tools? Have you any advice? Do you think there are opportunities for people from Software development backgrounds or do you need a backround in enviromental sciences? I'm in the UK but would be interested in hearing how things are elsewhere too. Thanks,

nqunhua
nqunhua

I've been a Senior GIS Developer for over 11 years now working with ESRI products. GIS allows me to give so much more information to my users than just tabular data. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. They are so right. For years GIS has been thought of by IT management as a toy, a cutesy thing that wasn't really necessary. Most did not know what GIS stands for. However a dramatic shift in attitude has come about in the last few years because of sites like google maps. Possibilities are endless. There are very few developers with GIS skills. All that I know work in or consult with government agencies, including myself. I'm glad to finally see this shift in attitude.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

I've been using ESRI products for the past seven months and agree 100% with Toni. This field has a lot of diversity and you can do a variety of things such as trekking out into the field for data gathering, data manipulation, mapping, and programming (in my case Python with ESRI). It's kind of like the early days of personal computing. Translating business requirements and questions into answers using spatial data requires a breadth of knowledge. I've also noticed that a number of database systems have geographic types and can do geospatial operations on records (Oracle, MS-SQL & MySQL). So even if you aren't into mapping you can do geospatial analysis! :)

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

How can you have an article about GIS without mentioning The Bureau of Land Management? blm.gov usajobs.gov You're welcome.

rsoly777
rsoly777

I don't believe ESRI feels threatened by GOOGLE as there product is not a true GIS, it is more online map building. You can't do any real analysis with google earth products

dhohls
dhohls

Natural science is also another field where GIS is required. It's likely that salaries are not as good as in private sector (or even local government) but at least a good place to get experience, improve skills and so on...

rsoly777
rsoly777

The software is the expensive part not so much the hardware, Hardware prices have been dropping dramatically and you can run the ESRI Products pretty much on any machine that is of mid to high performance. ESRI has been selling Government ELA's which has dramatically increased the use and availability of the product to the Government sector. But if you take a close look at the prices of any enterprise (ie: Sharepoint 2010) software and the prices are high. But the benefit of buying GIS software than using Open Source GIS is that if you have issues ESRI "SUPPORTS" Their products by a dedicated team of professionals where as the Open Source does not........

Aaron.Lee
Aaron.Lee

Good point, they are not cheap by any stretch on the imagination. Even then no software is without bugs or "complications." Nothing like caching for a week to find blank tiles.

maxxx13
maxxx13

One way to become truly valuable in the GIS arena is to come in with a solid foundation in traditional database design and operation principles including SQL and its variants, cardinality, and database normalization (and denormalization). Spatial information and software tend to be idiosyncratic - as do traditional bricks and mortar databases. Getting them to work well together in business processes (rather than just mapping geocoded data) presents challenges beyond the capabilities of either individual specialization.

Aaron.Lee
Aaron.Lee

I came over from the telecom world, automated mapping and facilities management to GIS. Start with the free stuff. ESRI has a ton of free courses, podcasts, and webinars to help break you into the realm of GIS. http://training.esri.com/

mseigler
mseigler

check out GIS Jobs Clearinghouse, or GIS Jobs, there are plenty of listings for all kinds of skill sets every day.

MHultgren
MHultgren

Finally, I can use something other than IE to view MC's GIS site. Looks nice, now if I can just find older Aerial dta and floodplains in the new system.... When will this go live? Thanx. A.

rafanosc
rafanosc

Nice website, just wondering whether it was built from scratch or based on template? Thanks

dhohls
dhohls

Good point. A number of organisations here in SA are switching to open source solutions because of recent ESRI price hikes

Aaron.Lee
Aaron.Lee

That is excellent advice. As a DBA it's difficult to explain to consumers that you can't flatten complex relationships into a single one to one record. Great post!

Aaron.Lee
Aaron.Lee

No, it was a custom build by ESRI. It was a pretty big undertaking here. We converted from an outdated MapGuide site. Now we're working on transitioning to Parcel Editor.

Editor's Picks