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Thread: GISers, please advise.

  1. #1

    Jan 2007
    Mississauga, Canada

    GISers, please advise.

    Hello everyone,

    I'm thinking about going back to school, but I don't know if I'm truly interested in GIS or not. I love the field description but I'm the furthest thing away from a computer geek.

    I just wanted to know if GISers (in the real world) usually work within a team or at a lonely cubicle?
    I'm a social person who likes to interact with people that have the same interests and challenges as me and probably have different perspectives on issues.

    Also... since I can't stand routine, and since GIS can be implemented in a multitude of different fields, do GISers work on one thing only or is it something different everyday?

    For example am I gonna be working solely on agricultural purposes, or would it be transportation planning one day, urban development the next, natural resources, environment... and so on?

    I would love to see your input, any help is appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.

    p.s. new member @ Cyburbia... smashing forum!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
    Mar 2006
    Machesney Park, IL
    It definately varies depending on the job. Some GISers are stuck entering parcel data all day. My husband had a job mapping water utilities all day. But I can tell you that the GIS guy in my office is involved in a broader range of projects than probably anybody here. He's involved with parcel data and government boundaries to a small extent, but also Emergency 911 mapping, all kinds of natural features mapping, working with the seperate planners to make maps for their plans, which vary broadly from land use to zoning maps to park plans, etc. He also spends a decent amount of time selling data and maps to consultants and other municipalities, he assigns work to and supervises our GIS interns, and he has to stay up with all the latest technology, researching what equipment and software our office needs and teaching us how to use new ArcMAP tools and so forth. Most of the big projects he works on are interesting enough that he presents on them at different GIS conferences. But it is likely you'd have to do a boring GIS job or two before you work your way up to the type of job he has. Hope this helps.

  3. #3

    Jan 2007
    Mississauga, Canada
    Thanks for the reply...
    Another concern came up ~ would there be a possibility that, in the future, GIS will gradually fade away as a separate entity and become just part of a planner's jurisdiction?

    Is it really worth it to get into that field, or am I better off becoming a planner?
    Are there any niche educational facilities that specialize in GIS, or do I have to go through a university/college?
    People here either love it or hate it, it's puzzling!

  4. #4
    maudit anglais
    May 1997
    My view is that as GIS programs become more user friendly, it will gradually move from being a specialist position to something a planner does as part of their work. There will likely always be room for GIS Techs, but people in those positions may not have as many opportunities to advance career-wise.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
    Mar 2006

    Multi task

    A lot of my undergrad professors stressed being flexible in your profession and skilled at multiple things. I would see strictly GIS as more limiting and putting you potentially into repetitive tasks, which I know I can't stand. As a planner, though, when people know I'm proficient at GIS, it makes me MUCH more marketable. GIS wasn't required for my major (Public Admin) but my advisor did suggest that I take it, and I'm very glad I did! Employers (at least in this part of the country) perk up when they see you can use GIS.
    I do use it pretty frequently to help with my planning projects and strategizing.

  6. #6
    Dec 2006
    GIS was the only work I could get while as an undergrad in planning. After I gradauted I interviewed at a number of planning positions in the public and private sector (almost all of them required GIS skills). Some positions were a combination of planning and GIS, some were strictly GIS positions.

    The communities and firms that I interviewed for were looking for 1 person to man the GIS system or as an assistant to a senior technician. Any team work was much more IT-based rather than planning based. The majority of questions during the interview dealt with heavy GIS programming rather than planning skills. GIS was a skill for me, but it wasn't my life. In college I did alot more ArcGIS but very little work with ArcSDE, Visual Basic, ArcIMS, and only a few projects in non-ESRI GIS programs such as Mapinfo, Rockwatre GIS, etc.

    GIS is a good skill to have, and it seems like GIS jobs are easier to come by than other planning positions for undergrads, partly because these jobs require much more technical skills to do the job proficiently. Make sure that GIS is not the ONLY technical skills you have, or else you will be typecast into GIS jobs. I like to do alot more design work, so I learned AutoCAD, Sketchup, and trying to do more with Photoshop. For statistical analysis and survey writing, I recommend SPSS. For Gantt charts/project management, I recommend Microsoft Project.

    And don't forget there is a ton of stuff you can do with Excel, Word, and Visual Basic is right around the corner from that.

    Most importantly, technical skills are only part of the many transferrable skills that a planner should have. If your background has a heavy emphasis on computer work and less emphasis on design, people skills, public speaking, research, etc. a planning firm or agency is more likely to look at you from your technical background.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
    Nov 2004
    Austin, TX
    Quote Originally posted by Cancerous View post
    I'm the furthest thing away from a computer geek.
    Strike One.

    I'm a social person who likes to interact with people
    Strike Two.

    I can't stand routine
    Strike Three.

    The only jobs in GIS that do not require any technical knowledge are the basic, technician positions. These are a data entry snore-fest of mind-numbing monkey work. If you have no experience, this is usually where you start anyway.

    There is some fun stuff later on in GIS once you do some programming, analysis and/or database management. The problem is that most college programs do no prepare you for the technical side of a VERY high-tech field. GIS isn't just about maps anymore, it's about beefy hardware and well-maintained data to keep things running smoothly. Many offices consider GIS part of the I.T. department.

    Also, GIS is a field where you will be at your cubicle, working alone. I can't stand dealing with people so this is absolutely perfect for me, but it could get old for someone who is outgoing and likes to talk to people.

    Overall, I have hated the data-entry side of GIS but have enjoyed the technical/analyst side. I began taking programming courses and am now a programmer for our GIS team. This or SDE administration are the way to go if you want to open up your options, otherwise you will be stuck doing data entry forever.

    GIS, to me, is not a field... it's a tool used by people of various fields. Getting a degree in GIS is like getting a degree in Microsoft Office. Go for a broad education and keep your options open. If you like GIS but are social and like a variety of work, then go for planning instead (where you'll still get to use GIS).

    Hope this helps!

    Jeremy (10-years in GIS and counting)

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