Office of Continuing Education

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Christa Sterling

June 30th, 2017

GIS professionals take raw data collected from a business, organization or other entity and make it into a format that the data collector can understand and use. GIS, or geographic information services, focuses on data from a particular geographic area, whether large or small, and represents it visually in a way that makes it easier to understand, and useful to those that need it. GIS can be used by companies to identify trends and customer behaviors, and even to make personalized text or email offers to customers based on their proximity to a retail location, as well as other uses.

In order to have a career as a GIS professional, many skills are needed. Some of these skills are technical in nature, while others are soft skills of a non-technical nature.

Technical Skills for GIS Professionals

Programming and coding skills are part of any GIS professional’s job. Programming and coding are the means by which data can be made visual for use by companies and organizations, so GIS professionals need to be proficient in at least one programming language, as well as coding languages for creating mobile data and applications.

The more proficient GIS professionals are in programming and coding, the more versatile they will be able to be in making data accessible to clients. Some organizations may be flexible about how data is presented, while others will require it to integrate with their existing systems.

Analytical skills are also important for GIS professionals so that they can understand and represent the data collected in ways that show its meaning and value. Knowing what is needed on a particular project will be critically important for GIS work. If you can’t show the relevance of the data for the organization that needs it, they are unlikely to be able to use it.

Non-technical and Soft Skills for GIS Professionals

There are many non-technical (or soft) skills that are important for GIS professionals as well. Project management skills are necessary since GIS workers often juggle multiple projects at the same time. You need to be able to get a sense of how long projects will take, what steps will be needed to complete the project, and what resources you will need, among other aspects of project management.

Whether you work with others or as a sole proprietor, you will need effective interpersonal skills to communicate with representatives of the organizations for which you are performing analysis and data visualization. If you do work with others as a team leader or an employee of a GIS company, you will also need to be able to function well in those environments.

Interpersonal skills can be difficult for some in technical fields because their focus is often on data and mathematical concepts, but people skills are the number one, most important soft skill for anyone working with other people on a daily basis. Networking is another important skill for GIS professionals who may depend on referrals and word of mouth to find projects.

To develop GIS skills and become certified in this growing specialty area, take the CCSU course in GIS certification being offered soon. You can also view our open courses to learn more about what we have to offer!