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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 28, 09-15 October 2021


How To Map A Career As Geographical Information System (Gis) Expert

Nidhi Prasad

"GIS is about uncovering meaning and insights from within data. It is rapidly evolving and providing a whole new framework and process for understanding." - Jack Dangermond, Esri

Within the last five decades, Geographical Information System (GIS) has evolved from a concept to a science. The phenomenal evolution of GIS from a rudimentary tool to a modern, robust platform for understanding and planning our world is marked by several key milestones.

 Geographical Information (GI) provides solutions to challenging and real-world problems using one of the world's most advanced technologies. Geographical Information System (GIS) makes a massive difference by helping people make critical decisions about health, renewable energy, climate change, agriculture, forestry, utilities, transportation, and much more.

Today every area ranging from missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology to urban administration, e-governance, remote sensing, energy sector, and even advertising and marketing depend on geospatial data. GIS and Remote Sensing are two exciting areas of technology to work on.

What is GIS?

Geographical Information System (GIS) is a computer based tool that connects geography with data. It refers to data analysis and mapping software, and it is also referred to as the academic discipline of geographic information science. It involves the systematic method for collecting, managing, analyzing, modeling, and presenting spatial data, often known as geographic data.GIS is a technology that can store, analyze, and visualize data on Earth's surface for spatial positioning. It analyzes the spatial location and organizes layers of data with maps and 3D scenarios for infographics. GIS can represent various data types on one map, such as streets, houses, buildings, and vegetation. In daily life, GIS is used for:

·         Routing in-car navigation

·         Analyzing crime patterns 

·         Pinpointing new store locations

·         Forecasting and predicting the weather

·         Airplane, rocket navigation, and many more

Google Maps is an excellent example of an internet-based GIS mapping solution which people use for daily navigation. If you find Google maps amazing and the technology of tracking locations through satellite fascinating, you should explore GIS as a career path.

Difference between GIS and Remote Sensing

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computerbased tool for mapping and analyzing features and events on Earth. On the other hand, remote sensing is the science of collecting data regarding an object or a phenomenon without any physical contact with the object. One could also say that remote sensing is a specialized domain within the broad field of GIS.

Who is a GIS expert?

A GIS expert studies Geographic Information Systems or Geoinformatics that involves remote sensing and various GIS software to analyze spatial and non-spatial data. A GIS expert is responsible for creating online and mobile maps.

What does GIS expert do?

·         Design or prepare graphic representations of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data using different hardware or software applications. 

·         Manage the geospatial database and develop maps and aerial photography. 

·         Research work - A GIS expert conducts demographic, market, and political research. They research to obtain and expand existing datasets. A GIS expert compiles the geographic and demographic data gathered from various sources to create online and mobile maps for public consumption. He or she consults with external stakeholders to access fieldwork, censuses, maps, satellite, and aerial imagery.

·         Create products - A GIS expert stays involved in launching online and mobile maps for general people. A background in computer science and programming is required to work as a GIS expert. The knowledge of programming languages is required for desktop mapping to automate processes, creating customized tools and workflows. 

·         Perform geospatial data building, modeling, or analysis, using advanced spatial analysis, data manipulation, or cartography software. 

·         Analyze GIS data to identify spatial relationships or display results of analyses, using maps, graphs, or tabular data. 

·         Maintain or modify existing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases.

·         Plan and coordinate GIS activities to meet defined goals. 

·         Enter data into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases, using techniques such as coordinate geometry, keyboard entry of tabular data, manual digitizing of maps, scanning or automatic conversion to vectors, or conversion of other sources of digital data. Š

·         Select cartographic elements needed for the effective presentation of information.

How to become a GIS expert? Study Route: 1

10+2 with PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Maths), followed by B.Tech or B.Sc in Geoinformatics. Top it up with M.Tech Or M.Sc Geoinformatics, or Certification in GIS Technology.

Study Route: 2

10+2 in any stream followed by B.Sc or B.A. in Geography and then Post Graduate Diploma in GIS.

Study Route: 3

10+2 in any stream followed by B.Tech, Computer Science. Proceed with Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate in GIS.

 Further more, there are several bachelor's degree programs with related specializations in the Geography Information System.

·         B.Tech., Civil Engineering 

·         B.Tech., Geoinformatics 

·         B.Tech., Geotechnical Engineering

·         B.Tech., Navigation Technology

·         B.A., Geography 

·         B.Sc., Geoinformation Science 

·         B.Sc., Geomatics 

·         B.E., Geoinformatics

After acquiring a bachelor's degree, students have several options that can lead their career path in GIS:-

Option 1:

After completing a bachelor's degree program, the students can opt for a master's degree program without any gap in the academic year. After completing a master's degree, the students can start working in the industry in an entry-level role.

Option 2:

After completing a bachelor's degree program, the students can start working in the industry. After getting a working experience of one to two years, the candidates can further resume their studies and opt for a master's degree in the related specialization.

 These are the various master's degree that several universities provide:

·         M.A., Geography 

·         M.Tech., Geoinformatics

·         M.Tech., Geography Information Systems

·         M.E., Geoinformatics 

·         M.Sc., Geoinformatics 

·         M.Sc., Remote Sensing and Geospatial Science

·         M.Tech., Remote Sensing 

·         M.Sc., Geoscience

There are numerous shortterm certificate and diploma courses. The Indian Institute of Remote Sensing offers P.G. diploma courses that provide detailed knowledge of remote sensing, satellite image analysis, Geographic Information System (GIS), and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technologies. The students who have completed their graduation or post-graduation in science can apply for P.G. diploma programs offered by the Institute of Remote Sensing.

The most common route to a career in Geoinformatics is to do a diploma or degree in Geography, Computer Sciences, and GIS. The field is dominated by techies rather than geographers, even though a geography graduate can offer several new insights into the field. The GIS-specific courses are best for making a career in this field as they offer the best of geography-related knowledge and skills and a range of programming and application skills. Most employers hire candidates with postgraduate qualifications. A science background is a must. Those who have done B.Sc, B.Tech, or B.E. in I.T. and Computer Science fields or are Agriculture, Geography and Geology graduates can get admission in M.Sc or M.Tech courses in Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing. Students from other fields can do M.A. and certificate and diploma courses to upgrade their skills. For example, the Institute of Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing (IGRS) offers two-to-six-month courses in GIS disciplines such as Introduction to GIS and R.S., Photogrammetry, Spatial Analysis, Geostatistics, GIS Project Development, WebGIS, and Geodatabases.

Skills required to become a GIS Expert

People who love maps, data, and analysis are the ones that do best and make great GIS professionals. Being enthusiastic, driven, and conscientious is what it is all about. The critical skills required for a Geographic Information Systems expert are:

Analytical Skills:  A GIS expert is required to perform GIS analysis to solve various problems. A GIS expert should be able to extend and alter the standard analysis. Remote sensing skills are a must for practical data analysis for both vector and raster data.

Programming Skills:  A GIS expert must possess expertise in programming languages. Programming languages are required to build workflows or custom solutions. Python is such a scripting language preferred C++ is beneficial to work in multiple environments.

Critical Thinking: A GIS expert requires practical analytical and critical skills. He or she faces various issues related to mapping and other analytical issues. It takes years of experience managing city streets, modeling storms, and combining datasets from multiple sources into one centralized catalog.

Communication Skills:  A GIS expert works in a team, and he or she has to effectively communicate with all the other members to avoid any mismanagement. He or she has to coordinate with other members of the team and stakeholders to update the project.

Database Knowledge:  A GIS expert should understand the particular case of spatial data, such as how it works or its internals. He or she must carry out several operations where they are applicable.

Career Opportunities: GIS is a dynamic, everevolving field with possibilities that increase as the world becomes more connected. Advancements like crowdsourced location data and drone technology have paved the way for incredible nuance and specificity in spatial analyses, providing more manageable and more comprehensive solutions in areas like city planning, conservation, transportation, and much more. GIS can also help address the most urgent challenges emerging now, such as the increase in extreme weather events and the COVID19 pandemic.

With so much potential, GIS is a field with great opportunities for societal benefits and individual careers. Here are four reasons GIS careers may be the best:

·         GIS is a growing market 

·         GIS jobs come with competitive salaries

·         There are GIS career opportunities to suit all types 

·         GIS offers a chance to make a difference

There has been a rapid increase in the availability of Geospatial data, APIs for Google maps, and integration to other internet platforms. The Global GIS market worth could reach up to 17.5 billion dollars by 2023, according to P&S market research. The demand for skilled surveyors, cartographers, GIS analysts, and GIS experts is rapidly increasing. The jobs in GIS are uniquely diverse and come up with challenging roles for creative and analytical thinking. Those who possess a degree in GIS may opt for other roles in environmental preservation organizations, enterprise software companies, and government organizations.

Recent graduates have gone into GIS jobs in housing, transport, planning, and logistics with private and public sector firms. Some students have also gone on to pursue Ph.D. Having computer knowledge such as working on various GIS software is essential to sustain in the competition, and web programming skills are also helpful for online and mobile mapping.

Top colleges for GIS in India For Graduation:

·         SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai 

·         Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore 

·         Christ University, Bangalore 

·         Indian Institute of Technology Madras

·         National Institute of Technology Tiruchirappalli 

·         UPES, College of Engineering Studies, Dehradun 

·         Institute of Remote Sensing, Anna University- Chennai

·         NIIT University, Neemrana

For Post-Graduation:

·         Indian Institute of Technology - [IIT], Mumbai  

·         Indian Institute of Technology - [IIT], Kanpur 

·         Indian Institute of Remote Sensing - [IIRS], Dehradun 

·         Institute of Remote Sensing, Anna University, Chennai 

·         Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram 

·         Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology 

·         Indian Institute of Technology - [BHU IIT], Varanasi 

·         Symbiosis International University - [SIU], Pune 

·         SRM Engineering College

When it comes to a career as a GIS expert, internships play an essential role since they provide an individual with practical knowledge about the field. The employers wish to hire those candidates who possess prior experience in GIS or have gone through practical training in GIS. The candidates are required to opt for internships after completing their academic course as it brings them enormous industrial exposure. The candidates get hands-on knowledge through practical training during internships. The work responsibilities of interns may vary from organization to organization. An intern is required to assist GIS analysts in updating land use and land cover data. An intern works with elevation data. He or she may be involved in developing flood risk products or performing flood risk assessments.

 The GIS market is projected to reach $25.6 billion by 2030. The consulting firm attributed much of this growth to the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of GIS in tracking the spread of the original virus, its variants, and vaccination distribution.

The emerging market for selfdriving cars, increasing adoption of innovative home technology, and widespread availability of sophisticated drone technology will all contribute to pushing GIS forward.

The GIS field has already seen considerable growth in spatial knowledge and data-sharing. The increased availability of tools like open-source mapping and geospatial analytics allows professionals to tackle complex issues by drawing on the work of numerous experts across countless disciplines. Opensource mapping, for example, can provide real-time traffic data, which self-driving automobile developers and manufacturers use to improve their vehicles' responses to daily situations.

Businesses also use GIS to make strategic decisions that increase operational efficiency and revenue. Since online shopping and global supply chain networks are vital components of our worldwide economy, GIS is sure to remain a crucial investment for businesses, non-profit organizations, government, research, and academic institutions alike. Equipped with data visualization and spatial analysis skills, GIS professionals qualify for occupations in countless fields.

(The author is Counseling Psychologist & Career Consultant. She can be reached at nidhiprasadcs @gmail.com). Views expressed are personal