What does a GIS technician do?

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What is a GIS Technician?

To answer the question What is a GIS technician?, we must first answer another, more fundamental one: What is a GIS? A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system that analyzes and displays geographically referenced information. In other words, it uses data that is attached to a unique location. For example, if a rare plant is observed in multiple places, GIS analysis might show that the plants are all on north-facing slopes that are above an elevation of 1,000 feet and that get more than ten inches of rain per year. GIS maps can then display all locations in the area that have similar conditions, so researchers know where to look for more of the rare plants.

By knowing the geographic location of farms using a specific fertilizer, GIS analysis of farm locations, stream locations, elevations, and rainfall will show which streams are likely to carry that fertilizer downstream.

Which neighborhoods of a city are the most densely populated? Where are all of a city’s fire hydrants? Where was a rock sample collected? These questions, too, can be precisely answered thanks to GIS technology.

GIS technicians are skilled data administrators who assist GIS analysts and related professionals in building, maintaining, modifying, and/or using geographic information systems applications. They are generally responsible for reading and interpreting maps and other GIS data, entering the data into the GIS database, drawing maps using computer software, and compiling high-level reports.

These technicians possess advanced computer mapping skills, an eye for detail, excellent problem-solving abilities, and a passion for data analytics and scientific research. They can take raw geographic data and transform it into usable maps and documents for business purposes.

What does a GIS Technician do?

A GIS technician standing outside and looking at a topological map on his tablet.

GIS technology has enhanced the management and understanding of geographical areas and topographical data. This information technology has applications in climate science, environmental conservation, anthropology, archaeology, and urban planning.

It is the job of the GIS technician to digitize, input, update, and ensure the integrity of the data in geographic information systems. Typical data handled by GIS technicians includes qualitative and quantitative data such as aerial photographs, environmental readings (such as pollen, air quality, water quality), and population density.

Here is a snapshot of some of the day-to-day tasks carried out by GIS technicians:

  • Compile geographic information and reports in the form of satellite images, geographical surveys, and aerial photographs
  • Research and verify geographic data
  • Enter new data into the GIS database
  • Maintain the GIS database and troubleshoot data issues
  • Using GIS software like ArcGIS, ArcMAP, ArcTools, or QGIS, produce maps and other representations of data for public use and field work activity
  • Ensure maps are annotated and compiled with the correct information
  • Go out in the field to visually conduct land surveys, using GPS (global positioning system) receivers and other surveying equipment, to resolve conflicting information and ensure the accuracy of data
  • Test and analyze samples to determine their content and characteristics, using laboratory tools or testing equipment
  • Assemble, operate, and/or maintain field or laboratory testing, measuring, or mechanical equipment
  • Calibrate and/or repair testing equipment

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What is the workplace of a GIS Technician like?

GIS technicians work in a number of different settings, including offices, computer laboratories, and field locations. They typically work regular business hours and spend most of their time in front of a computer. Their responsibilities require that they collaborate closely with GIS analysts, and sometimes with engineers and computer scientists.

Potential workplaces for these technicians include:

  • Federal, state, and local government departments
  • Surveying and computer mapping companies
  • Environmental and engineering consulting companies, which use GIS data to plan conservation strategies or track populations of animal and plant species
  • Commercial map publishers and GIS / geomatics firms
  • Marketing, statistical, information technology, and census firms
  • Colleges and universities
  • Other industries, including oil and gas, tourism, forestry, and mining, which use GIS data to survey resources and plan new developments
  • Consulting firms

GIS Technicians are also known as:
Geographic Information Systems Technician GIS Tech