"What Skills Does AG IS Analyst Require"
What Skills Does A GIS Analyst Require? by Glenn Letham A common question distributed to GIS discussion lists and asked of us here at the GeoCommunity is the following... “what skills do employers look for when hiring a qualified GIS Analyst?” I did a bit of snooping around and asked for contributions from a number of sources including the popular GISList discussion group. Here’s what we found. Personally, I find that one of the most important requirements lies in developing an accurate position title along with a reasonable description of expected duties. Within the GIS Community I believe there has always been much confusion regarding this. How often do you see a career posting for a Technician or other “junior” person and the requirements are asking for a candidate with a Master’s degree and 5 years of hands-on experience? To top it all off the position pays $12 per hour! A key to matching up qualified people with the perfect job is to have both sides on the same page and the employee being aware of what is expected of him/her in their duties. If you are looking to hire a GIS Analyst or you want to find a position as a GIS Analyst, be sure that both employer and employee’s expectations and definition of an “analyst” is clear. A particularly very useful reply I received pointed out that in general, the reality of an “analyst” position is that there is a requirement for a solid knowledge of computer based technology. I couldn’t agree more! Upon conducting a search through a number of career postings, I found a number positions advertized that essentially, has similar requirements for applicants. What differed was the position title and quite often, the salary. The following are just a few of the commonly used Career Titles that are used by employers seeking what I would consider a GIS Analyst: GIS Analyst GIS Technician GIS Data Specialist GIS Specialist GIS Mapping Technician Engineering Technician GIS Mapping Assistant GIS Application Specialist Engineering Aide Please note, in the cases mentioned above, the salary offered ranged from $25,000 - $60,000 per year! Job seekers, be sure to look around as there exists much disparity in wages. Being open to relocation is a big plus, however, don’t expect exployers to always be open to covering all of your expenses. Those of you considering International relocation, be sure you understand what you are getting involved with as there’s much more to consider than you can imagine. The following is a summary of what a number of potential employers look for in their “ideal” candidate for a GIS Analyst position. For those of you seeking employment, these would be some great areas to emphasize on your application (hint!) Technical Skills Strong GIS skills with two or more GIS packages Strong Macro / C / C++ / Visual Basic programming skills Understanding of and/or willing to learn math and statistical analysis Strong Oracle or related RDBMS skills including development skills Excellent verbal / written communication skills Genuinely excited and enthusiastic about learning and pushing technical limits / finding new solutions Good writing skills - for documentation, training, processes Formal training (eg. Degree) or high level of experience with GIS. “Hands-on” experience Good analytical / problem solving skills A basic understanding of the concepts behind data management in a relational database Good IT technical skills The ability to think and solve problems People Skills Do you like them? Could you be friends with them outside the office? Ability to communicate with other humans - not just with email, Excellent co-worker, superior, subordinate work relationship skills good people skills Someone who is not scared to “break” the equipment - it’s okay to make mistakes Positive outlook on life, work, other people - don’t bring your baggage here Creative Regardless of their education and experience, they must be committed to ongoing learning Honesty Ability to work within the budget limits of the organization - we can’t replace workstations annually, plotters are replaced every 5 years, etc. In the interview: Exude confidence Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know how to do something but be sure to show eagerness to learn this new skill or software (The ability to turn a negative into a positive!) For Employers: Knowledge of Cartography /Geography is important (which way is North? what does a map projection really mean?) one can often teach a non-spatial person the essentials of spatial information, but it can often be frustrating to have geographers learning programming and databases GIS Analysts need not come out of a geography program. Readers have sent us rave reviews about GIS analysts having backgrounds in geology, computer programming, political science, and even astrophysics Good candidates have travelled outside of their own country, even better if they have worked outside their own country. Make them prove they can think outside of the box One respondent told us of his company’s excellent experience with hiring graduates from technical colleges, such as the Centre of Geographic Sciences, Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia. “The combination of a university undergraduate degree coupled with advanced technical training yields the optimal balance between knowledge and real world skills.” Thanks to everyone in the GIS Community who contributed their thoughts.