Career Information

What jobs can I get? How much can I get paid?

What Is GIS? How Is the Technology Used?

Geographic information systems (GIS) is a technology that provides a sophisticated way to produce and analyze maps required to manage the nation’s communities, industries and governments from local to federal levels. Once considered just a process used to create a simple physical map, GIS technology today is an integral part of the management of a broad range of sectors.

GIS is one of three technologies that falls under the broad umbrella of geospatial technology, along with global positioning satellite (GPS) technology and remote sensing (RS) technology. It uses specialized computer software to link items displayed on a map with records in a database.

Typically, a geographic information system consists of three major components:

  • Database of geospatial and thematic data (flood data, housing data, traffic data, etc.)
  • A capacity to model or analyze the data spatially
  • Graphical display capability

According to the Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA), 70-80% of the information managed by business is connected to a specific location — an address, street, intersection or coordinate — putting geospatial technology into every corner of the business world.

Because the technology’s uses are so widespread and diverse, the geospatial market is growing at an annual rate of almost 35%, and its commercial subsection is expanding at a phenomenal rate of 100% each year. Revenues from geospatial technologies are expected to reach more than $21 billion in the next few years, with solid growth in new jobs. 

GIS technology uses specialized computer systems to get geographic data and integrate it into intelligent “super” maps. The data can then be used to create endless “what if” scenarios, providing a powerful tool for applications including:

  • Cartography (map making)
  • Emergency management
  • Environmental sciences and security
  • Forest and range management
  • Homeland security
  • Medicine and health care
  • Real estate development and appraisal
  • Social services
  • Transportation
  • Urban planning and development
  • Water resources

Why is This a Good Career Bet? 

Applications for geospatial technologies are diverse, impacting nearly all major job sectors. The total market is growing at an annual rate of almost 35%, with commercial applications expanding 100% each year, according to the Geospatial Information and Technology Association. Geospatial products and specialists play a major role in homeland security activities providing Information needed to protect infrastructure and create emergency plans.  

CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, projects job growth of 12% for surveyors and 16% for civil engineering technicians through 2024 in Texas. For those who continue their studies into engineering degrees, high job growth is expected across the industry. Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas's targeted occupations this year projects five separate engineering positions as high growth areas.

What Do GIS Professionals and Analysts Do?

The U.S. Department of Labor describes GIS analysts as

“professionals who turn geographic data into maps and decision-making tools. They create large databases of geographic information and use them to solve problems. GIS analysts often specialize in one of three major activities:

  • Making maps
  • Combining mapmaking with specialized analysis
  • Developing GIS software

In addition to their computer applications and databases, GIS analysts use other specialized tools in their work, including multidimensional graphic display devices and equipment."