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What Is a GIS Specialist: Job Description


A GIS Specialist is an expert in cartography, forecasting, data analysis, and management. They play a crucial role in developing maps, atlases, and analyzing databases. Typically, a GIS specialist is recognized as a professional who integrates skills and knowledge from various fields such as geography, programming, and analysis.

In this research, we'll explore the essential skills needed to kickstart a career in GIS and delve into the job market.

Table of Contents

Job Responsibilities

  • Data Collection: Gathering data from diverse sources including satellite imagery, Google Maps, proprietary databases, and GPS navigator data.

  • Map Creation: Using specialized software to create maps, develop graphs, infographics, and visualize data effectively.

  • Programming and scripting: Utilizing programming languages (like scripting languages) to automate data collection, map visualization, analysis, and information segmentation.

  • Documentation: Presenting data in an understandable format, publishing reports, and crafting press releases based on analyzed information.

  • Team Management: Collaborating with other specialists, assigning tasks, and prioritizing. Overseeing multiple projects simultaneously and integrating GIS principles into the team's workflow.

GIS Specialist Salary

The field of GIS is highly sought after, so professionals with a strong skill set and specialized education can anticipate lucrative positions. Here's an approximate salary range for GIS specialists based on level and position:

According to Payscale, the base salary as of 2024 ranges from 46k to 81k USD, with an average of 60.6k USD.

However, several factors influence the salary level of a GIS specialist, including the country of residence/work, work experience, position held, and organization's funding source.

On average, entry-level GIS professionals or recent graduates with a bachelor's degree in geography (with a GIS focus) can expect around $45,000 per year. Conversely, senior software engineers in this field can earn approximately $90,000 USD per year on average.

Factors Influencing GIS Specialist Salaries in the US

GIS professionals frequently discuss salaries across various platforms, providing valuable insights. A similar discussion occurred on Reddit here three years ago, yielding noteworthy conclusions.

Salary Range: Specialists mention a broad salary spectrum, ranging from $40k to over $100k, contingent upon factors like location, experience, and skill set. Higher compensations are prevalent in regions with high living costs or specialized proficiencies such as programming.

Experience vs. Education: Opinions diverge regarding the significance of experience versus a master's degree. Some argue that hands-on experience outweighs formal education, while others believe a master's degree, particularly in fields like data science or urban planning, can be beneficial.

Government vs. Private Sector: A discourse exists regarding salary discrepancies between government and private sector roles. Government positions often offer stability and benefits, whereas the private sector may provide higher salaries and opportunities for swift career progression.

Career Advancement: Professionals share their career journeys, illustrating how salaries escalate over time with increased experience and skill development. Advancements, job transitions, and acquiring new proficiencies like coding are viewed as avenues for augmenting earning potential.

Specialized Roles: Positions like GIS project manager or geospatial consultant typically command higher salaries. Moreover, possessing a security clearance or specializing in domains like transportation planning can elevate earning potential.

Geographic Influence: Location significantly impacts salary ranges, with higher compensations typically found in areas with elevated living costs such as California or the Northeast, in contrast to the Midwest or Southeast.

The discussion underscores the diverse pathways and variables influencing GIS salaries, emphasizing the importance of accruing experience, acquiring sought-after skills, considering geographical nuances, and exploring industry-specific niches.

Demand for GIS Specialists on the Market

The graph below highlights the demand for GIS specialists in the labor market. It shows that GIS manager and GIS developer positions are the most sought after, whereas analyst and GIS specialist/technician roles are relatively less in demand.


A GIS Specialist holds a more versatile role compared to a GIS analyst or technician, encompassing a broader skill set. Essential skills include proficiency in GIS database tools, cartography, and programming.

Although beginners may start with a relatively lower salary, experienced GIS specialists can expect an average salary of around $65,000 USD per year, according to Payscale.

If you're considering a career as a GIS specialist, we recommend thoroughly researching the job market by exploring labor exchanges and reviewing available vacancies.

Ilia is a professional writer. He has expert knowledge in GPS and cartography with 15 years of experience. Additionally, Ilia has extensive experience in data recovery on PC and mobile. He started his career as a journalist by reviewing PC and mobile apps. His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions on MGT and answer them.