The 10 Essential GIS Skills You Need to Integrate Easily into the Professional World

31 August 2023


Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have transformed the way we understand and interact with the world around us. From urban planning and environmental conservation to public health and transportation logistics, GIS has become an indispensable tool in various professional arenas. As this field continues to evolve and become more central to decision-making processes globally, professionals armed with the right GIS skills find them in high demand. Here are the ten essential GIS skills that can help you seamlessly transition into the professional world.

1.  Mastery of GIS Software

A fundamental step is mastering the principal GIS software used in professional settings: ArcGIS and QGIS. Developed by Esri, ArcGIS is the leading commercial GIS software on the market. Its suite offers a comprehensive range of analytical tools, intuitive map design capabilities, and vast data manipulation features. As a professional, being adept at ArcGIS means not just knowing its basic functionalities, but also understanding its advanced tools, extensions (such as Spatial Analyst and 3D Analyst), and the integration of web-based services.

Mastering QGIS involves getting familiar with its user-friendly interface, grasping its cartographic capabilities, and leveraging its wide array of plugging to enhance spatial analysis. Becoming proficient in these two platforms can not only broaden your analytical horizons but also make you an invaluable asset to potential employers who seek versatility in their GIS specialists.

2.  Data Collection and Evaluation

In GIS, the raw data collected serves as the backbone for all subsequent analysis and interpretation. As such, a GIS technician must excel in building, maintaining, and updating a comprehensive database. This database typically integrates information from myriad sources like surveys, remote sensors, and digitized maps. After collecting the data, it becomes essential for a technician to thoroughly examine the results. It's important to check not only the accuracy of the data but also its relevance and applicability to the given project. Ensuring quality at this stage is critical because the validity of any conclusions or actions based on the GIS largely depends on the integrity and relevance of the base data.

3.  Structured Query Language (SQL)

Data is the lifeblood of GIS. Consequently, understanding how to create, manage, and query spatial databases is paramount to a GIS professional's role.

SQL (Structured Query Language): This domain-specific language is the bedrock of most relational database management systems. A strong grasp of SQL enables GIS professionals to effectively query and manipulate data. It's not just about simple retrieval; complex analytical operations, spatial joins, and aggregations are often executed using SQL. 

PostgreSQL with PostGIS: PostgreSQL is a potent open-source relational database management system. When paired with its spatial extension, PostGIS, it becomes an instrumental tool for storing, retrieving, and analyzing spatial data. A GIS professional should be adept at using PostGIS functions to execute spatial queries, create spatial indices, and integrate various data types seamlessly.

Geoserver: Digital data needs to be accessible across various platforms, Geoserver comes into play as an open-source server written in Java. It facilitates the sharing, editing, and publishing of geospatial data. A proficient GIS professional will know how to configure Geoserver, optimize performance, and ensure the security of data shared across web services.

4.  Cartography and Computer Graphics

Cartography, combined with modern computer graphics, are the bridge that transforms raw geospatial data into visual masterpieces, telling compelling stories and conveying complex information succinctly. Both Arc GIS and QGIS come equipped with powerful cartographic tools. Mastery in this area means more than just placing points on a map. It's about understanding map scales, symbology, layout design, labeling techniques, and more. Additionally, one should be adept at producing thematic maps, whether it's showcasing population density or mapping flood risk areas.

Adobe Illustrator, a vector graphics software, can be employed in conjunction with GIS tools for fine-tuning map designs. Once the basic map is exported from GIS software, Illustrator can be used to refine line weights, incorporate advanced typography, and add illustrative elements. The fusion of GIS and Illustrator offers a combination of analytical power and design flexibility.

5.  Computer Programming

With the growing demand for web-based geospatial solutions and automation, coding skills have become indispensable in the geospatial toolkit. Some of the major languages to know are:

Python: With libraries like Arc Py for Arc GIS and PyQ GIS for QGIS, Python allows for the automation of repetitive tasks, complex spatial analyses, and even custom tool creation. Mastering Python in the GIS context can significantly speed up workflows.

JavaScript: For those looking to integrate GIS with web applications, JavaScript is the go-to language. Frameworks like Leaflet and APIs from Esri facilitate the creation of interactive map interfaces, enabling GIS professionals to share data and insights with a broader audience.

R: While R is traditionally seen as a language for statistical computing, its growing set of spatial libraries like 'sf' and 'raster' make it a potent tool for geospatial analyses, data visualization, and more.

A GIS professional who can code bridges the gap between traditional spatial analysis and the dynamic world of web GIS.

6.  Visualization

Transforming raw geospatial data into visually intuitive and compelling graphic representations is an art in itself. This visualization process requires a technician to distill complex datasets into clear, layered graphics that can be easily understood by both GIS professionals and laypersons alike. The main objective isn't merely to create visually pleasing maps but to convey complex information clearly and quickly. With various layers of data differentiated by specific colors, symbols, and designs, viewers can easily understand and analyze several datasets at the same time.

7.  Image Processing - Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is about extracting information from a distance, employing sources ranging from satellite imagery to mobile devices. Modern GIS technicians also harness unconventional data streams, like text-scraping and social media, to garner insights about real-time events and trends. This adaptability in data sourcing allows GIS professionals to offer a comprehensive view of situations, especially in dynamic environments where traditional data collection methods might fall short.

8.  Analysis

While data collection lays the groundwork and visualization brings the data to life, the heart of GIS lies in analysis. Technicians are frequently tasked with diving deep into geographic information to unearth significant connections or patterns. Whether it's understanding migration patterns, assessing flood risks, or optimizing delivery routes, analysis helps convert raw data into actionable insights. This skill involves not just the technical know-how of using GIS tools but also a keen analytical mind that can spot trends, correlations, and anomalies that might escape the untrained eye.

9.  Modeling

Modeling in GIS is all about creating digital representations of real-world objects or features, capturing their essential attributes and relationships. For instance, while designing an urban development plan, a technician might create a model that considers existing buildings, road networks, public amenities, and green spaces. Such a model would allow planners to simulate various scenarios, predicting how different developmental strategies might impact traffic, public accessibility, or environmental sustainability. Mastery of GIS software is crucial here, as these tools empower technicians to craft detailed, scalable, and interactive models that reflect the complexities and intricacies of the physical world.

10.   Geospatial Intelligence

At the intersection of spatial analysis and strategic decision-making lies geospatial intelligence. This skill set revolves around the meticulous analysis of spatial information and imagery, often applied in high-stakes environments like military operations or disaster response. A GIS technician well-versed in geospatial intelligence understands not just the technical nuances of spatial data, but also its broader strategic implications.

When analyzing a satellite image, for instance, they might spot troop movements, the layout of enemy camps, or the best evacuation routes post a natural calamity. Notably, job listings for GIS analysts frequently highlight intelligence-gathering skills, often correlating them with higher remuneration. This underscores the premium placed on technicians who can guide pivotal decisions in volatile scenarios with their expertise.

Bonus Skill - Critical Thinking and Problem Solving and Communication Skills

Beyond the technical specifics, a good GIS professional is also a problem solver. The ability to assess a situation, understand its spatial components, and devise a solution using GIS tools is invaluable.

Finally, and perhaps surprisingly to some, communication is a pivotal skill in the GIS domain. GIS professionals often find themselves explaining complex spatial concepts to non-experts. Whether it's presenting findings to stakeholders, writing reports, or collaborating with multidisciplinary teams, effective communication ensures that the insights derived from GIS analyses translate into informed decisions.

Finding GIS Jobs with JOBinGIS

In geomatics, finding the right job opportunity can often feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Traditional job boards might feature a smattering of GIS roles, but they often lack the depth and specificity that professionals in this niche require. Enter JOBinGIS – a dedicated platform tailored to the unique needs of the geomatics community.

What is JOBinGIS?

JOBinGIS stands out as a webmapping portal designed explicitly for job searches within the geomatics realm. Rather than sifting through generic job listings on mainstream platforms, JOBinGIS offers a targeted experience for professionals such as geomaticians, cartographers, drone pilots, GIS specialists, remote sensing experts, topographers, surveyors, geographers, GIS developers, and those skilled in photogrammetry.

One of the platform’s standout features is its interactive global map. Instead of scrolling through pages of text-based listings, job seekers can visually explore opportunities based on geographical preferences. Imagine being a GIS specialist in Canada but curious about opportunities in Europe; with JOBinGIS, a quick glance at the map might reveal a plethora of openings in cities from Paris to Prague.

The Strategy Behind JOBinGIS

The genius behind JOBinGIS isn’t just in its user interface but also in its strategic vision. The platform’s goal is to forge sustainable partnerships with a broad spectrum of organizations. This includes corporations, NGOs, state entities, associations, startups, and more. The reason? To co-create a comprehensive, geo-localized database of job opportunities.

By partnering with diverse organizations, JOBinGIS ensures its listings are not only extensive but also varied. This caters to a broad audience, from recent graduates looking for internships to seasoned professionals eyeing consultancy roles. The exhaustive nature of the database enhances the probability of successful matches, bridging the gap between employers in dire need of specific geomatic skills and the professionals ready to offer them.

Why Choose JOBinGIS?

For anyone in the geomatics sphere, JOBinGIS is more than just a job portal – it's a community hub. The platform’s specificity ensures that job seekers are only viewing relevant opportunities tailored to their expertise. Meanwhile, employers can rest easy knowing their listings are reaching a concentrated audience of passionate and skilled professionals.

Moreover, the geo-localization feature offers an added layer of convenience and insight. Relocation is a significant decision, and being able to visually gauge job opportunities in different regions can aid in making informed choices.


As the demand for GIS expertise grows across diverse sectors, professionals equipped with these ten essential skills will be well-positioned to make a meaningful impact. From the nitty-gritty details of database management and programming to the broader skills of problem-solving and communication, mastering these areas ensures not just employability but also the potential to shape the future of spatial analysis and its applications in the professional world.

JOBinGIS emerges as a beacon in the vast ocean of job search platforms. For the geomatics community, it represents a fusion of technology and opportunity, driven by a strategy that emphasizes inclusivity and comprehensiveness. Whether you're a budding GIS developer or a seasoned remote sensing expert, JOBinGIS is your gateway to a world of possibilities.


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