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:
According to the Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA), 70 to 80 percent 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 percent, and its commercial subsection is expanding at a phenomenal rate of 100 percent each year. See a list of major GIS users and their applications.
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:
In addition to their computer applications and databases, GIS analysts use other specialized tools in their work, including multidimensional graphic display devices and equipment.”
There is a wide variety of jobs in fields that use GIS technology, and salaries will depend on your level of continued education. CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, projects for Texas: