Geographic Information Science Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in geographic information science. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and salary information. Schools offering Culture & Media Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Geographic information science careers include mapping technology and cartography, both of which are involved in creating maps for a multitude of uses. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering these professions.

Mapping Technician Cartographer
Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study GIS, geomatics Cartography, geography, civil engineering, surveying
Key Skills Determine relevant geographic data, use GIS & other technology to help cartographers produce & update maps Use GIS & other technology to compile and analyze geographic data, prepare maps that portray specific information, update maps
Licensure Required None required; certification in photogrammetry & GIS data management available Some states require surveyor license; voluntary certification in photogrammetry & remote sensing available
Job Growth (2012-2022) 14%* 20%*
Average Salary (2013) $43,540* $62,540*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Jobs Incorporate Geographic Information Systems?

Geographic information systems (GIS) are tools used in a variety of careers, from surveying to mapmaking. Common job titles include geographic information systems technician, cartographer, mapping specialist, map technician, and GIS specialist. Mapping technicians use GIS tools to help scientists and other professionals design and update GIS databases and collect and analyze data from multiple sources in order to build accurate maps. These maps may be used in surveying, construction, education and advertising.

Cartographers collect data and create maps that represent specific information, such as population, terrain, national security information or weather. They get information using equipment like aerial cameras, satellites, light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) systems and GIS. They create sophisticated maps that can be used for environmental studies, land-use or engineering projects and geological surveys.

What Degrees Are Available?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the most common degree for GIS-related careers is a bachelor's degree. As you work toward completion of this degree, commonly offered as a Bachelor of Science, you can expect to study the geography of many different locations as well as exploring the fundamentals of cartography, or mapmaking. You may be required to complete courses in cultural geography as well, exploring the way that geography affects economics, politics and even populations. Other common courses include computer programming, architectural drafting and surveying.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to the BLS, mapping technicians earned an average salary of $43,540 in May 2103, with 47,950 individuals working in the profession within the U.S. The BLS notes that industries hiring the most mapping technicians were architectural engineering services and local governments.

Cartography is a much smaller field, with an estimated 11,290 professionals in the U.S. in 2013. Their average annual salary was about $62,540 and, like mapping technicians, most were employed by architectural engineering services and local governments.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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