GIS developers are software developers that specialize in creating geographic information systems applications. The programs that they create produce visual images that provide insight into the relationship between space (location) and data.
GIS developers work in many fields. They can work for commercial organizations, the government, educational institutions, agriculture, and more. According to the Geospatial Information and Technology Association, “The geospatial market is growing at an annual rate of almost 35%.” With more and more industries taking advantage of the valuable data that GIS can provide, the demand for GIS developers is growing.
Typically, GIS developers work on teams of individuals to create tools and applications. Together with their coworkers, they analyze land and aerial imagery, ascertain the data their clients want to harvest, and write the code to create specialized maps in accordance with their clients’ needs.
In order to excel at their jobs, GIS developers must be knowledgeable about different kinds of maps and the insights those maps can provide, they must be adept at interpreting visual data, and they must be fluent in multiple coding languages.
Because they work on teams and with clients, GIS developers must also possess strong written and verbal communication skills. They should be able to understand what their clients need, even if it isn’t expressed in technical terms. They also should be able to translate that need into technical terms so their teams can produce software that fits the specifications they’ve been given. GIS developers may be called upon to interpret data, identify trends, and assess the significance of visual patterns for their clients, so they must be able to translate jargon into conventional language.
People that develop software, no matter what type, must be sharp critical thinkers and proficient problem solvers. Developing complex geospatial software involves creating and aligning many different components, including APIs, databases, and user interfaces. It also involves the ability to fix bugs and other issues that are likely to arise in projects requiring large amounts of code. Maintaining software is another facet of GIS developers’ jobs that necessitates problem solving.
Logical reasoning is critical for GIS developers. The ability to clearly understand how one set of constraints affects another set of constraints-- how causes and effects form patterns-- is a prerequisite for writing code.
The road to becoming a GIS developer can begin with an entry level career. Some careers in this category include GIS technicians. GIS technicians assist developers by collecting data, creating samples, converting of text or images into digital form, and more. They are not required to possess a significant amount of research or advanced programming experience.
GIS developers have opportunities to grow their careers through experience and continued education. Positions they can advance to include project manager and senior developer positions. Overall, GIS development is a rewarding career pathway, especially if you are interested in maps and computer programming.