Are you still impressed when you see, “Sufficient at Microsoft Office Suite” on a resume? How about, “Can type 40 words per minute?” This article discusses how the pattern of technological advancements and mass adoption will effect many of today’s GIS jobs and professionals.

Is it the end of the GIS professional?

The other day I was talking to a GIS specialist from a local municipality about the spread of GIS to more casual users.  He mentioned that his organization is starting to see the end of GIS as a mysterious and complicated technology.  He no longer was the only one who understood how to use the technology.  Mapping-related requests from other departments and personnel were lessening as they became more comfortable with the GIS.

Death of a Superstar

death of a GIS professionalOrganizations like his have embraced geospatial technology by adding positions like, GIS Tech, GIS Specialist, and GIS Analyst.  Many of these guys and gals became the geospatial “superstars” of their organizations, moving from paper maps to problem solving GIS powerhouses.

As more organizations adopt geospatial technology throughout their operations, history tells us that the geospatial “superstar” status will die.  But will a GIS professional still be a standalone career path in most of these organizations?

Looking at Historical Patterns…

It is likely that many of the responsibilities of these standalone positions will become part of the everyday skill sets of those employed.  It may not happen tomorrow, next year, or even 10 years from now.  But eventually, today’s superstars will be tasked with training their own staff on the technology.  Job assignments will be dispersed throughout the organization.  New hires will be expected to have geospatial  knowledge prior to joining the organization. Geospatial technology will be entrenched in the operations and decision-making of organizations.  GIS will become part of the organization’s general landscape.

Why this happens…

  • Breakthrough technologies lead to years of improvements that eventually push the technology from the hands of a few professionals to the hands of the public (casual users).
  • As organizations absorb the technology into the fabric of their every day business, they expect their personnel to have the knowledge and skills necessary to administer the technology.

If you still don’t agree with me, let’s look at some real-world examples…

  • tech advances lead to job changesWhen commercial printers were first sold, professionals were hired to manage the printing.  Eventually (because of competitive innovation), printers became easier to manage.  Printing has become a simple and expected responsibility for the public and the roles of print managers changed.
  • The responsibilities from social media positions  are currently being diffused across marketing departments in large organizations.  Because of the benefits of social media, these organizations have adopted it as a standard practice in their daily marketing routines.  Professionals in social media (only) positions are training internal staff on their knowledge as they change their roles within their organization.  Marketing professionals, among others in the organization, are expected to have these skill sets as part of their repertoire.

Embracing Future GIS Job Demand

The geospatial industry will continue to expand its horizons into new markets.  Once they are saturated and opportunities have been realized, many of the roles of the current geospatial professionals will drastically change.  Over the next few years there will be a growing need for GIS professionals with more advanced skills. As they improve the technology and make it easier to use, less skilled GIS professionals will no longer be in demand.  I strongly encourage today’s geospatial superstars to grow their own skills with the technology and embrace the more challenging roles of the future.



Marketing Manager at GEO-Jobe GIS Consulting
Marshall is the head editor of MapThis! and a firm believer in the story GIS technology creates out of location-driven data. He is passionately developing the MapThis! Initiative to help support GIS education.

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