Survey of GIS Professionals

Caitlin Dempsey

Updated on:

Between March and July of 2019, GIS professionals were asked to fill out a short GIS job survey form here on GIS Lounge in order to develop an overview of the state of GIS employment.

1,129 participants filled out the form which asked for insights on how long they have worked in GIS, the industry they practice GIS in, the GIS software and programming languages used, education, and gender.

Participants from a total of 108 countries participated in the survey. Of the participants that listed a location, the country with the most respondents was the United States with 400 entries (37%), followed by India with 99 (9%).

The United Kingdom (49) and Canada (46) were the third and fourth ranked in terms of the number of participants. Rounding out the top five countries was New Zealand with 31 participants.

The range of experience in the GIS field varied greatly among participants. Some participants in the survey were still students or had no hands on experience working in GIS yet.

The oldest length of time working in GIS was 43 by a retired GIS professional. A significant number of the participants are in the early years of their GIS career, with 46.5% reporting between 1 and 5 years of experience.

Bar chart showing length of time working in GIS (in years).  Source: GIS Lounge 2019 GIS job survey.
Bar chart showing length of time working in GIS (in years). Source: GIS Lounge 2019 GIS job survey.

Gender in GIS

The gender balance in GIS hasn’t shifted much since the 2014 survey by GIS Lounge.

Males continue to hold about a two-thirds representation in the field. More on the gender breakdown is detailed in the GIS job title section. Related: Is Sexism a Problem in GIS?

What is your identified gender?#%
Non binary20.18%
No response10.09%
Grand Total1129100.00%

Education in GIS

The overwhelming majority of respondents reported a higher education degree with almost 43% reporting a Bachelor’s and 45% having a Master’s degree as the highest level of education obtained.

These numbers are not surprising considering that the majority of GIS jobs require a post-secondary school degree.

Graph showing the highest education degree obtained by GIS job survey participants.

Certificate Programs

A little more than half (52.5%) of responses reported completing certificate program in GIS (a short set of non-degree courses in GIS).

Certification in GIS

Most respondents have not acquired certification with one of the programs out there. Only 28% of respondents (312) have acquired certification.

The most popular certification was with Esri’s Technical Certification Program with 222 respondents. A further 89 reported GISP certification. One respondent reported certification with ASPRS.

Related: GIS Certification versus Certificate Programs

Job Sectors in GIS

The majority of survey respondents (979) work full-time while the remaining 13.5% work part-time.

Most of the respondents to the survey work in government positions. Almost 38% of respondents work at some level of federal, state, or local government.

GIS professionals working in consulting make up the second largest group with 18% of respondents.

What sector is your position in?# of Respondents% of Respondents
Federal Government1129.93%
Real Estate70.62%
State or Local Government31728.10%
Technology Industry1008.87%

Job Levels in GIS

The majority of respondents to the survey report working in mid-range career positions: GIS Analyst, Technician, or Specialist. GIS professionals can be found working under a very wide variety of job titles. The graph below details the most common GIS job titles and the number of survey responses.

Job Title# of Responses%
GIS Intern776.82%
GIS Technician14312.67%
GIS Specialist20217.89%
GIS Analyst31227.64%
GIS Developer857.53%
GIS Manager15113.37%
GIS Executive Manager232.04%

For most common GIS job titles, the split among genders roughly follows the overall gender trend for the GIS industry. The biggest disparities in gender balance from this survey occurred in the Developer role (12 females (14.12%) to 73 males (85.88%) with no Non binary respondents) and at the Executive Management level (3 females (13.04%) to 19 males (82.61%) with one Non binary respondent (4.35%).

GIS gender balance among job titles from the 2019 GIS Lounge job survey.

GIS Software and Tools

Esri’s suite of GIS tools is the dominant software product used among respondents. 1,009 (89.4%) of respondents listed an ArcGIS product as at least one of their geospatial software programs used.

QGIS, an open source GIS desktop program, was the second most listed software package with 546 respondents. 469 respondents use both ArcGIS and QGIS.

Other tools used included PostGIS (139 respondents) and imagery processing software such as ERDAS IMAGINE (88 respondents).

A common civil and GIS combination of software products was using Esri products along with AutoCAD (affiliate link).

Overall, respondents reporting using a wide number of both commercial and open source geospatial tools and software packages. The average respondent reporting using at least two geospatial tools/software packages as part of their jobs.

Over 200 different geospatial software programs and tools were listed by the 1,129 respondents. The most commonly used tools are listed in the table below.

Software# of Responses
ArcGIS (includes the suite of all Esri products)1009
Global Mapper62
Google Earth or Google Maps40
Google Earth Engine8
The most popular geospatial tools and software packages that respondents reported using.

Programming in GIS

A growing number of GIS professionals are learning programming languages to better enhance their career growth.

While 57% (647) of respondents reported that their current position doesn’t require them to program or script, only 31.2% (353) reported having no experience with any programming language.

Not surprisingly, Python was the most common programming language listed. Python is used extensively by many software programs such as ArcGIS and QGIS for scripting in order to automative tasks and do extend functionality of the software.

Over half (592) of respondents reported experience with Python. SQL, Structured Query Language used for manipulating databases, was the second most common language with 480 responses.

In the survey, Python and SQL was a commonly reported combination of language experience with 60% of respondents with experience in Python also knowing SQL.

Language# of Responses
Visual Basic22

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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