Tilting the GIS Job Hunting Odds

Caitlin Dempsey


A common complaint I hear is how difficult it can be to find a job in GIS.  The search for a job in GIS can be challenging so the following are things to consider to make sure you are prepared for a successful career in GIS.

Work on developing your geospatial skills

Have you properly prepared for your entry into the GIS job field?  

Doing so means you have taken a well grounded set of courses, have a related degree, and have done at least a year of on the job training in an internship (see Building a Career in GIS for more details).

It is very rare to find an employer that will accept a candidate who doesn’t already bring some work experience to the table. Most employers (even for entry level GIS jobs) require a Bachelor’s degree.  

Some will accept a certificate program in GIS in lieu of a degree and require a longer amount of work experience to compensate for the lack of degree.

Do a realistic inventory of your qualifications and educational background and make sure you are qualified for the GIS jobs you are applying for.

Make sure your résumé sells you

What does your résumé really say about you as a GIS professional?  Is it boring or not very expansive about your experience?  

Make sure your résumé truly reflects your capabilities in GIS. Don’t just list GIS tasks; make sure you describe specific projects you have worked on and the role you have played. Weave GIS tasks into descriptions of interesting projects.

Spellcheck!  Attention to detail is a coveted employee soft skill.

Make sure your résumé is free of typos and grammatical errors. If you send in a sloppy résumé when you should be putting your best foot forward, how do you expect a potential employer to be impressed by you?

Clean out your Internet skeletons

In today’s digital age, make sure your online presence reflects well of you. Having pictures of you falling down drunk or doing embarrassing things on social media is not going to impress a potential employer about your hire worthiness.  

Do a search for your name online and see what results come up.  Try and get any negative content removed; untag embarrassing photos and delete tweets with questionable or foul-mouthed content.

Strengthen your online presence by maintaining public social media accounts that are professional and consider getting either self-publishing quality articles covering geospatial topics or submitting guest articles to GIS related publications.

Do a peer review

Find some mentors in the field that are willing to provide constructive feedback on your résumé. Practice with mock  interview sessions so that you can get comfortable and learn to interview well.

Frustrated by a long and demotivating job search?  

Make sure any resentment or anxiety you may be feeling about the process doesn’t seep through. Focus on projecting a confident (but not arrogant) personality.

Remember, one of the most important things an employer is looking for is confidence is your current and future abilities. Most employers will hired a green employee they feel can quickly learn on the job over a seasoned employee who seems stuck in a rut or unwilling to be open.

Be innovative in your search

GIS jobs can lurk in the most unexpected places.  

In addition to scouring all the popular GIS job listing sites, make sure you are paying attention to the job listings for local government agencies and companies that may not post employment opportunities on online job sites.  

Local colleges and universities also receive job listings so also check with career centers, geography departments, and urban planning departments for potential leads.  

Finally, don’t just restrict your job search for listings with “GIS” in the title.  Some jobs that are GIS oriented may have titles like Business Analyst, Management Analyst, etc.

Be Flexible

Finding the right GIS job may require a physical move.  

While remote jobs are becoming more popular, many companies are still looking to hire someone near their location.

If you live in an area that doesn’t offer a lot of GIS employment, you will need to broaden your geographic search area.  

Certain geographic areas have a higher density of GIS jobs: the Washington D.C. area (including Virginia and Maryland) has a cluster of government and military related GIS jobs, the Houston area is home to many GIS jobs in the Oil & Gas industry, and northern Colorado boasts GIS Alley, home to a cluster of GIS companies.

This article was originally written on October 6, 2011 and has since been updated.

Photo of author
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.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!

1 thought on “Tilting the GIS Job Hunting Odds”

  1. After my graduation,from East Carolina University with a BS in Geography in 2004,
    I was 64 years old. No one would touch me let alone answer my applications.
    sooo, I am still unemployed. I gave up trying.

    Frank E Hanson
    ECU Class 2004

Comments are closed.