The range of employment for a geographic information system (GIS) specialist is wide and varied. GIS specialist jobs range from systems analysts who are experts in programming and maintenance of hardware and software to field biologists who can physically ensure data collection in a study area is relevant and useful. GIS specialist jobs may be listed as GIS senior analyst, GIS developer, GIS software engineer, or experienced spatial modeler and environmental scientist, to name a few.
Businesses consider GIS specialist jobs to be appropriate for a person who can determine relevant geographic data to collect, and then can select and properly operate the hardware, software and infrastructure to gather that data to help the business become more profitable. An example of this would be a real estate company plotting an area's homes in escrow to determine neighborhoods that are in patterns of economic growth or decline. Banks might hire a GIS specialist to determine the best locations for ATM machines or to route armored trucks. In either of these cases, the GIS specialist would be the person who knows how to get the job done, regardless of title.
Environmental scientists need GIS specialists who are knowledgeable about land and natural resource management and can develop programs to monitor a location to better preserve it. Organizations managing land preserves or wildlife refuges hire GIS specialists to create maps of those areas. They also train field workers to collect data to indicate on those maps which will monitor the health of the environment. An example of this would be a forest preserve in which the number, size, and species of every tree in a study plot was mapped so diversity patterns could be watched and monitored.
City planners need GIS specialists who can develop and update systems designed to monitor traffic flow, shopping patterns, and population densities. In this case, the GIS specialist is also a person who is in tune with markets, trends, and human nature. This type of specialist would need to be confident in presenting information to city officials to assist in determining best locations for new schools, supermarkets or hospitals. These GIS specialists also play a key role in plotting evacuation routes and best emergency vehicle outstations.
GIS specialists must know and be able to use GIS programs and equipment and then be able to apply that knowledge to serve a need in society. GIS specialist jobs can be created by people who can use their understanding of GIS and global positioning systems (GPS), to increase the productivity and efficiency of any agency or business. If an employer can be sold on the idea that his company would see great gains by knowing the locations of certain things or the travel patterns of a key demographic of people, a GIS specialist for that particular business would emerge of necessity.