I regularly see GIS Analyst job postings (often in very expensive cities) asking for a plethora of experience paying in the $40k - 60k a year range, many are even below $40k or $30k.

Considering the amount of patience it takes to deal with Esri software and all of the work-arounds one must routinely implement GIS professionals are being severely underpaid.

Are the majority of GIS Analysts independently wealthy and just do GIS for fun? I do not see any other logical reason for the low pay reality GIS Analysts are in.

Has there ever been an attempt to create a GIS Union?

  • Depends where in the world you are comparing to? $40-60k is not low depending on what you define as a normal/high wage. – Mapperz Aug 11 '14 at 14:44
  • This sometimes reflects a lack of awareness by HR/hiring managers of the level of skill required -- "GIS Analyst" can cover a range of tasks, from simple data maintenance and updates (which can be done with minimal training/experience so $30-40k is reasonable) to complex analysis and data management (which typically requires more education/experience, and demands a higher salary). – Erica Aug 11 '14 at 14:47
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    "lack of awareness by HR/hiring manager" should not be acceptable. We need a GIS Union to deal with this ridiculousness. – user3396 Aug 11 '14 at 14:48
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    Then start one! – Martin Aug 11 '14 at 15:03
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    @Mapperz the main purposes of Unions is to stand up for employees and make sure they are not being exploited. A nominal Union fee pays for itself x1000 assuming the Union has some teeth. – user3396 Aug 11 '14 at 16:28

GIS is still a relatively new technology, despite its exploding popularity and application potential, and so it will take time for HR to understand exactly what GIS is for, what a GIS "Analyst" does, and what they should be paid. However, if they see data from reputable national organizations that indicate higher pay is typical (and they will therefore attract better candidates), things can change.

Many professional societies strive to provide information about appropriate salary and job titles. While not really unions (they don't negotiate on behalf of their membership), their research on salary trends can be used for negotiation either during hiring or performance reviews. A couple examples that I'm immediately aware of:

URISA's surveys show that a GIS Technician -- typically the individual who's doing just data entry or maintenance -- averages $40k, while a GIS Analyst is at least $10k higher. (I have found that AAG's data, which is drawn from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is often... optimistic.)

  • Also the amount you earn and the amount you are taxed - uk is at least 22% of your wage is taxed. Then there is the tax on products food/clothes you buy... another 20% en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_the_United_Kingdom#Income_tax en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Mapperz Aug 11 '14 at 15:35
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    The explosion of popularity should be considered past-tense. My impression is such that we now increasingly supply more GIS graduates than there are jobs available. Take a look at this graph - indeed.com/jobtrends?q=gis&l= It makes for a grim outlook. While it's true more businesses are adopting GIS for their own ends, the pace is decelerating, and established GIS depts. don't hire much. All this means employers can keep wages lower with relative ease. – Sleep6 Aug 11 '14 at 18:21
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    @Sleep6 Largely true. Perhaps a better phrasing would be "despite increased awareness of its usefulness among non-geographers"? – Erica Aug 11 '14 at 18:43
  • That seems accurate. – Sleep6 Aug 11 '14 at 18:51

It's important to note the job titles associated with positions that supersede GIS Technician or GIS Analyst. You won't (hopefully) find too many job postings looking to hire for a GIS Analyst position with the requirement of 10 years of experience.

After 5-8 years as a GIS Analyst you would likely start looking to transition to a GIS Coordinator/GIS Manager/Team Lead role or, alternatively, you would become more specialized (Lead GIS Developer, GIS Systems Architect, Senior Programmer/Analyst).

In the case of smaller companies without the traditional upward mobility in GIS job titles you might take on the role of a Project Manager in addition to your Analyst responsibilities.

As others have mentioned, GIS is still a relatively new field in the eyes of HR and therefore the structure you might find with other specific jobs (e.g. Engineer, Programmer) is not yet fully developed. The good news is, there is plenty of room to develop your own career path.

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