The last years I have wondered many times what are the skills a GIS Expert needs to have. I have studied Geology and upon that I did my master in Geoinformatics. Although right now is clear for me what a GIS Expert does, I still find my self wondering how far a GIS guy needs to "go" regarding learning new libraries or frameworks. Perhaps my question can be rephrased to: Is a GIS Expert a Software Developer? Or should he be?

Its obvious that GIS Expert has to know a lot of different things such

  • One or two GIS packages
  • Spatial DBs
  • Scripting (Python, PHP)
  • Web Services (WMS etc.)
  • Web Development Languages/Libraries (for WEBGis)

Actually the above are my skills. It takes lots of time to master them and feel secure using them but I realize that more and more new technologies come in the game.

For example I know how to use OpenLayers API or googlemaps API together with EXTJs and GeoExt. I did several projects on them and I spent considerably amount of time to become good at them. Now I see other projects using technologies such as GeoDjango or JQuery UI, which I have never used before.

Similarly with PHP. I've been using it for writing scripts to create workflows. Should I go the next level and learn a framework such as Symfony?

Where does the field of a GIS Expert stops and the field of Software Developer starts?

I hope I illustrated my questions clear enough.

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    IMO, software developers tend to be very concerned with the proper techniques, almost pedantic, of software development. For example, proper use of dependency injection and IOC containers and being able to "some day" swap out complete backend databases and data access layers in mere minutes... at the cost of considerable design and development up front for an unlikely albeit possible future change. A GIS professional is concerned with getting the job done and although the software functions as the GIS person intended, a software developer would find readily find errors in the approach. – DenaliHardtail Apr 15 '15 at 14:54
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    IMHO there are too many possible definitions of "GIS Expert" to answer this effectively. Skillspaces are multi-dimensional, as are GIS envoronments, so the concept of a dividing line between roles fails to grapple with the complexity of the problem. – Vince Apr 15 '15 at 16:55
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    +1 @Vince. I can think of circumstances where a "GIS Expert" has no web or software development skills. For example, a team lead in a production GIS environment might do no development, but still be considered an "expert" in the realm of GIS. – Radar Apr 15 '15 at 17:19
  • @DenaliHardtail. Brilliantly put if somewhat exaggerated. – John Powell Apr 15 '15 at 17:39
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    This question seems to have a lot of interest. It would be worth refining this question following these guidelines: gis.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask and stackoverflow.com/help/how-to-ask. A "GIS Expert" can mean many things and no one person is an expert in all fields of GIS. Even on the software development side, you can break GIS software developers into several broad categories: web development, scientific programming, automation, database administration. There are GIS experts in each of these fields, and often they stay within their own realm. – Aaron Apr 15 '15 at 19:40

My two cents:

I think a key component of a 'GIS expert' is a solid understanding of GEOGRAPHY. After all, it is Geographic Information Systems.

So, to answer "Where does the field of a GIS Expert stops and the field of Software Developer starts??", a GIS expert will apply the proper skills to solve geographic (i.e. spatial) problems. Without a solid knowledge of geography and spatial theories, a very technical person does not have as much power in GIS.

Moreover, there are 'GIS Experts' (as Vince stated above) that may not possess every technical development skill out there, but have a very solid understanding of how to solve geospatial problems.

There are so many roles that a GIS professional may take, so finding a set of skills that you can do well and learning how to apply those in a GIS context is key.

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