I am a software developer with over 20 years building applications mostly in the web application space for various companies. I am trying to get a foot hold into the GIS software development space and I am looking for advice on the best way to achieve that.

I've been contemplating obtaining a GIS Certificate and taking classes using the latest GIS tools out there. I was hoping someone could make a suggestion as to an option or options I may take to do so.

4 Answers 4


As someone who came from a software dev background into GIS, the concepts aren't rocket science. Whichever platform you choose to work under will have its own API that you'll learn. The more involved concepts like projections and datums are such a small part of it, when you hit them, you just find a book/person and learn what you need.

From what I can see, there's a major skill shortage in GIS developers, so take your development skills, and apply for GIS development jobs. Chances are they're not getting great applications anyway, so if you can prove you're a fast learner, you may find that you're a very attractive option.

I maintain that for working as a GIS software developer, those developers who learn GIS are far stronger than those GIS people who learn to program.

  • 7
    Wholeheartedly agree with your last statement. And I'm regularly hiring GIS soft developers.
    – GuillaumeC
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 6:20
  • This is all good knowledge and comforting. I am very good at development since I've been doing it so long. Thanks for the advice.
    – Peter
    Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 2:34

I didn't know a thing about GIS before I was hired...not officially. My background for wanting to work with GIS is that I've always been working with maps, as a scout and as a soldier...but truth be told I haven't used much of that knowledge in practise. The most important part I've been using is some nerdy knowledge I caught in school sometime about the difference between geographic and projected coordinatesystems.

I have had my job since October 2009 and it was pure luck that I saw the opening, I was looking for a job in another city but boom there it was :) There interview had nothing to do with GIS, cause as eldac writes, they have learned that it's easier to teach a developer GIS than it is the other way around.


If you're an experienced programmer, just get a good set of open-source tools and some free data. Create some small fun apps with them, and after you know the basics you can have a better idea on what you need to learn.

Open source tools:

  • Python or other scripting language you're comfortable with
  • PostgreSQL and PostGIS (databases that easily store geospatial data)
  • QGIs (for viewing geospatial files and databases)

All of these are available as Ubuntu packages and Windows installers.

Good data sources to begin with:

After you've conquered the basics, try to focus on some field. If you're into web development, creating map tiles using mapnik is the next reasonable step. If you're in the cellular business, try developing for your favorite platform, and so on.

  • Might wanna add windows resources as well just in case he ain't a linux guy ;)
    – cyberzed
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 8:26
  • Made it CW - please add!
    – Adam Matan
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 9:19
  • I would add OpenLayers for the Web client interface and MapServer or GeoServer for the Web mapping server.
    – DavidF
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 13:39
  • Hmm good idea about the cw though I don't know that open-source alternative on windows...I'm only working with ArcGIS ;)
    – cyberzed
    Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 9:16

You might want to track the Directions Magazine articles on Geospatial occupations. If nothing else you'll get a good overview of trends in the industry, certification, and education.

Joe Francica (editor-in-chief) and Adena Schutzberg (executive editor) are great resources in the GIS community and worth following.

Disclaimer: I edited this site ten years ago and selected Joe to replace me. However, I'm no longer officially associated with it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.