I am in the process of developing a technical GIS competency matrix for new employees. The matrix will be used not only to assess new employees but also to monitor employee development. The matrix should contain everything from general GIS concepts to advanced server-side GIS and Web-GIS development.

Has anyone had any experience with such a matrix or can shed any light on how this would look?

My first attempt would look this this.

  1. General GIS concepts: CRS models and transformations, Formats, spatial analysis, georeferencing, heads-up digitizing, symbology, colour

  2. Spatial databases: ESRI, Postgresql/PostGIS, Mysql

  3. WebGIS: O-O Programming, Openlayers, Serverside GIS, Gdal, Geoserver/Mapserver/Deegree

  4. General programming: Python, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, JQuery, PHP

  5. Linux Administration: Shells, scripting, commands, administration, monitoring

I am also interested in finding out what kind of weighting these various criteria should carry. My personal bias is that I think I place more value upon the contextual nature of the GIS-Work than the Technical side, i.e that I find it more important to first understand the data before one develops the tools, rather than first to achieve the technical prerequisites and then try to understand what the data or tool actually represents. Due to this, I would rather employ a planner who learnt GIS-Skills, than a programmer who has later developed GIS skills. Obviously this only applies to GIS projects of a strong contextual nature. If I wanted a GIS-Administrator to only monitor JAVA projects on Linux, then i´d obviously prefer an IT professional.


3 Answers 3


You can start with Michalis Avraam's Essential Skills to Succeed in a GIS Career blog post. He grouped the skills into:

  • GIS Skills

    • Spatial Data and Algorithms understanding
    • Data entry
    • Data conversion
    • Data maintenance:
    • *Metadata creation and editing
    • GIS Analysis
    • GIS Workflow
    • Model Building
    • Cartography and Graphic Design
  • Programming Skills

    • Basic understanding of programming
    • Programming language:
    • Object Oriented programming
    • Basic GIS architecture (desktop and web)
    • Web Services knowledge and experience
  • Database Skills

    • Able to understand data models and structure
    • Ability to design data models
    • Database Design tools knowledge
    • Structured Query Language (SQL) knowledge
  • Project Management and Design

    • Ability to translate user needs to solutions
    • Good communication skills
    • Good writing skills
    • Project management skills
  • Other Skills

    • Ability to apply expertise in multiple domains
    • Portability of skills on multi-platforms and online/offline world
    • Detail oriented
    • Customer Support skills
    • Don’t be afraid to explore

The GeoTech Center, in collaboration with the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has also developed a comprehensive competency model for Geospatial Technology.

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A GIS analyst trained primarily on the IT side is just that--an IT professional. In my opinion, the real power of a GIS analyst is the training he/she has had outside of the server admin./programmer/technical skills realm. An important factor is whether or not the employee has a background in fire science, geography, ecology, land use, etc and what they are doing to further their expertise. Since much of the GIS profession is related to problem solving and creating decision support tools, value should be placed on attending conferences, presenting information across various sources about their field of expertise and receiving training that will help compliment their GIS skills.

  • 5
    Nicely said. Another way to slice this is to ponder whether in the analyst's inner world GIS is more closely aligned to Geographic Information Systems or Services. A person focused on the former is more likely to weigh heavy on the IT side, a tools expert, while the latter will tend to be more interested in what the tools can create (and perhaps not be conversant in as many). Both types are necessary and valuable. Oct 10, 2012 at 16:10

R.K.'s answer is very good, you might also consider looking at the GIS&T Body of Knowledge, which was recently (re-)released as an open access book. It was developed by the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, and the Association of American Geographers.

It's available here: http://blogs.esri.com/esri/gisedcom/2012/10/08/bok/

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