I've been out of school and working in the GIS field (mostly the field of a desk) for over five years now. The one consistency I've found when working for various companies and applying for various jobs is that there is no consistency in the way our job titles correlate to the actual tasks we accomplish on a daily basis.

Does anyone have a good list of the general tasks / job description for some of the GIS job titles:

  • GIS Technican
  • GIS Analyst
  • GIS Administrator
  • GIS Developer
  • GIS Applications Specialist
  • GIS Professional
  • GIS Manager
  • GIS / IT Technican
  • GIS Technical Architect

I know each title varies by region and company, but a general list would be a great resource. If I have left any out, please feel free to add.

  • 3
    I would like to suggest that there is no uniformity or consistency in these titles (beyond individual organizations) and therefore one can have little confidence that one employer's "GIS Administrator" (say) would have the same duties, responsibilities, and required skills as another's. As in most fields, what matters is what the job actually entails rather than what it might be called. Thus, I am also suggesting that the burden is on the respondents to demonstrate that their answers actually have application beyond the narrow circumstances in which they might originally have been used.
    – whuber
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 22:22
  • 1
    One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is job titles that make no reference to "GIS" or "Geospatial" or whatever, yet the job functions itself may deal heavily in GIS.
    – blah238
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 22:33

5 Answers 5


There are some great answers here already, but here's my brief tuppence worth as a round-up (from my perspective - I don't pretend this is a canonical set of definitions!):

  • GIS Technican - a junior grade GIS specialist, but somebody with more experience in performing GIS analysis and managing data than a casual GIS user. For the GIS Technician, GIS is the job. For a GIS user, GIS is an adjunct to or tool for the job.
  • GIS Analyst - Probably more experienced than the GIS Technician and probably having some specialist knowledge of spatial analysis maybe in a particular field (e.g. oil sector, renewable energy, civil engineering etc).
  • GIS Administrator - A GIS Technician who looks after a data store and possibly also provides some support to a company's GIS users.
  • GIS Developer - A GIS specialist who concentrates on adding value to existing software by developing functions and UIs. A GIS Developer will have a good knowledge of programming at least with Python and probably another language such as Java or C# as well and will have an in-depth knowledge of one or more GIS APIs.
  • GIS Applications Specialist - This is a vague term and could mean a Developer or an Analyst, or even somebody who is a cross between the two - read the job description!
  • GIS Professional - Anybody for whom GIS is the primary way they earn their living, but I would take this to mean somebody above the GIS Technician grade (not because GIS Technicians aren't professional but because of the way the term is commonly used). I would also expect such a position to be more akin to the Analyst role than Developer but read the Job Description. A GIS Professional could be of any level of experience or seniority.
  • GIS Manager - A more senior role which will involve managing staff and taking overall charge of data stores etc as well as providing specialist advice to company Management on GIS, plus support for the GIS staff etc and, depending on the size of the team, some hands-on GIS analysis/development.
  • GIS / IT Technican - A role very much like the GIS Technician but with a little more emphasis on the IT tech side of things. Probably more akin to a junior GIS Developer (where a GIS Technican is probably more like a Junior GIS Analyst)
  • GIS Technical Architect - I would interpret this role to be somebody who's primary function is the setting up and maintenance of large corporate GIS systems, including an enterprise spatial database back-end, through to the specification, integration and implementation of the front-end UI solutions.

Take a look here at the GIS Competency Model... It covers a whole spectrum of expected skills and growth patterns.


  • 4
    To go along with that, while the list is pretty weak in specific job titles, if you click on the "Occupation-Specific Requirements" section of the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (upper right), you will find job descriptions for some of those titles you have mentioned above. Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 19:48
  • 1
    Thanks Ryan; I have different sections bookmarked so tend to not think about the separate sections.
    – D.E.Wright
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 20:41

Doing some digging, apparently there was a book called "Model Job Descriptions for GIS Professionals" written by William Huxhold and published by URISA in 2000. I found a link to a PDF here that gives great 1-page job description summaries for various titles. I cannot seem to find a hard- or soft-copy of it, but it would be a great reference if this book is still available.

Additionally, you might find the article called "Building a GIS Career" from http://www.gislounge.com to be helpful. It lists the most common job titles and job description overviews, although I think the amount of experience they have listed for each position is probably shorter than it takes your average professional to move up the ladder.

  • GIS Intern
  • GIS Technician/Specialist
  • GIS Analyst
  • GIS Coordinator or Manager

For more detailed job descriptions, in 2012, Los Angeles County released GIS Classifications and Specifications (job descriptions), which are quite detailed descriptions of:

  • Geographic Information Systems Technician
  • Supervising Geographic Information Systems Technician
  • Geographic Information Systems Analyst
  • Senior Geographic Information Systems Analyst
  • Principal Geographic Information Systems
  • Geographic Information Systems Specialist
  • Geographic Information Systems Manager I
  • Geographic Information Systems Manager II

GIS Administrator

Manages data conversion, design, development, training and quality assurance for GIS software systems applications.

Develops, implements and manages GIS data and it’s organizational structure/database environment. Analyzes and interprets spatial data used in the production of maps, reports, and other products.

Manages activities involving GIS projects. Develops and implements methodologies for creation and use of spatial data, including digitizing, editing, coding, and annotating line,point and polygon data.

Consults with departments in the development of their GIS plans, goals and objectives.

Coordinates GIS activities between the company and other external agencies. Retrieves, processes and analyzes archive spatial data.

Provide training for staff in the use of GIS.

Designs, develops, and maintains GIS production schedules. Manages and monitors project progress to ensure timely completion of projects.

Designs GIS project methodology for assigned projects to include the primary staff assistance in identifying needs and acquiring GIS products and services.

Functions as database administrator for all GIS related processes and projects. May participate in special projects working with special requests, special report preparations and GIS presentations.

Determines budgetary requirements for GIS systems and provides long-range planning related to GIS.

Maintains current knowledge of trends and developments in the geographic information systems field for application to responsibilities under charge.

PDF http://www.marioncountyfl.org/HumanResources/HR_jobdesc/InformationSystems/GISAdministrator.pdf


GIS Professional

This more of a certification than a job title. The GISCI administers and regulates it. While I have seen a few people with GIS Professional as their job title, it should be seen as a certification and accomplishment, not a job with a specific set of tasks.

  • 2
    While I agree that they administer a test for the GISP, they are not the sole body or method to determine if you are a Professional in the GIS field. I know many people with many years of experience but do not and will not seek a GISP simply for the fact that it does not carry a regulatory necessity compared to being a CPA, LA, PE or PLS.
    – D.E.Wright
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 20:44

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