What is a GIS Professional? Is it the same as GIS Developer or Analyst?

It's just that the term has been used a lot and I'm not really sure what it means.

Update: Voted to close the question as it does not conform to the Q&A format. I'm still a bit confused by how people just use the term as if everybody knows what it means when people can't agree on what it is though.


4 Answers 4


I think GIS Professionals can be divided into two categories: GIS Developers, and GIS Users.

GIS Developers are those that produce, and distribute the software and data that the GIS Users then put to use through analysis and presentation.

In order for a GIS User to be considered a GIS Professional, they would have to make a majority of their income through use of GIS technology. The occasional use of GIS does not make one a GIS User. I suppose that same caveat would also apply to the GIS Developer.

  • 5
    if this were simplified to "a GIS Professional makes a majority of their income through use of GIS" I would agree. Aug 8, 2010 at 18:35
  • ...and I would agree with you, Matt
    – Don Meltz
    Aug 8, 2010 at 19:21
  • 5
    But I would strongly disagree, because being paid to do something does not make one an expert or even competent and many of the best experts do not make their livings "through use of GIS." (Do you become less of a professional when you retire? When you go on leave? If you do something else for some period?) Let's not confuse the marketplace with capabilities, please.
    – whuber
    Aug 20, 2010 at 15:17

"GISP" stands for GIS Professional and is a certification standard offered by the GIS cert. institute. I believe it originated in the URISA ranks, and is now used by many people in the profession. Their website here has more info: http://www.gisci.org/

  • Regardless of the merits of GISP certification, this should be the accepted answer, IMO.
    – blah238
    Nov 24, 2012 at 2:08

I think if you are going to capitalize the 'P' in professional you need to be a member of a regulated body that performs peer review, has a code of ethics, practice standards, requires professional liability insurance, etc.

That doesn't mean lots of people aren't professional in their dealings with the public, how they act in various roles in their jobs or are in general honest and capable.

Not just anyone who hangs out a sign is a Professional - talk to the lawyers, doctors, etc of this world.

If we accept that everyone who merely 'earns the majority of their income' in GIS is 'Professional' then we doom ourselves to the back office with a definite income cap, limited control over our future and very little say in how the data that we manage and are experts in is used.

  • This is why Adam Matan commented that this question is "Highly subjective and argumentative..." and I'm inclined to agree. There really is no definitive answer. The term professional can be defined in different ways by different people and different Professional organizations. It all depends on ones perspective.
    – Don Meltz
    Aug 9, 2010 at 21:19

Yes, this is highly subjective and argumentative. That said, my take on a "GIS Professional" in a broad sense would be someone who earns their living utilizing GIS technology at the core of their job - whether that be as a Technician digitizing features in ArcMap all day (not that that's all they do), an Analyst doing any of the number of things that most Analysts do, or a Developer, coding up applications. Being a "professional" IMHO also implies that you contribute to the cause and are active in the community (I believe this to be true for any profession, though) - on sites such as this, other forums, publishing articles, mentoring, attending conferences, etc.

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