A Geographic Information System (GIS) transforms data into a map. Analysts use it to gain insight into any relationships, patterns, or trends that may exist. These maps can be a very powerful tool, as they portray a story and help us understand what is happening in a given geographic space.

A career in GIS requires you to be a lifelong learner, and what you need to learn may not always be GIS-related. For instance, calculus or statistics helps develop critical thinking skills. These can teach you how to work with the data.

You may also consider studying color theory. This challenges your creative and problem-solving skills, which you will also find useful in the field.

Below, we’ll share a few tips to help you excel as a GIS analyst.

Master the basics of GIS

This includes spatial data, algorithms, data entry, metadata, remote sensing, and other tools within GIS programs. Since schools do not always teach you everything, you will need to expand your horizons and explore other options.

One such option is to volunteer on a wide range of projects. You will not only learn new things; you will also make connections with other professionals and perfect your current GIS skillset.

Basic geographic knowledge can also be useful, although it depends on which field you will focus on. This can include spatial properties of natural features–such as land and water–and their relationships and attributes.

Knowledge of programs like ESRI’s ArcGIS are essential. You need to keep up with new developments in technology. Try setting aside 30 minutes to an hour every day just for learning. You can read articles, test new software, attend seminars, or ask colleagues for guidance.

Learn a programming language

Programming is not a required skill but will be of great help to you. It allows you to automated the analyzation of large dataset instead of wasting time doing it manually.

This is where a background in programming can help.  While not necessary for all jobs, knowing the basics of Python and SQL will put you ahead of others.

However, programming can be challenging to learn. Its many languages can give you an edge, but you do not need to study them all at once. Choose one that interests you and suits your needs. Try earning a certificate or taking online courses for credit. These will benefit your resume greatly.


Improve critical thinking and analysis

Many times, you will be looking at a variety of large datasets. This is where your critical thinking skills will come into play. Being able to assess, analyze, and find what is relevant to your stakeholder will help you succeed.

You must also be detail-oriented. The quality of your work will show your dedication to this skill, especially through your maps. Make sure to assess your work and have other team members provide feedback throughout a project.

Brush up on communication and soft skills

This is vital not only to your GIS career but in all aspects of life. You will often be working with other people to complete a project faster, but you will not always get to choose who you will work with. Thus, you should consider each person’s strengths and weaknesses to determine what they can add to a project.

Think of storytelling through maps

You can also use maps to tell a story. Anyone can create a map, but using it to get through to your audience can be a little tricky. You will need to think about the stakeholder’s needs and desires, but you must also consider your audience. You should know how they will view the map and how to make it self-explanatory.

Learn the tricks of project management

Learn how to make good use of your time and resources. You will be juggling various projects, each with their own deadlines. Consider how long a project will take so you can decide if you need more hands—or more resources—to complete it. Knowing well how to plan and set deadlines helps you finish your projects.

Be passionate and curious

You will likely be looking at large datasets and complex problems. However, sometimes you just will not find the right answer. Hard work and an open mind goes a long way, and loving what you do will always help you find success in your field.

Keep in mind that while GIS programs are constantly being updated, it is not the fastest application; there are still a lot of issues that need addressing. Patience is a skill that you will learn over time. This helps not only while using the software, but is also handy in dealing with any fieldwork.

GIS is a rapidly changing field, and learning to adapt will give you more opportunities in the future. There are always new things to learn, so challenge yourself and find more ways to excel.