GIS Salary Expectations: Climb the GIS Career Ladder

GIS Salary Pyramid
GIS Salary Pyramid

Last Updated: Jun 22, 2017

Getting the GIS Career You Want

Here’s a scenario you may be familiar with:

You applied for a GIS job you want, and land an interview. You answer each GIS interview question including your professional background and why you’re interested in the position. But then they hit you with the unexpected:

“What are your salary expectations for this GIS job?”

Employers ask this question because it’s a quick way to filter candidates with overly high expectations. You can answer too high and eliminate yourself from the competition. Or you can answer too low and undervalue your work potential for the GIS job.

So how do you answer the GIS salary question during interviews?

Here are some options:

  • Don’t get caught off-guard. Prepare your salary expectation beforehand
  • Don’t list a salary range, if you’d be unhappy taking the lowest end of it.
  • Research comparable GIS salaries. The labor market sets the price.

What are comparable GIS salaries?

The problem with GIS salary surveys is they can be outdated a year after they were taken. We know historic survey data is not a true reflection of the current job market.

How much are current jobs paying in GIS? What is the market rate for GIS jobs?

I bet you didn’t know that GIS salary data is readily available at your fingertips with Indeed’s salary search. You get a sneak peak at the labor market rate for GIS jobs. What do employers set the price at?

With millions of job titles to search, Indeed.com gives you statistically significant median salaries. New salaries are added daily. Median salaries are averaged over the previous 12 months.

Now, you must be eager to see how Geographic Information System careers stack up to the competition. Not only do we get a glimpse on average salaries, we can learn how far a GIS career can take you. How far can you climb the GIS career pyramid? Is there room for advancement? We’ve summarized everything in a sharable, eye-pleasing GIS Career and Salary Infographic.

GIS Salary Pyramid - Infographic
GIS Salary Pyramid – Infographic (InfoGeographic) – Click to Enlarge

GIS Salary Ranges

40,0000$-60,0000$

CAD Drafter – $40,000
GIS Technician – $40,000
Survey CAD Technician – $41,000
Cartographic Technician – $46,000
Land Survey Technician – $50,000
GIS Analyst – $51,000
Geographic Information Systems Specialist – $56,000

60,000$-70,000$

Senior GIS Analyst – $65,000
Remote Sensing Analyst – $66,000
LiDAR Analyst – $68,000
Cartographer – $68,000

70,0000$-80,000$

Senior CAD Engineer – $70,000
GIS Administrator – $72,000
Geographer – $73,000
Geoint Analyst – $76,000
Geodesist – $77,000

>80,000$

Senior CAD Designer – $82,000
Survey Manager – $83,000
GIS Developer – $83,000
GIS Software Engineer-$87,000
GIS Project Manager- $100,000
Senior Geomatics Software Engineer – $103,000

GIS Career Options

Salary Range

Geomatics brings a range of different career options. At the lower end of the pay scale are technicians and draftsmen. Skills include databases, analysis and mapping. Don’t let pay scale fool you though. Analysts, technicians and draftsmen do all the heavy lifting for project workloads.

As we move higher in the salary range, we see specialized skills. Remote sensing and LiDAR analysts are in the mid-range pay scale range. Software developers and programmers have specialized skills for this range too.

Senior GIS positions are on the top of the salary list. For example, GIS project managers require the experience and education to plan, execute and close projects. Senior geomatics software engineers need the education to design, develop and maintain software. Education and experience are the main reasons why these positions constantly rank at the top of the GIS pay scale.

Pursuing a GIS Career

If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in GIS, it can be very fulfiling.

The reality is that GIS affects our daily lives. Planning a pipeline, navigating a ship or fighting wildfires. These are real-life problems that require spatial thinking.

On this fact alone, GIS has expanded into countless disciplines. This GIS salary guide gives the market rate for a variety of geomatics positions.

Don’t be caught tongue-tied when asked the GIS salary expectation question next interview.

Did you find some more GIS careers we’ve missed? What are some discrepencies with our salary data – and how different are they?

Let us know in the comments.

References:
Indeed (2014, December 30). Salary Information. Retrieved from Indeed Salary Search

8 Comments

  1. GIS is a joke. I put 20 years into it and wasted my time with the pathetic salaries. I would suggest not going into this profession.

  2. Sorry to hear about your misfortune Roger.

    I’ve worked in the field half as long and have had nothing but success in the private and public sector.

    Many people that I know that have spent longer time in this field haven’t kept up with the changing hardware/software and haven’t chosen to build on what they already know, hence why they typically get locked in at a low rate of pay. Always pays to keep up-to-date and know more and more.

  3. @roger or anyone in this profession I really need assistance I haven’t started my studies yet and I took a gap year specifically to find the right career for myself one that I love and can take care of my needs and wants.

    So I have discovered Geography is my favourite area and so the hot question in my life is “is GIS safe for me to undertake and take on as a career”? You in your own experience what success has come out of it? Thank you

  4. @Keith Tafara

    I am currently completing my B.S. in Geography (with a GIS emphasis) and I am an intern for a county water district. I come from a Computer Science background (was my original major, learned to code, but really disliked theory), GIS is a decent career but I would highly recommend you learn to code (i.e. Python) to make yourself stand out from the rest. GIS alone is difficult with no other specialty. I recommend checking out the GIS subreddit forum. Many GIS professionals are there.

    Good luck!

  5. I have been in GIS for 10 plus years working in government. The pay is not fair. I’ve taken classes and have a lot of field and hands on exp. My title is GIS Coordinator, and I’m thinking of going into the private sector field.

  6. I have found its years of experience and technology that drive these salaries. GIS is just a tool. It can be applied to mapping utilities, Biology, IT, etc. However, you have to push ahead. I have been in the GIS world full time for 4 years and part time for 13. I have found equally that privately learning through ESRI is about the same as an Associates Degree. The employers are looking for skills and years of experience. A 20 year career should land you a role as supporting the applications and maps that new Drafters will make. Don’t get discouraged. We have an online social media group.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/GISpeopleGroup/

    Feel free to join. It is Michigan based, but I post jobs and careers anywhere I know people are looking.

  7. @ Marc The GIS field is a fickle one to say the least. Over the last several years the industry has been saturated with people seeking ways to make their mark in this field. I currently contract for the government; personally enjoy this particular path as I work to finish off my MGIST. For me though, I have over 16 years in the military as an imagery analyst and have the educational backing to secure a salary at the top end of the spectrum. Essentially I can fill the role of an imagery analyst or geospatial analyst; they are cousins in the industry, but quite different in reality.

    The private sector is full of opportunities as virtually every company in every industry uses GIS in some shape or form. If money is what you (or anyone) seek; the GIS programming/developing and Geospatial Scientists and Statisticians (those “big data” positions)
    tend to pull the higher salaries from what I have seen.

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