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GIS Programmer Roles: Bridging Code and Maps

GIS Programmer Career

So you want a GIS developer job?

If you’re going to be working as a GIS software developer, you’re pretty much going to be a software developer with a concentration in GIS.

Programmers need to be focused because you’re going to be writing, examining, and error-checking code. GIS developers need to learn fast on their feet. GIS programming skills like learning Python, .NET, and C++ are essential.

Alternatively, you could be building web applications using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. There is also potential to design geospatial applications for field collection, reporting, and other GIS-related activities.

READ MORE: Free GIS Programming Tutorials: Learn How To Code

GIS developer career trends and salary

According to Indeed job trends, GIS programmers and developers are one of the highest fields in demand at the moment.

GIS programming and application development have been expanding for quite some time. But most GIS application developer positions are usually accompanied by a computer science degree or certificate.

GIS Salary Pyramid

Although GIS developers enjoy higher salaries than average GIS positions, they also require a higher level of education or a combination of work experience. Here are the salary expectations you can expect from this type of career.

GIS developer job advantages/disadvantages

In general, GIS developers have more job stability because software development and computer programming are growing fields.

It’s easier for GIS programmers to land a job because it takes a highly skilled individual to write code and develop applications. No two developers will write the same code. Building an application used by people is often a great feeling for programmers.

Generally, GIS programmers have higher pay rates. But it can really take years to become an expert in the field. Also, it requires a high level of education.

From the level of importance, here are some of the programming languages you can expect: JavaScript, Python, C#, and .NET. But Visual Basic, Flex, Silverlight, Flash, and Arc Macro Language (AML) are on the downtrend or obsolete.

The primary job duties of a GIS developer

Here are some of the job duties of a GIS developer.

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PROGRAMMING is the process of writing code and automating redundant GIS processes. Typical programming languages in GIS are Python, SQL, C++, Visual Basic, and Java. It involves GIS programming, web development & design, software application development, and software application lifecycle.

WEB DEVELOPMENT is the process of interactively displaying, processing, or analyzing spatial content on the world wide web.

SPATIAL ANALYSIS uses techniques to manipulate, extract, locate and analyze geographic data. Spatial analysis examples include buffering, clipping, and exploring the relationships between map features. It involves GIS analysis, GIS modeling, data integration & conversion, data analysis, geocoding, and Geomatics.

READ MORE: The Periodic Table for Spatial Analysis

Complimentary job duties

Here are some of the job duties you might have to perform in this role.

CARTOGRAPHY is the study of creating maps. The origin comes from charta – “tablet or leaf of paper” and graph – “to draw”. Areas of study involve information management, softcopy mapping, web mapping, GIS mapping, ArcGIS map design, and quality control/assurance.

REMOTE SENSING involves satellite or aerial imagery to map the Earth. Remote sensing is the study of attaining data without physically being there. Focus areas include remote sensing analysis, satellite/air photo interpretation, global positioning systems (GPS), and soil classification.

DATABASE MANAGEMENT stores information from structured sets of geographic data in relational database management systems. (Database Development, Asset Management Consulting, Database Administration, Data Management Management)

Example GIS Developer Tasks

This list of tasks highlights examples of what you might do as a GIS developer.

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  • Develop, test, debug and maintain an array of custom web-based GIS applications, tools, and supporting web services using standard software life cycle processes
  • Support the infrastructure by maintaining and developing new capabilities in Microsoft .Net.
  • Develop software in an agile development process by working with stakeholders to refine developed products.
  • Perform web and mobile application development using JavaScript, HTML5, CSS, and AJAX for the Esri ArcGIS platform
  • Provide support, troubleshooting, modifications, enhancements, and maintenance for existing GIS applications, scripts, tools, and web services.
  • Create and maintain system-related documentation.

GIS Developer and Job Trends

The demand for GIS developers has been quite promising. Specifically, the field of GIS needs professionals who can bridge the gap between geospatial technology and software development.

For example, here are some of the most recent trends:

gis technology jobs trends

GIS developers are expected to have strong software development skills, including proficiency in programming languages like Python, JavaScript, Java, or C#. They are often responsible for creating custom applications, tools, and plugins that leverage GIS functionalities.

With the rise of web-based mapping and applications, GIS developers with expertise in web technologies, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), and frameworks like Leaflet, Mapbox, and ArcGIS API for JavaScript are particularly valuable.

The map below can help you stay on top of the latest trends in GIS developer salary information. This map contains salary information for GIS programmers from around the world in different currencies.

GIS Developer Salary Map

Accompanying Software

From the level of importance, here are some of the programming languages you can expect: JavaScript, Python, C#, and .NET.

Additionally, other coding languages include Visual Basic, HTML, JavaScript, XML, SQL, and Spyder.

Common GIS software includes Esri ArcGIS Pro, QGIS 3, CARTO, and Mapbox.

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  1. I dont have a degree in Geography. I have a Physical science degree with Computer science. But recently I got my job in GIS field. Now I know how to use ArcMap for analyze data. I don’t have a clear idea how can I build my career path. I would like to do online analyzing job as well. So could you please advise me how can I build my career path?

  2. Great article! it’s my goal to be a GIS software developer in the next few years. I’m getting my feet wet with CSS/SASS/HTML pending landing a front end dev role. Then I’ll pickup Javascript then Python along the way.

  3. Whish programming language is suitable to generate web services for map data (eg. C# ,Java , ..)

    Because , I want to use ArcGIS with web services for web map application.

  4. I am currently a GIS Developer, although I do not have a degree in GIS or Computer Science. I began as a GIS technician, then progressed through the years. Many developers are self-taught these days. It depends on your personality and aptitude to learn new things.

    My personal opinion: Start playing around with one of the ArcGIS APIs (The JavaScript one is fairly easy to start). Then start creating things, put some open source content on GitHub, and you will slowly develop a portfolio to show potential employers.

    Good development practices, as well as GIS skills, can come from lots of repetition. Apply yourself, repeat each concept 20-50 times, get to know a couple languages (JavaScript and Python are very applicable to GIS development), and you will be on your way.

  5. I want to be a GIS Developer. I do not not have the background or experience. I have a degree in Geography and I am a GIS Analyst. Do I need to take courses to gain experience in order to be hired for a GIS Developer job.

  6. If not Python, SQL, C++, Visual Basic and Java what other programs will need to be mastered to be able to perform the duties required for a GIS Developer? Thanks

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