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Geographical information systems officer: Job description

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Geographic information systems (GIS) are computerised systems used for the collection, storage, analysis, manipulation and presentation of complex geographical information. Previously, this would have been a combination of electronic versions of traditional paper maps and social and economic data.

GIS systems are employed by most sectors of government and commerce and a geographical information systems officer may work for a wide range of employers. Roles can vary but all GIS officers are involved in the production of maps and the analysis of data. They use this to help plan, protect and deliver services or products in areas such as defence, construction, oil, gas, water, telecoms, electricity, the environment, healthcare, transport planning and operation, retail location planning and logistics, insurance and finance.

GIS technology allows many different forms of data (such as the location of rivers and roads, or information about soil or vegetation, or about people) to be overlaid on top of each other on one map. The data can be manipulated so that all the sources have the same scales, allowing complex readings to be taken from the map. This enables people to analyse patterns and better understand relationships between things and the implications of proposed developments and changes.

With such a wide range of possible roles available in the public, private and third sectors, there is even the potential to combine a career in GIS with other interests or passions. As the world becomes more mobile, the rise of applications utilising GPS (global positioning systems), such as geotagging photographs and augmented reality, could lead to new uses for GIS and opportunities in the field.

Typical work activities

Due to the wide range of organisations that use GIS, work activities vary for GIS officers and may include the following:

Collection of geographical information:

  • Capturing the location of 'assets' such as bridges, street lights, road barriers, flood defences and so on using GPS tools in the field for private companies, government agencies and local authorities.
  • Desk-based data capture (digitising) to convert paper maps to GIS datasets, for example, to record the location of telecoms cables or water pipelines from original maps.

Storage, analysis and presentation of geographical information:

  • Creating and maintaining the structures necessary for GIS data storage.
  • Developing the tools for loading/transferring GIS data between different systems.
  • Manipulation, analysis and presentation of geographical information by creating programs to convert GIS information from one format to another.
  • Developing internet applications to present GIS data and tools on corporate websites.
  • Using tools to join together different GIS datasets and create new information or investigate patterns, e.g. estimating the number of people potentially affected by flooding, using population growth figures and planning information to estimate increasing/decreasing demand for school capacity, or calculating the number of potential customers for a new supermarket and predicting buying patterns based on socio-economic factors.

Many of the activities are project based and involve working with clients to clarify the nature and purpose of the information they require.


Further information


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Written by AGCAS editors
January 2014

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