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Thread: Question for the GIS Pros

  1. #1
    Guild Artisan su_liam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Port Alberta, Regina(IRL: Eugene, OR)

    Post Question for the GIS Pros

    I'm considering going back into college, possibly in the gis/cartography field. I need to ask people with experience actually working in this field, what does your work entail? What do you do day to day? Is this a job that can be managed online over/the phone etc., or do you need to work out of a big office somewhere? What are the job prospects like? Would I need to move to a big city to get employment with a major firm? Are you generally happy with the work you are doing?

    I've had some bad experiences in the past with making job decisions on insufficient information, and I'd like to gather insights from folks who know the field and who share at least some of my interests.

    Thank you for your attention and I apologize to anyone who considers this inappropriate to the forum.

  2. #2


    su liam - while I have no information to offer, I can certainly sympathize.

    And I can't really see anyone being offended by the nature of your post. It's an honest question. And if we're going to claim to be a Guild of Cartographers, it is completely reasonable to ask for information regarding professional or "real-life" cartography.

  3. #3


    Hi su liam.

    If you are considering a career in the gis / cartography field and need more information I strongly suggest that you post a copy of your question at the carto talk ( forums most of whose members are either professional real world cartographers or students. Good luck in your quest for knowledge!

  4. #4
    Professional Artist
    Join Date
    May 2007


    Hey su,
    I work for a firm that does custom cartography for publishers.
    What does my work entail? Well, I typically manage about 2-3 projects at any one time, usually for clients I've already established a relationship with but sometimes for new clients. My projects include wall maps for classrooms, thematic maps for atlases, fold-up reference maps, black and white maps for books, basically whatever kind of map the client wants. I'll produce these in Illustrator and Photoshop, one of my coworkers will edit it and get it back to me, I'll make corrections, and send it off to the client. Sometimes the client will send it back with revisions. Sometimes I'll have some different kinds of work to do also, such as doing indexes, creating perspective views, or making charts and graphs (for publication, not for analysis of my work!).
    While it may be possible to do this kind of work from home, I wouldn't want to. I need to be in the office in order to focus on my work and bounce ideas off my coworkers. But it's not a huge office; there are 12 of us. (Some cartography shops are bigger than this, a few are smaller). I don't think you would need to move to a big city for this kind of job; we are in Madison, Wisconsin and the other firms like ours that I know of are in similar cities (medium-sized, often university or government towns).
    Am I happy with the work I do? Absolutely. I love my job, and I hope you find one that you love also, as it makes everything else so much easier.

    Hope this helps,

  5. #5

    Post my gis job

    i work at a company that produces software in order to help cities assess tax data. Day to day i do support calls (people seem mystified by gis app's) and develop the gis viewer that the software has with it. It is relatively new to the software package so i have pretty free range with development, which is nice. Cartography and GIS prrograms involve a lot of remote sensing too. i would also suggest learning comp languages and db's

    i also worked for john deere analyzing aerial photography of crops and woodlands.....

    i don't mind it but i wish i could stay at home and draw starbase schematics or alien landscapes all day..... its a good trade off i suppose....

    GIS is being incorporated into just about everything nowadays and it is good field and career choice i fealt.

  6. #6
    Guild Applicant khanigalbat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Sevilla, Spain



    I have been working in GIS since more than 7 years, for an electrical multinational company in my country (Spain). I work fundamentally with a GIS software called Smallworld, although I have had the opportunity to also use some others (ArcInfo, AutoCAD...). Smallworld is a database oriented to cartography working, designed to manipulate an enormous amount of data, and has its own programming language.

    From my experience, and in a general way, would be necessary:

    1. - Knowledge of Databases, SQL and XML.
    2. - A programming language (I advise JAVA) and Web oriented technologies (HTML, Javascript, JSP, PHP,...).

    and would be desiderable:

    3. - Technical knowledge on graphic file formats (tiff, png...).
    4. - Knowledge of CAD software (AutoCAD, MicroStation..) and graphic treatement (Photoshop).
    5. - Knowledge of geodesy and cartography (projections, coordinate systems, GPS...)

    I put some examples:

    1) At this moment, I am project manager and developer of an application that publishes maps in the Web using the OpenLayers javascript library ( This application is (or better say: will be) a Web Map Server, a very fashionable type of applications (google maps is an example of it). [To work with me you would need Javascript, JSP, Smallworld, Web Design and Beer Drinking knowledge... but not english language, as you can see]

    2) Digitalization: some governmental organizations (city councils) need to have vector maps of their bounds. [ You need just drawing with CAD software and little else].

    3) Generation and treatment of maps: a company that sells cartography to other companies needs to have a good amount of maps made and prepared to sale [ autoCAD, photoshop, graphic file formats ]

    4) Developing an opensource GIS (for example: gvGIS). [ JAVA, geodesy and cartography, databases, ... you need to know everything :-( ]

    5) Commonly, a development of a GIS adapted to the logic of business of a company [ a programming languaje, databases and usually a commercial GIS program such as ESRI ArcInfo, Geomedia,... which one? it depends of the amount of money the company wants to expend ;-) ].

    6) A friend of mine (he is pilot of airplanes) was required for taking aerial photographs (he just flies... another guy was carring the camera). I do not know if this is really to work in cartography, but me friend thinks so. :-))

    I don´t think you have to move yourself to a big city to work in GIS projects, but I suppose there will be more opportunities.

    Of course, it is only my point of view, but I hope that can be usefull. If you need more information, keep me in touch.

    p.d: thanks to babelfish to help me in translation :-))
    Last edited by khanigalbat; 01-11-2008 at 12:11 PM.

  7. #7
    Guild Artisan su_liam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Port Alberta, Regina(IRL: Eugene, OR)


    Yeah, if I could come up with a business plan for drawing starship deckplans and alien worlds that wasn't so completely povertylicious, I'd be all over that.

    I figure once I get through school, I'll have to have had my childcare issues handled anyway.

    I looked at cartotalk, but I couldn't think of any place reasonable to put my request. Actually, the place looked daunting. I'm a little afraid of leaving lurk mode and sticking my head up. Interesting crowd, though. That's a good thing. My last two career ideas were mechanical engineering(dull crowd) and computer science(surprisingly uninteresting bunch), so an interesting crowd seems, er, interesting...

    Thanks for the responses.

  8. #8
    Guild Artisan su_liam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Port Alberta, Regina(IRL: Eugene, OR)


    Babelfish was kind to you khani. Or it has greatly improved. Your post was very clear and at least as grammatical as anything I do.

    I kind of know java, sql, and html already. I can make my way through xml and a little php and I've worked with servlets a little(not jsp so much). I have some experience with photoshop although I'm always finding something new. I understand projections in a basic sense, I can construct a sinusoidal projection or a rectangular equal area projection by hand in a pinch.

    Sadly, my beer drinking is pretty rusty. I just drink cheap American swill, because it all tastes the same to me anyway. Except Budweiser which always gives me a headache and makes me sweaty. It's the benzene and dioxin, I think.

    Babelfish translation(English -> Spanish):
    Babelfish era bueno con usted khani. O ha mejorado grandemente. Su
    poste era muy claro y por lo menos tan gramatical como lo hace
    cualquier cosa yo.

    La clase I de sabe Java, el sql, y el HTML ya. Puedo hacer mi manera a
    través de xml y un poco php y yo hemos trabajado con servlets un jsp
    del little(not tanto). Tengo cierta experiencia con el photoshop
    aunque siempre estoy encontrando algo nuevo. Entiendo proyecciones en
    un sentido básico, yo puedo construir una proyección sinusoidal o
    una proyección de área igual rectangular a mano en un sujetador.

    Tristemente, el mi beber de la cerveza está bastante oxidado. Apenas
    bebo el swill americano barato, porque todo prueba igual a mí de
    todos modos. Excepto Budweiser que siempre me da un dolor de cabeza y
    me hace sudoroso. Es el benceno y dioxin, pienso.

    Okay, the translation back to English was comical...

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