Career Development

What Does a GIS Manager Do?

Find out what a GIS Manager does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a GIS Manager.

The GIS Manager oversees the development, implementation, and management of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) within an organization. This role involves coordinating with various departments to ensure the effective application of GIS technologies to meet organizational goals and objectives. By maintaining a comprehensive understanding of both the technical aspects of GIS software and hardware, as well as the practical applications of geospatial data, the GIS Manager supports decision-making processes, enhances operational efficiency, and contributes to strategic planning. The position requires a blend of technical expertise, leadership, and project management skills to facilitate the integration of GIS solutions across multiple platforms and departments, ensuring that geospatial data is accurately captured, analyzed, and utilized.

GIS Manager Job Duties

  • Oversee the development, implementation, and maintenance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases, software, and applications to meet organizational needs.
  • Coordinate the collection, analysis, and dissemination of geospatial data across different departments within the organization.
  • Develop and enforce GIS data management policies and standards to ensure data accuracy and integrity.
  • Lead GIS project planning efforts, including defining project scope, objectives, timelines, and resource requirements.
  • Facilitate cross-functional team collaboration to integrate GIS technology with other IT systems and business processes.
  • Prepare and manage the GIS department’s budget, including forecasting future needs and justifying expenditures.
  • Design and deliver GIS training programs for staff to enhance their proficiency in using geospatial technologies.
  • Advocate for the use of GIS technology in decision-making processes at the executive level and represent the organization at industry conferences and forums.

GIS Manager Salary & Outlook

Factors influencing a GIS Manager’s salary include industry sector, years of experience, complexity of GIS projects managed, size of team overseen, and proficiency in specific GIS software. Additionally, the ability to integrate GIS with other technologies and data analysis skills can significantly impact compensation.

  • Median Annual Salary: $89,250 ($42.91/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $152,000 ($73.08/hour)

The employment of GIS managers is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing demand for geographic information and data analysis across various sectors, including urban planning, environmental management, and emergency response, necessitating skilled GIS Managers to oversee the collection, analysis, and interpretation of spatial data for informed decision-making.

GIS Manager Job Requirements

Education: A GIS Manager typically holds a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Computer Science, or a related field. Coursework often includes cartography, spatial analysis, database management, and programming. Advanced degrees may focus on project management, advanced GIS technologies, or specialized applications of GIS in fields like urban planning or environmental science. Strong analytical skills and a background in statistics or mathematics are also beneficial.

Experience: GIS Managers typically possess a blend of on-the-job experience and formal training programs in geographic information systems, project management, and data analysis. Ideal candidates have progressed through roles that increasingly demand technical expertise, leadership, and strategic planning abilities. Experience in coordinating multidisciplinary teams, managing large datasets, and implementing GIS technologies in real-world applications is crucial. Continuous professional development through workshops and specialized training to stay abreast of the latest GIS trends and software advancements is also essential for success in this role.

Certifications & Licenses: GIS Manager positions often do not require specific certifications or licenses. However, obtaining a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) certification can be beneficial. Additionally, some roles may prefer or require Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, especially for managers overseeing large projects or teams.

GIS Manager Skills

Spatial Analysis: GIS technology is leveraged to analyze spatial data, uncovering patterns, relationships, and trends that guide decision-making and strategic planning. This capability transforms raw data into actionable insights, enhancing efficiency and innovation in areas like urban planning and environmental conservation.

Database Management: The organization, updating, and securing of geospatial databases are critical for ensuring that GIS projects rest on accurate and accessible data. This skill streamlines workflows, improves decision-making processes, and upholds data integrity across various applications.

Cartography: The creation of detailed and accurate maps involves a profound understanding of GIS technologies and spatial analysis techniques. This knowledge is crucial for visualizing complex data, making maps informative and accessible to a broad audience.

Remote Sensing: Data from satellite imagery and aerial photographs are analyzed and interpreted to create accurate geographical maps and models. This skill is pivotal for monitoring environmental changes, planning urban infrastructure, and managing natural resources with greater precision.

GIS Software Programming: Customizing geographic information systems through programming meets specific organizational needs by enhancing data analysis and visualization capabilities. It facilitates the integration of new functionalities into existing GIS platforms, optimizing workflows and decision-making processes.

Data Visualization: The development of compelling visual representations of geographic data allows stakeholders to quickly understand complex spatial information. Utilizing mapping software and design principles, this skill transforms raw data into clear, actionable insights for various projects.

GIS Manager Work Environment

A GIS Manager typically operates within an office setting, surrounded by multiple monitors and advanced computing systems essential for spatial analysis and data management. The workspace is designed to support prolonged periods of focused work, with ergonomic furniture and a layout that encourages both individual concentration and collaborative interaction.

Work hours for a GIS Manager may offer some flexibility, reflecting the project-driven nature of the role. This position often requires adherence to deadlines, which can occasionally necessitate extended hours to meet project milestones. The dress code tends to be business casual, aligning with a professional yet practical environment.

The role involves a significant amount of interaction with team members, stakeholders, and occasionally, the public, necessitating strong communication skills. Technology is at the heart of the job, with ongoing professional development opportunities to stay abreast of the latest GIS software and analytical techniques. The pace can be brisk, balancing multiple projects and deadlines, yet the environment supports a healthy work-life balance, recognizing the importance of downtime and flexibility.

Advancement Prospects

A GIS Manager can advance to senior management roles within the geospatial sector, such as Director of Geospatial Services or Chief Information Officer (CIO), where strategic oversight of GIS operations and integration of geospatial technologies into broader organizational goals are key responsibilities. Achieving these positions often requires a deep understanding of both the technical aspects of GIS and the business or organizational context in which it operates.

To progress, a GIS Manager should focus on leading large-scale projects successfully, demonstrating the ability to manage budgets, teams, and complex stakeholder relationships. Experience with cutting-edge GIS technologies and methodologies, coupled with a track record of innovation in applying GIS solutions to solve real-world problems, is crucial.

Additionally, contributing to professional bodies or publications can help in gaining visibility and establishing oneself as a thought leader in the GIS community, which is beneficial for career advancement to the highest levels.


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