Success in the GIS workplace: Part II


The latest industry insights to get you ahead of the GIS game

We’re picking up where we left off in Success in the GIS workplace: Part I, the first in our three-part series of hints and tips on how to excel in the GIS workplace.

Before we get started, here’s a reminder of the Geospatial Competency Model Pyramid from The U.S. Bureau of Labor:

Geospatial Competency Model Pyramid from The U.S. Bureau of Labor

Geospatial Competency Model Pyramid from The U.S. Bureau of Labor

In this post we’ll be focusing on Tiers Four: Industry-Wide Technical Competencies, and Tier Five: Industry-Sector Technical Competencies. Let’s get started!

Tier Four: Industry-Wide Technical Competencies

Tier Four competencies focus on Critical Work Functions and Technical Content Areas. The Critical Work Functions list is a general summary of what the vast majority of geospatial professionals will be expected to do throughout their careers.

The Technical Content Areas, on the other hand, provide an insight to the specialised skills and abilities required of a GIS specialist. For that reason, it’s a good idea to use these lists as a ‘syllabus’ to work out which areas you need to improve in.

A basic description of the competencies are covered here, but if you’re feeling super keen you can delve into all 43 specific knowledge areas in the original article.

  1. Critical Work Functions
    • Earth Geometry and Geodesy
    • Data Quality
    • Positioning Systems
    • Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry
    • Cartography
    • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
    • Programming, application development, and Geospatial Information Technology (GIT)
    • Professionalism
  2. Technical Content Areas
    • Conceptual Foundations
    • Geospatial Data
    • Data Modelling
    • Design Aspects
    • Analytical Methods
    • Cartography and Visualisation
    • GIS & GIT and Society
    • Organisational and Institutional Aspects

Keep in mind that the knowledge areas listed here are exemplary and not exhaustive, which means depending on your particular role and position, you may be asked to demonstrate other abilities and knowledge.

However, it’s also unlikely that you will be responsible for all the Critical Work Functions listed. This list simply aims to highlight both the core competencies required in the field, as well as the diversity of professional practice within GIS.

Gaining a basic understanding of these knowledge areas will prepare you to successfully explore opportunities in different areas of an organisation, or in a variety of business types across the industry.

Tier Five: Industry-Sector Technical Competencies

Tier Five provides a framework for the skills needed in specific sectors of the GIS industry. The three industry sectors are:

  1. Positioning and Geospatial Data Acquisition,
  2. Analysis and Modelling
  3. Software and Application Development.

Again, we’ve summarised these points here, but if you’d like a more comprehensive understanding you can check out the original article. Also bear in mind that these three industry sectors are not mutually exclusive; sometimes you’ll find that your skills can cover multiple sectors. In some circumstances however, a few of these work functions are, by law, restricted to licensed professionals.


  1. Positioning and Geospatial Data Acquisition
    • Knowledge of the unique geometric and thematic properties of geospatial data
    • Knowledge of the factors that affect data quality
    • Knowledge of data production technologies
    • Data collection
    • Data capture methods
    • Technologies used to collect geo-referenced observations and measurements
  2. Analysis and Modelling
    • Knowledge and application of the analytical functions (“exploratory” analyses as well as model-driven analyses) of geospatial software tools
    • Analytical Methods
    • Design Aspects
    • Data Modelling
    • Geo-computation
    • Geospatial Data
    • Cartography and Visualisation
    • GIS & GIT and Society
  3. Software and Application Development
    • Design and development of geospatial software and applications
    • GIS software products
    • Applications for processing, analysis, or adding value to remotely sensed data
    • Applications to automate routine tasks and to customise end-user interfaces

As with all careers, it’s useful to first cover your bases with the Industry-Wide Technical Competencies, then build your Sector-Specific Technical Competencies. These technical competencies are also what you’d usually gain through tertiary education.

Wrapping It Up on the Industrial Competencies

These Industrial Competencies are the next step for you to succeed in your GIS career, building on the Foundational Competencies we covered last week.

When developing your professional competencies, it’s also useful to find other people and mentors within the industry to share your journey with.

Some GIS national-level organisations you can join in Australia are the SSSI (Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute) and the GITA (Geospatial Information and Technology Association). These organisations will help you meet a variety of working professionals in the industry. SSSI even provides certification to identify your level of expertise in the surveying and spatial professions.

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share about this post, start the conversation by commenting below – we’d love to hear about your career journey, how it’s going so far and where you’d like to be.

In Part III, we’ll wrap up this series and give you the final lowdown on how to succeed in a GIS career.

This article is part two of three on the “Success in the GIS Workplace” series. You can find Part One here.


DiBiase, D., Corbin, T., Fox, T., Francica, J., Green, K., Jackson, J., …, Van Sickle, J. (2010). The New Geospatial Technology Competency Model: Bringing Workforce Needs into Focus. URISA Journal, 22(2), 56-72. Retrieved January 20, 2017, from

U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration (n.d.). Geospatial Technology Competency Model. Career OneStop. Retrieved January 20, 2017, from