What is GIS mapping and what does a GIS technician do?

I can guarantee there are loads of jobs that you don’t even know exist. Within each course we offer here at The Sheffield College are loads of job roles you can progress onto. Some don’t even exist yet, some might vanish, but then that’s the exciting anyway – isn’t it?! This one’s a bit of Civil Engineering, a bit of Geography and a bit of Sustainable Environment…

What is a GIS technician?

GIS stands for ‘Geographic Information System’, so GIS jobs are all about getting geographical information and displaying it through GIS mapping. The job is an exciting blend of civil engineering with an environment career, with a big helping of geography. GIS has been called “the 21st century version of cartography”, and Business Insider lists it as one of 16 geography-based careers which are “awesome” and “lucrative”. What’s more, you can get straight into a GIS career as a graduate.

And what is GIS mapping?

GIS mapping is a technology that lets you map locations then put lots of slices/layeres of data on top of that, so you can find all sorts of information out about that area. For example, you could map an area of land and include layers of data showing the salaries or education of the local people, and what kind of soil it has, and where the streams or farms and schools are…

How do businesses use all that geographic information, then?

GIS mapping which is done by GIS technicians can be used by companies and organisations in all sorts of ways. Lots of different companies need GIS technicians, so if you’re interested in geographic information, you could be getting into a career that grows and grows (like a mountain, but more quickly…)

GIS mapping for wildlife protection:

“Why did the hedgehog cross the road?”

Ever heard of hedgehog bridges and tunnels which help hedgehogs to cross motorways safely? A hedgehog bridge is just one example of a wildlife corridor which gets animals from one place to another safely. It’s down to GIS analysts and wildlife biologists to mix geography and data together to find the best places and the best ways to build wildlife corridors!

GIS mapping for pollution:

With GIS you could create a map that shows sites which produce pollution, like petrol stations, and sites which are most at risk from pollution, like nature reserves. The same map could help you see which local nature reserves are most at risk from pollution.

GIS mapping for construction:

As another example, GIS technicians discover any risks that a building project might create for the environment or the biodiversity in it (like the birds and animals, for example). GIS technicians discover these risks and tell other people in the company about them. They explore where risks might be found by creating maps and models of the area (they don’t make the models with clay, by the way, but with BIM (Building Information Modelling) technology. Once the GIS technicians have made their maps they start filling the models up with data about the area. The end result of all their hard work is visuals showing the environmental risks of a building project. The company can then explore these results and think about what the best steps to protect the environment would be before going ahead with a building project.

Bet you never imagined building bridges for hedgehogs as a child! Well, it is possible. And yes, these are real jobs earning good money! If you are interested in pursuing a career in this, take a look through either our Geography, Civil Engineering, or Environmental Courses.


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