An Examination of Job Titles Used for GIScience Professionals

An Examination of Job Titles Used for GIScience Professionals

Thomas A. Wikle
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0258-8.ch006
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Over the last 20 years the increasing availability, utility, and importance of geospatial data has led to new kinds of positions in government agencies, non-profit organizations and private businesses. While employment opportunities have grown substantially, guidelines for assigning titles, qualifications and responsibilities have not kept pace. Inconsistency in GIScience titles and job qualifications has made it difficult for employers and job seekers to compare positions across organizations in terms of duties, compensation, and status. This paper explores job titles used by public and private organizations that hire GIScience professionals. An analysis of 204 online job ads shows variation in qualifications associated with titles. Model job titles and career ladders are suggested as a means of attracting and retaining GIScience professionals.
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The Giscience Profession

Debate over the professional identity of GIScience has taken place for many years (Wright, Goodchild & Proctor, 1997; Geospatial Information Technology Association, 2005; Obermeyer, 2007). Research on the emergence of professions shows a central element is an accepted collection of skills and competencies for which practitioners claim unrivaled expertise (Kennan et al., 2008). Abbott (1988) describes the boundaries of this expertise as a profession’s “jurisdiction” while MacDonald (1995) notes the importance of protecting “turf” that represents professional identity. In 1990 the Core Curriculum for Geographic Information Science established important geospatial subject areas for college and university courses (National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, 1990). A decade later Gaudet, Annulis and Carr (2001) defined roles, competencies, and outputs needed by GIScience professionals through Workforce Development Models for Geospatial Technology. More recently the Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge (BoK) outlined skills and competencies needed by GIScience professionals through ten knowledge areas presented in 73 units and containing more than 300 topics (University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, 2006).

Although significant progress has taken place in identifying what a GIScience professional should know there is less agreement on what a practitioner should be called or how GIScience professionals advance during their career. The lack of consensus on job titles for geospatial workers was discussed during a session at the 2004 American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing Annual Meeting in Denver and has been noted by Thurston (2001), De Bakker, Goldsborough, and Meyles (2002) and more recently by Letham (2008).

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