2011 Salary Survey of GIS Professionals and How We Stack Up Against Others in Our Occupation

I think we can all agree that we live in challenging economic times to say the least!  As GIS professionals we are subject to the same budget cutbacks, restrictions, and decreased revenue sources as everyone else. 

We’re all being asked to do take on more responsibilities – often with the same or even fewer resources.  From time to time we all wonder how we stack up against others in our occupation not only in terms of financial compensation but also how we fit in demographically.  In this article I’d like to share the results of a recent GIS salary survey conducted by GeoSpatial Training Services as well as highlight various resources that you can use to answer questions such as:

  • Am I being compensated fairly for my skill set, level of experience, education, years of experience, certification, and geographic location?
  • What kind of compensation can I expect to earn by gaining various GIS skills and education?
  • I’m considering taking a position in another part of the country.  How does the cost of living compare?
  • What can I expect to earn in an entry-level position
  • What are the various GIS positions and how are they compensated
  • What is the compensation difference between public and private sector employment

Recently, GeoSpatial Training Services http://geospatialtraining.com conducted an informal GIS salary survey, open to our newsletter subscribers and readers of our GeoChalkboard blog http://geochalkboard.wordpress.com/.  We thought this would be a great opportunity to get a sense of GIS salaries, demographic characteristics, and software trends not only in the U.S. and Canada but across the world.   Responses from 831 people were returned revealing a number of items of interest.

Perhaps the most interesting demographic characteristic revealed by the study was the high level of academic achievement obtained by GIS professionals.  Approximately 42% of respondents indicated that they had obtained a Master’s degree or higher lending further evidence that the Master’s degree is the new Bachelor’s degree.   Michelle Mattix of Geomattix, LLC has addressed this issue for GIS professionals in her "Should You Get a Master’s in GIS Now?" and "How to Select a GIS Master’s Program" blog posts.


Image Source: Keystone Research

The survey also revealed that as a group, GIS professionals are an experienced, mid-career group.  Some 40% of respondents indicated 10 years of experience or greater.  Age characteristics revealed that 64% of respondents are between the ages of 30 and 50 with less than 2% indicating an age above 60.  The rest appeared pretty evenly distributed between age groups.

One demographic characteristic that I think we can all agree needs to change is the disparity between male and female practitioners of GIS.  Some 70% of respondents were male.  Based on my extended waits in the restroom line at the recent ESRI Internal User Conference I have no doubt that this is accurate!   Is this any better than it was 10 or 20 years ago?  Maybe, but I suspect not based on the fact that, at least in the U.S., girls are no more interested in STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) than they were a couple decades ago.  This needs to change.

Job titles are always interesting, if not exactly accurate with regard to the duties being performed.  In our survey,  40% of respondents list their job titles as either GIS Analyst or GIS Technician.  16% are GIS Managers/Coordinators/Directors, and 6% GIS Developers/Programmers.

Of course we’re all interested in the financial compensation that we achieve for the work that we do.  In our survey, salaries were widely dispersed with 30% between $50,000-$70,000 USD/year.  It was somewhat surprising to see almost 12% of respondents below $20,000/year.  Hopefully these are entry level positions and not reflective of deflation in salaries due to financial conditions throughout the world. 

Several questions from the survey covered the topic of GIS software currently in use.  As expected ESRI was far and away the most popular platform with 93% of respondents indicating this as one of their primary platforms.  This question allowed more than one platform to be selected.  Open Source GIS software came in second at 14.5%, and I would expect that the use of Open Source GIS software will only grow in the coming years.

At GeoSpatial Training Services we have developed an extensive set of training materials for GIS developers and programmers so we were particularly interested in the primary programming languages being used in organizations throughout the world.  Results of the survey indicated that the primary programming languages in use include .NET (55%), Python (51%) , JavaScript (28%), Java (21%), and Flex (19%). 
You can view the results of the survey in detail here. [PDF]

Through the years we’ve also gathered various resources related to GIS salaries and employment that you may be interested in reviewing. 

About the Author

 Eric is the founder and owner of GeoSpatial Training Services, LLC and has over 15 years of experience in the design, development, implementation, management, and training of GIS applications built upon the full suite of world-leading technology from ESRI and Google Earth/Maps technology.  Currently Eric focuses on the development of custom applications and training solutions using ArcGIS Server and Google Maps.  

Eric has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Texas A&M University and a Master’s of Applied Geography degree with a concentration in GIS from Texas State University and is a GISP.



Editor (18230 Posts)

Glenn is a geographer and a GIS professional with over 20 years experience in the industry. He's the co-founder of GISuser and several other technology web publications.

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