How to Get a GIS Job? - University at Buffalo

How to Find a GIS Job
University at Buffalo – GEO481/506
11 November, 2010
Steven W. Russell Jr.
My Background
3rd year PhD student at UB
Dissertation on urban impervious surface research using LiDAR
Masters in Geography, UB May ‘08
Sr. IT Engineer with Erie County DEP since 9/10/01
I am the GIS Manager, GIS Tech, GIS Analyst and IT guy.
Built Divisions GIS from scratch
Web GIS (ArcGIS Server, Geocortex), ArcSDE (SQL Server), Mobile
GIS, GPS/RTK, LiDAR, IT projects
Web design, SharePoint Design, Programming
Civil/Environmental Engineer (B.S. UB ’98)
UB M.Eng Environmental Engineering ‘99
Water/Groundwater Modeling
Extensive CAD experience in Microstation and AutoCAD
Water Treatment Plant Design
Land Development Engineering Background
GIS Job Outlook
What type of GIS jobs are there?
Where to look?
Do’s and Don'ts
I’ve got my Bachelors/Masters, now what?
Cover letter
Unpaid Internships
Class Internships
Final Comments/Conclusion
GIS Job outlook:
New York State
East Coast
West Coast
What type of GIS jobs are out there?
GIS Techs
GIS Analysts
GIS Managers
GIS Programmers
Database Administrators
Academic (Teachers & Researchers)
GIS as a Tool in Engineering, Business, etc.
What is a GIS Analyst?
You will find most employer's don’t know what a GIS Analyst is. They will ask
for someone with 5 years experience, a Masters degree and will pay you $12 an
In addition, they will call it something else such as; Marketing Analyst,
Disaster Response Analyst, Tax Policy Research Analyst.
Need to look for keywords when applying for a job.
A GIS Analyst is someone with many different skill sets.
They can be part cartographer, programmer, database
administrator (DBA) etc. Ultimately you will use GIS as a
tool to do some form of analysis of data.
You will need to have some form of programming
How much money do they make?
Wide range depending on location, duties and skill
$22k – $45k to start ($32k is average)
Max out at $60k.
Consulting you will typically work 45-80 hours a week
and be on salary. If you are with a successful firm,
you will work weekends.
Government you will make less money, but you will
only work 40 hours a week
What is a GIS Tech?
A GIS Tech is basically a full-time Intern at the
start. You will be collecting the data a GIS
Analyst will use.
GPS data collection and most all Field Work is
typically performed by a GIS Tech.
However, most firms will also expect you to
perform Analyst duties at the cost of a GIS Tech.
How much money do they make?
Wide range depending on location, duties and skill set
$20k – $30k to start
Max out at $40k.
What is a GIS Programmer?
A GIS Programmer is the most in demand GIS position out there.
He/She typically is a Computer Science major with an interest in
cartography, geography and web-based technologies.
A dual major CSE/Geography can be assured of
his/her pick of a good job upon graduation.
How much money do they make?
Wide range depending on location, duties and skill set
$65k to start. Should hit 6 figures quickly depending on how many
hours they are willing to put in.
Rarely find programmers in Government because the pay is so low.
What is a GIS Manager?
A GIS Manager is in charge of the day to day GIS
operations for a firm. They are part Project
Manager, Tech, Analyst, Programmer, DBA,
network administrator, etc.
Typically after 5+ years of being a Tech, Analyst,
Programmer, etc. you move into a management
Once you move into Management you typically
quit performing technical duties, and move
towards managing people and projects.
How much money do they make?
Wide range depending on location, duties and skill set
~ $50k to start
Government tops off around $65k, Consulting $80k+
Consulting you will typically work 50-80 hours a week
and be on salary. If you are with a successful firm, you
will work weekends.
Government you will make less money, but you will only
work 40 hours a week
GIS is used a lot in Engineering, Business, Tax,
Planning, etc.
GIS is slowly moving away from a career and into a
tool such as CAD, Spreadsheets and Word
Processing software.
Need GIS experience on your resume.
How to get it? Internships, Classwork
People with GIS experience are going to get
preference over those without for GIS jobs.
How much money do they make?
Not much at first.
$2,000 to teach a summer class
$3,700 to teach a class during the school year.
TA stipend is around $20,000/year. IGERT is around
$40k-$50k to start on a path towards tenure
Need to decide if you want to work at a teaching
or research university
Where to look?
Email lists/RSS feeds
Twitter – gjc has a twitter feed
Networking, Networking, Networking
There are UB alumni all over the US (temp jobs)
Do’s and Don'ts:
Don’t misspell anyone’s name in email or
cover letter
Don’t apply for another job and send that
application to the job your applying for
Don’t cut and paste into your resume or
cover letter in a different font than the one
you’re using
Don’t harass anyone
From: xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxx []
Sent: Tuesday, June 02, 2009 11:53 AM
To: xxxxxx, xxxxx
Subject: GIS Internship
xxxxx xxxxxx, GISP,
Is this some sort of joke you cheap bastard, July 24, 2009 minimum wage increases to
$7.25 an hour. Mighty Taco pays $10 - $12 an hour starting and you get free tacos. Why
do local municipalities seem to think they can get top quality work for bottom dollar
prices? You’re a Senior GIS Analyst do you really expect someone to do this mind
numbing work $7.63 an hour? Department of Labor Website Mighty Taco Jobs Website
xxxxxxx x. xxxxxxx, xxx x xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxx
Do’s and Don'ts:
Don’t show up unannounced
Don’t call if they don’t offer a phone number
Don’t ask for help in finding housing
Don’t assume your going to be doing GIS tasks if
you’re hired
“If you do shitty tasks well and without attitude,
someone will give you better stuff to do”
- Garry Dell’Abate -They Call Me Baba Booey (2010)
Do’s and Don'ts:
Do send a thank you email or note after your
interview. It’s not required, but it’s a nice
Do email after a week. However, if you haven’t
heard within a week; odds are you didn’t get the
It’s acceptable to ask if there are any unpaid
UB business cards are great to hand out.
You need to learn how to market yourself.
Networking is the #1 way to find any job. It’s
not what you know, it’s who you know.
Attend local GIS user group meetings.
Attend as many conferences as you can afford,
and when you’re there talk to everyone and
bring resumes.
I’ve got my Bachelors…now what?
UB Grad School?
GPA > 3.0
GRE’s > 1000
3 letters of recommendation, advisor support
MA Project vs. MA Portfolio vs. MS …..vs. PhD
Grad School elsewhere?
Do I take time off, and then go back?
Find a job in WNY?
Find a job in US?
Cover letter:
Every resume should have an attached cover letter.
The purpose of the cover letter is to tell a little bit
about yourself, and to highlight your skills on the
Create a custom cover letter for every job you are
applying for and SAVE THEM.
No specific right way to create a cover letter.
What is the difference between a CV and a
Your resume should be current and contain zero
Resume should be 1 page. Once you start
applying to academic jobs or management,
then it’s acceptable to have more.
No one specific right way to create a resume.
Put resume and cover letter on good paper
Have a .txt version of resume for online app.
Paid Internships
They do exist, but they are rare in WNY.
Can find them in Government & Consulting
Pay: Minimum wage to $15/hour
More for programming interns
You need to apply to get a job
Unpaid Internships:
The easiest way to get experience.
Do small projects for local firms, and the experience
can be added to your resume.
The only way you’re going to hear about them is to
attend job fairs with GIS representation, and local
GIS user group meetings.
Erie County offers unpaid internships.
Class Credit/Geog Internships
They do exist, and it’s an easy 3 credit hour A.
GIS experience for your resume
However, you have to find a job that will employ you for 10
weeks, and have an advisor that will sign off on it.
Hard to find both.
How to Get a GIS Job?
Have a Resume and Cover Letter prepared
Take the time to review your resume, cover letter for
each job you are applying to (spelling!)
Make sure you review where you are applying to
Career Planning and Placement, Friends, Faculty
Apply to all local jobs, and attend every interview for
Make sure you know what is on your resume
Internships are required to get a good first job
You will do Intern work at an internship!
How to Get a GIS Job?
Network, Network, Network
Attend GIS events
Did I mention Networking?
Networking is your best chance to get a job. Posting your
resume to online websites is hit and miss
Networking will let you know where the jobs are.
It’s all about “Who you know”
Your odds of finding a local GIS job are slim to none. Be
prepared to move to DC, Boston or out West to find one
Hints from my ex-interns:
Do the research about the position and organization before the
interview. (A big first interview question for me is, "have you
seen our website?" or "do you know are mission?" It important
to not only show interest in the job but also the organization
and maybe even the people that are interviewing you. Interest
goes a long way in an interview.)
Keep a log or database of all the jobs you apply for and print
out job descriptions. (Because I don't how many times I apply
for a job and seven weeks later they want an interview, and by
then I forgot which job I applied for. Especially jobs for big
organizations like the Federal gov't where there are multiple
vacancies you may apply for over time.)
- G. Schmidbauer UB ’05
What can you do as UB Geography students?
Think of taking a bunch of Computer Science/Programming courses if you plan on
working with GIS outside of UB.
Problem is, there aren’t any at UB/ECC. I’ve taken CSE503 . It’s an intro to Java
class. That’s my only option.
Need to learn on your own, or find an internship where you can learn on the job
UB doesn’t offer .NET or VB classes.
This is “sorta” good because .NET and VB are being phased out for Flex and
Silverlight by ESRI.
Programming is where the jobs are
Plan to move. Government jobs in DC are the best place right now.
Update your resume and make sure there are no mistakes
Have a supply of cover letters to apply for different jobs
Attend a resume critiquing seminar (before ESRI interviews in February). Or use
UB’s career planning & placement office
What can you do as UB Geography students?
• Stay updated on changing technology
• Watch the New York State, NEARC & UB Geography email list for information on
internships, and user group meeting info
• Network, Network, Network!
• Attend as many conferences as you can afford.
• Show initiative and create your own Geography Blog/Podcast, or if you have
programming skills, look into creating a Google/Yahoo Mashup (great marketing
tool on job interviews!). Nobody else is doing it. You should do something to stick
out from the crowd.
If you are interested in an unpaid internship…
My department will have 1 or 2 available starting
in December
2-8 hours a week.
4-10 weeks in duration
Will be project driven.
Can be used for a 3 credit hour class credit in
the Spring if your advisor signs off on it.
Email me your resume & cover letter by 11/19/10
ESRI Interviews in January/February 2011
It’s great practice for later.
Spring Career Fair, March 4, 2011 1:30-5pm
Bring a stack of resumes, and see what’s
out there.
A couple weeks before the ESRI interviews
I hold two (2) Resume/Cover Letter
critique sessions in the department.
Only 5-6 people show up at these sessions.
Last year MUP’s, Engineers and Computer
Science students attended.
But every year one of those that do attend
have been hired by ESRI.
You need GIS Experience
Paid Internships
Unpaid Internships
Programming Experience is preferred
Be prepared to move
Apply for jobs…you never know.
Thank you.