Geographic Information System Technician

Recognized Skill Standards
October 18, 2011


This skill standards development project was initiated by Del Mar Community College in January, 2007, as part of a curriculum development initiative under the auspices of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, in which education applicants develop and achieve recognition for skill standards and meet the requirements for program recognition in order to qualify for an incentive grant of $15,000 from federal Perkins Leadership funds.

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technician skill standards address a growing demand for specialists to help design, develop, and coordinate integrated geographical information system databases of spatial and non-spatial data. These technicians decide effective presentation of information and create digital maps and graphs using GIS software and related equipment.

There is currently no Bureau of Labor Statistics classification for the GIS occupational area. The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-2007 Edition notes that "a new type of mapping scientist is emerging from the older specialties of photogrammetrist and cartographer; the geographic information specialist combines the functions of mapping science and surveying into a broader field concerned with the collection and analysis of geographic data." There is a substantial demand for technicians in geospatial information technology, for individuals who do not wish to pursue an advanced degree, according to the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The Institute for Advanced Education in Geospatial Sciences indicates that "recent research has shown that almost every government agency reported to The Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services (Assessment 2001) has an immediate need for additional training in the geospatial sciences. Of the 18 agencies surveyed, 16 reported training or workforce needs in this area" and that "the current industry growth in remote sensing and geospatial sciences has created an unmet demand for industry experts able to work and develop within these fields."

Project Goals

The project goals were:

  • Identify voluntary skill standards for the GIS technician occupational area to serve as benchmark for entry into this occupational area and to serve as guides for curriculum development of community and technical college programs of study that will effectively meet the needs of both the newly graduated entry-level worker and the seasoned professional returning to education to upgrade his or her workplace skills.
  • Publish and promote the results and support the use of skill standards by educators, businesses, unions, students, workers, and government agencies.

Development and Validation Methods

A job analysis was conducted in December, 2004 in San Diego, California, with the participation of a panel of GIS analysts, specialists, and coordinators all representing city and county government in and around the San Diego area. This job analysis is recognized as the most comprehensive prepared as of the date of this publication. The resulting job analysis, or DACUM (Developing a Curriculum), produced a chart of occupational duties and tasks. This DACUM was validated in Texas in 2005 during a project to revise existing GIS courses and create new courses to be offered in community colleges across Texas, including Del Mar Community College's associate of applied science degree. This skill standards development project utilized the validated DACUM to identify and develop skill standards elements.

The GIS Technician skill standards were developed and validated by a panel of subject matter experts (SMEs) from Texas and California. The panel included representation from Texas private industry, education, and state government.

Duties and tasks were transcribed from the DACUM as Critical Work Functions (CWFs) and Key Activities (KAs), respectively. The SMEs validated that the DACUM elements were transcribed and aggregated accurately. SMEs worked to develop performance criteria for each of the KAs.

The SMEs also defined knowledge, skills, and conditions (tools) for each of the KAs. The knowledge, skills, and conditions that 50% or greater of the respondents indicated as necessary to each KA were included in the skill standards.

Finally, SMEs rated the complexity of each of seventeen academic and employability skill areas on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 indicating low complexity, and 5 indicating high complexity). The average of the responses was used to indicate the complexity level the CWF required of each knowledge or skill area.

In any skill standards development effort it is critical to consider the views of all of the participants to ensure that the outcome reflects a truly consensus-based effort. During this project there was concern about what constitutes a performance criteria statement. The Geographic Information Systems body of knowledge publication defines performance criteria in a format different than the performance criteria format required for Texas skill standards recognition. In order to comply with requirements for recognition, the SMEs worked to develop performance criteria that conformed to the Texas required format.

The GIS Technician skill standards contain ten critical work functions in the areas of creating and/or acquiring GIS data; maintaining GIS data; conducting spatial and non-spatial analysis; generating GIS products; developing software applications; managing GIS data; providing technical support; performing administrative tasks; and pursuing professional development.


The GIS Technician skill standards  were recognized in accordance with the Guidelines for the Development, Recognition, and Usage of Skill Standards on May 22, 2007. The recognition was extended on October 18, 2011.