What does a GIS Developer do?

GIS Developers work on Geographic Information Systems to program, design, and develop GIS software applications and more! Let’s take a closer look at their role, responsibilities, background, and salary.

As the title would suggest, a GIS Developer (or a GIS Specialist) works as a software developer to help design and develop GIS programming applications and tools. They also work to maintain GIS software programs in accordance with the needs of the organizations and/or clients.

GIS or a Geographic Information System refers to a framework that handles gathering, managing, and analyzing data. With geography as the basis of the framework, GIS makes use of several types of data.

GIS makes use of maps and 3D scenes to organize layers of data via spatial analysis.

Through this, GIS mapping is able to offer deeper insight into data sets that we normally may not be able to perceive. This could include patterns, situations, relationships, links, etc; allowing us to make better-informed decisions when interpreting data.

GIS software is used in nearly every industry by hundreds of thousands of organizations and businesses. GIS is used to generate maps that can be used to communicate, analyze, share information, and help solve complex problems around the world.

GIS Developer Responsibilities

GIS Developers are generally responsible for the following:

Programming: GIS developers are tasked with using a variety of programming languages such as Python, SQL, C++, and/or Java to write code and automate basic GIS processes. They may also use these programming tools for web development and design, software development, and software applications.

Spatial Analysis: GIS Developers are also tasked with manipulating, extracting, locating and analyzing geographic data. This makes them responsible for GIS Analysis, GIS Modeling, Data Integration & Conversion, Geocoding, and Geomatics.

Database Management: Storing data and/or information from structured geographic data sets into relational database management systems.

Day to day tasks of a GIS Developer:

  • Develop GIS mapping applications and geoprocessing tools
  • Understand client needs and design GIS applications in accordance
  • Analyze end-user issues and provide solutions.
  • Create demos and guides to explain GIS application use to customers
  • Provide maintenance and support of GIS applications and mapping systems
  • Assist in quality assurance checks on GIS systems and recommend updates or new techniques when applicable

What skills do GIS developers need?

GIS Developers generally boast a wide range of skills – both technical and soft skills alike.

In terms of technical skills, GIS developers require knowledge of Spatial Data and Algorithms. They must also be diligent and have a keen sense of details since a lot of their day to day activities require dealing with data entry and conversion.

Programming skills are also crucial as well as a sound knowledge of data analysis programs and tools.

Skills of a GIS Developer:

  • Data entry, conversion, and maintenance
  • Metadata creation and editing
  • GIS Analysis and workflow
  • Model Building
  • Cartography and Graphic Design
  • Knowledge of other tools such as ASP.NET, MVC, ArcGIS, Oracle databases, SQL, and GIS database design

Soft Skills:

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Team player
  • Project management skills

How do I become a GIS Developer?

Although there are numerous GIS certificate programs that take around 1-2 years, a Bachelor’s degree is often recommended. The focus of your degree could be in GIS, Engineering, or related science. This can then be followed by a graduate certification that specializes more in the GIS field.

Furthermore, earning a master’s degree can increase opportunities for career advancement. Additional certifications are a great way to showcase your expertise and skills to potential clients.

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GIS Developer Salary

GIS Developers can start their careers with an annual salary of just under $40,000. Senior developers or GIS specialists can earn up to $135,000. On average, they earn around $80,000 a year.

Individual salaries can vary depending on the size and location of the company. The importance of the respective processes to be optimized for the company also plays a role in salary determination.

How much does a GIS Developer earn?

Junior $40,000
Average $80,000
Senior $135,000

The average freelance rate for a GIS Developer amounts to $81 which when extrapolated to an 8-hour totals $648 per day (freelancermap rate index as of October 2019).

About the Author


Kumbirai is a 4th year Surveying & Geomatics students at the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe. He is also the Founder and Team Lead at African Surveyors Connect. He enjoys spending time writing web-applications and is more of a GIS enthusiast who mainly focuses and grew interests in Health and Land Administrative Applications of Geographic Systems.

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