Ngaio Papa Whenua
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Geospatial specialists gather, combine, analyse and use geographic and spatial (location-based) information. They present this information in user-friendly formats such as maps and 3D models, and may also develop geospatial software.
Entry-level geospatial specialists usually earn
$45K-$65K per year
Senior geospatial specialists usually earn
$70K-$120K per year
Source: SIBA and LINZ, 2015.
Pay for geospatial specialists depends on their experience, qualifications and what field they work in.
- People starting out in roles such as geospatial specialist or geospatial analyst usually earn $45,000 to $65,000 a year.
- Geospatial specialists with five or more years' experience usually earn $60,000 to $80,000.
- Those with at least 10 years' experience, or who work in consultancy or managerial roles, usually earn $70,000 to $120,000 or more.
Source: Spatial Industries Business Association (New Zealand) (SIBA) and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), 2015.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Geospatial specialists may do some or all of the following:
- capture, process and analyse information such as survey data, aerial photography, and satellite imagery (remote sensing)
- use surveying technology like Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to define accurate locations of features such as rivers, mountains or utility lines
- use and/or develop specialist Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to turn complex data into more user-friendly formats, like maps and 3D virtual plans/models
- design data specifications (what data needs to be collected, how it should be collected, and how accurate it needs to be)
- write and present reports on geospatial data analysis
- convert paper maps into digital/electronic maps
- manage projects.
Skills and knowledge
Depending on their role, geospatial specialists need to have knowledge of:
- geospatial data analysis and visualisation
- specialist geographic information systems (GIS) software
- computer modelling and database design
- geography and mathematics, including statistics.
- usually work regular business hours
- usually work in offices but may do field trips to various locations to collect data.
What's the job really like?
GIS combined John's favourite subjects
"Before my first year at Otago University I was undecided on what career path to take. So I did a range of papers – geography, computing and surveying – and ended up mixing all three subjects by taking the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) programme.
"My favourite areas of study involved management issues in GIS, cartography and map production, and learning how aircraft and satellites capture data and photography from space.
"While at university I attended a Māori GIS Conference and saw how GIS can help realise the cultural significance and potential of Māori land. This was valuable for me as I have family links to Ngāti Whātua and Te Arawa.”
Skills in GIS analysis took John to Brisbane
"After working for a projects firm in New Zealand, I relocated to Brisbane as the sole GIS analyst on a multi-million dollar concept study for a natural gas project.
"My role involved designing facility layouts and locations, new road networks, routing of pipelines, and placement of well systems across 11,000 square kilometres in Queensland. I'm now back in New Zealand working in GIS with the NZ Defence Force."
Advice for aspiring geospatial specialists
"If you’re keen on GIS you could start reading and using maps, and using GIS software like ArcGIS and Google Earth. You will have a huge advantage if you become efficient using software and computers early on.”
John is of Ngāti Whātua and Te Arawa descent.
Most people enter the geospatial field by doing a degree in one of the following areas:
- applied science
- digital technologies – computer science.
People may include papers in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as part of their degree.
- Land Information New Zealand website - information on New Zealand tertiary GIS papers, programmes and contacts
Range of ways to get geospatial specialist experience
There are lots of ways to get experience in GIS roles as you study or work. For example, there are cadetships, scholarships and on-the-job training programmes.
Useful subjects include maths (including statistics), science, geography, digital technologies (programming and computer science), English, design and visual communication, and physics.
Geospatial specialists need to be:
- analytical and good at problem solving
- good verbal and written communicators
- able to work independently and as part of a team.
Useful experience for geospatial specialists includes:
- computer modelling
- computer programming.
Geospatial specialists need good eyesight, with or without corrective lenses. Some roles require normal colour vision.
Experienced geospatial specialists can apply for certification through the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute, though this is not compulsory. Anyone with an undergraduate degree and experience may apply.
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Esri Users Group
- Spatial Industries Business Association New Zealand
- firstname.lastname@example.org - www.siba.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Increasing demand for geospatial specialists
Use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to organise information and create maps and models is growing. This is because demand is increasing for visual displays of data, like maps showing local economic opportunities, animal migration patterns, or people's daily habits.
However, not enough people are training in this area. As a result, geospatial scientist (geospatial specialist) appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled geospatial specialists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Demand is highest for geospatial specialists with at least five years' experience, and skills in:
- database administration
- programming and spatial reasoning
Types of employers varied
Geospatial specialists are employed by:
- local and regional councils and council-owned organisations
- government departments and agencies such as Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)
- specialist GIS consultancy companies
- map and chart-making companies
- large companies working in industries such as forestry, transport/logistics, construction, mining and telecommunications
- King, M, committee member, Spatial Industries Business Association (New Zealand), Careers New Zealand interview, November 2015.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- O'Malley, G, principal analyst, New Zealand Geospatial Office, Land Information New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, October 2015.
- de Roiste, M, 'The Geospatial Skills Shortage in New Zealand', School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University, July 2012.
Progression and specialisations
Geospatial specialists may start out being employed as analysts before moving into managerial or consultancy roles.
Geospatial specialists usually focus on a particular aspect of the geospatial data process such as:
- data specification and capture
- data integration and analysis
- map design
- computer programming
- database administration
- project management
- system administration.
Geospatial specialists can specialise in a number of roles including:
- Geographic Information Systems Analyst
- Geographic information systems analysts use geospatial technology to read and analyse geographical data, and produce maps and visual representations of that data. They may also develop GIS software.
- Geospatial Analyst
- Geospatial analysts collect, analyse and record geographic data, and produce information to help businesses and users get the most from their spatial systems.
- Geospatial Data Specialist
- Geospatial data specialists have database administrator and data modelling experience, as well as expertise in spatial data and extract, transform, load (ETL) processes.
- Geospatial Developer
- Geospatial developers have experience in general software development, and write applications that have a spatial or mapping element.
- Geospatial Information Architect
- Geospatial information architects have knowledge of geospatial analysis, data, development and integration, and may become an expert in one or more specific geospatial technologies.
Last updated 1 June 2017