How to Become a Geospatial Developer

Steven(Liang) Chen
3 min readJun 23, 2023

Have you heard of geospatial development? Have interest in this career path? Let’s take a close look at it.

Introduction

Here is my career path: Front-end Developer →Fullstack Developer → Geospatial Developer. I have been working for geospatial companies as a developer for the past 3 years I would like to share my thoughts about this field.

So this article is written for the developer or new graduate interested in geospatial development and would like to find out if it is a good career path.

Career Opportunities

The GIS industry is very stable there are always opportunities around the world but the ceiling(salary) is not as high as developers who work for the internet companies(like FAANG).

Even though the salary is not as high as internet companies but I would like to say there are a lot of technical challenges and opportunities for developers in this area. The geospatial developers around me normally have these two backgrounds:

  • GIS background -> Geospatial Developer
  • Software Engineer -> Geospatial Developer

Given geospatial developer skillset include 80% software development skills and 20% GIS knowledge. Normally the second career path is smooth than the first one.

For the job opportunities, the potential employers are from Government, the Energy industry, the Mining industry, GIS consulting companies, and so on. The above industries are very stable so you don’t need to worry about there is not enough opportunities. This could a big advantage of geospatial developers.

Skillset

At this stage, if you still have interest then let’s have a look at what a legendary geospatial developer's LinkedIn profile looks like. Rene is one of the best geospatial developers that I can find on the internet.

Rene skills

Simply saying, a geospatial developer = software engineer + GIS tool + Arcgis architect + GIS domain knowledge.

Let’s draw a mindmap based on job descriptions and the skillset I have so that we can make it easy to understand.

skillset

For the programming, database, and cloud part. I think there is no difference to a typical software engineer skill. But as a spatial developer ArcGIS Architect and gis related libraries and tools could be a must-have skill.

Some of the applications are built for gis analysts so you need to understand how to deal with the geospatial data.

Programming:

In geospatial development, there are two kinds of tasks developing geospatial applications + dealing with data

For developing geospatial applications it is the same as a normal developer by making use of modern frameworks to develop and maintain websites, desktops, and mobile applications(e.g. field apps).

For dealing with data I find it mainly relies on Python and R to clean and manipulate the geospatial data.

Cloud:

Apart from ArcGIS skills, cloud architect skill is also essential for geospatial developers. Among the three giants, I would like to recommend you to start with GCP(Google Cloud Platform) The reason is pretty simple: Google is a leader in the geospatial industry they understand the pinpoint of this area.

Google Maps Platform has a lot of valuable blogs I recommend you follow.

Conclusion

If you still want to learn more about the geospatial world you can continue to look at this awesome list.

Hope you find this article helpful for you.

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