Is GIS a profession? If so, what’s its relationship to other professions in the geospatial field? How can you tell if someone who calls herself a GIS professional—or a GIS educator for that matter—knows what she’s doing? You might be surprised to learn that these are contentious questions in the United States and other parts of the world.

They’re contentious because the demand for GIS work has surpassed the demand for other kinds of geospatial work, despite the fact that GIS is a relatively new branch of the field. The rightful roles and qualifications of GIS pros are in dispute, and there’s competition for who gets to decide.

Do you consider yourself a GIS professional? Or are you thinking of becoming one? By GIS professional, I mean someone who makes a living through learned professional work see table below that requires advanced knowledge of geographic information systems and related geospatial technologies, data, and methods. If that’s what you do, or what you might want to do, then you have a stake in the dispute. Your right to make a living doing GIS work, your ability to be part of an open and innovative GIS community, and your chance to be part of something big that’s making a difference in the world all depend on how those contentious questions are answered.

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