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Becoming a GIS Developer

Becoming a GIS Developer: Skills, Salaries, and Pros and Cons

Are you interested in the world of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and have a passion for coding and software development? Then becoming a GIS developer might be the perfect career path for you. In this blog post, we’ll explore what GIS developers do, the skills needed to succeed in this field, the salaries you can expect, and the pros and cons of this career choice.

Listen to this podcast episode about a GIS Analyst that made a career change and became a GIS developer

What is a GIS Developer?

A GIS developer is a technical professional who uses programming and software development skills to create customized applications and tools for managing, analyzing, and visualizing geospatial data. They work closely with GIS analysts and specialists to understand requirements and develop solutions that meet the needs of end-users.

Skills Needed to Become a GIS Developer

To become a successful GIS developer, you’ll need a combination of technical and soft skills. Here are some of the essential skills you’ll need:

  • Strong programming skills: GIS developers use programming languages like Python, R, and Java to develop GIS software applications and tools.
  • Comprehensive knowledge of existing GIS software: GIS developers must have a strong understanding of existing GIS software and how it can be integrated or extended
  • In-depth knowledge of GIS concepts and technologies: GIS developers must have a strong understanding of GIS software, including the principles of cartography, data analysis, and data visualization.
  • Problem-solving skills: GIS developers must be able to solve complex problems, often under tight deadlines.
  • Communication skills: GIS developers must be able to communicate technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders in a clear and concise manner.

Salaries for GIS Developers

Graphic showing how much a GIS developer can earn in salary
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a GIS developer in the United States is $81,780 per year. Salaries vary based on industry and specialization, with developers typically having higher salaries due to the growth and value they bring to companies.
Modern GIS is cloud-based and will require some GIS programming skills

Pros and Cons of Becoming a GIS Developer

Like any career choice, becoming a GIS developer has its pros and cons.


  • Opportunity to work on technically challenging projects and solve complex problems.
  • High demand for GIS developers in many industries, leads to competitive salaries and job security.
  • The ability to work with spatial data and utilize GIS technology to create innovative solutions.
  • Opportunities for continued learning and professional development.
  • Collaborative work with other GIS professionals, such as analysts and specialists, to create customized applications and tools.


  • The need to constantly keep up with changing technology and programming languages.
  • Long hours and tight deadlines can be stressful at times.
  • Requires strong technical skills, which may not come naturally to everyone.
  • Can involve a lot of solitary work and sitting at a computer for extended periods of time.
  • Need to communicate complex technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders, which can be challenging.


Becoming a GIS developer is a promising career path for those interested in combining their GIS knowledge with programming and software development skills. The field requires a combination of technical and soft skills, and salaries are competitive. While the job can be challenging, it offers opportunities for continued learning and professional development. If you have a passion for GIS and software development, becoming a GIS developer might be the perfect career choice for you.

This self-taught GIS developer started his own business!
About the Author
I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.