Mapgeek looking for a career
August 7, 2008 9:56 AM   Subscribe

What kind of career can I pursue that involves maps, apart from the obvious (cartography, GIS, geography teacher)?

I love maps. Correction: I LOVE maps. I want to think outside the box and compile a list of alternative career opportunities that involve maps in some way; either creation or analysis. My minimum is $40K/year. Domestic or foreign travel is fine but I don't want to relocate outside of the US (preferably midwest or west coast). Not-for-profit is OK. I'd love something I can do as a consultant, though I realize that might be tough in the current economic climate. I'm mostly interested in demography/human geography/sociological issues. Not especially interested in environmental/sustainability issues. I have a Master's in urban planning with a concentration in GIS.
    My skills/education (not exhaustive):
  • GIS (ArcGIS, MapInfo, Idrisi)
  • Cartography
  • Urban planning
  • Web design
  • Basic graphic design (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign)
  • Basic database development & management
  • Research/statistics/data analysis
  • Basic VB
  • Excellent writing and editing
  • Good presentation skills
  • Good troubleshooting/problem solving
  • Intermediate spoken/written French
    Skills I want to acquire:
  • Web dev (PHP, AJAX,, etc.)
  • Programming (C#, etc, open to suggestions)
  • Expand RDMS skills (MySQL, etc)
  • Spanish
I welcome contact through MeFi mail or my gmail listed in my profile.
posted by desjardins to Work & Money (30 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Navigation, maritime or other. Urban planning (oh, you've already done that one). Archeology.
posted by nax at 10:12 AM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Map librarian? A research position somewhere, perhaps relating to something like volcanoes or glaciers? I'm a geographer, this one is tough. The AAG has a solid listing of geographic fields, perhaps that will help.
posted by troika at 10:12 AM on August 7, 2008

Tour guide. Travel writer.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:13 AM on August 7, 2008

posted by netbros at 10:19 AM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: I wonder if google is hiring people to work with their "google maps" product?
posted by Citrus at 10:28 AM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: A friend of mine used to teach sociology at a university that had a GIS lab. They had an instructor in the lab who showed students how to use it but he would also create maps specific to research projects that were being done by professors (for example, my friend wanted to do a paper on the demographics of various urban neighborhoods and what could be determined from that).

So - perhaps a professor who utilizes GIS to further research? A GIS expert to assist others who are furthering research?
posted by jasbet07 at 10:30 AM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Politics? This may sound left-field, but there is a rapidly growing analytics field within electoral and advocacy campaigns that involves a lot of work with maps for targeting purposes. There's also a lack of people with these skills, so someone coming in who knows GIS and has statistical skills would be really marketable.
posted by lunasol at 10:33 AM on August 7, 2008

Maybe this is just a subset of GIS skills, but the GIS guy in our office works with a crew to fight forest fires numerous times during the year. He reads the aerial photos and scans to interpret where the fire is, and where it's heading, which helps the crew put manpower and equipment in the most advantageous spots.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:14 AM on August 7, 2008

Even if Google isn't hiring, there are lots of other companies that need GIS-savvy developers.
posted by GuyZero at 11:26 AM on August 7, 2008

I guess you could find a number of options in the military: intelligence, navigation, etc.
NASA might have some options.
The world of antique maps - selling them or pricing them - might beckon.
The computer games industry employs a number of people who are map specialists for various titles.
posted by rongorongo at 11:33 AM on August 7, 2008

National Geographic?
posted by arcticseal at 11:38 AM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: I keep reading about organizations using satellite imagery to prove ongoing human rights violations (eg Darfur). I'm not sure if anyone is doing anything sophisticated with mapping in these projects, but if they aren't, someone should be, and you could be that person.
posted by Forktine at 12:19 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Dammit, I hit "post" too soon. I was going to add that there are also some really neat work going on involving archival research on older genocides, like in Guatemala. To this point, as far as I know, this is primarily text, plus oral histories, photo documentation, etc. The applicability of mapping and GIS to this seems obvious to me as a way to show patterns of change over time, but if it is happening it isn't showing up in what I am reading.
posted by Forktine at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2008

Level designer in the video games industry.
You draw maps of areas on paper during the concept-art phase, populate it with inhabitants and puzzles, you then work to make the area into a 3D game space for the player to navigate through, and work with others to bring the world alive.
It meets your salary and location requirements, but you won't be able to be a consultant.
But your paper maps would typically never be seen by anyone other than yourself and a few of your coworkers. The completed landscape on the other hand? Hundreds of thousands. Potentially millions.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:29 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I work for an environmental science, planning and design firm. We have our own GIS/Graphics department that do all of the maps we put into our documents. We do pretty diverse work, including capital improvement/infrastructure, natural resources and land use planning. Most of our demographic work, which includes Environmental Justice analysis and Growth Impact analysis, is related to transportation projects (hot topic here in SoCal).

There's not really a good, definitive list of environmental consulting firms, but you could start with the American Planning Association. Also, firms that do digital mapping/gps, such as Navteq would be a good possiblity. I've seen jobs with them listed on Monster.

Good luck!
posted by socrateaser at 12:37 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: ESRI or its partners.
posted by carmicha at 12:49 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Also, USGS lists available jobs here.
posted by carmicha at 12:51 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: More map geeks, with some good links from their site. It might be worth asking them your question. The Where conference may be a place to make contacts, starting with the vendor list and speakers.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:58 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Journalism, both online and print. Newspapers and more hard news based magazines are starting to do data analysis via GIS for some of their stories. The writing skills would be a plus as well.

Mefi Mail me and I can get you in touch with with someone who could better help you understand how big this is going to be in the future.
posted by PixelatorOfTime at 1:24 PM on August 7, 2008

Supporting public health/epidemiology?
I mefi mailed you too :)
posted by pointystick at 1:35 PM on August 7, 2008

If you have an interest in Law Enforcement, there are positions available in many local police departments, sheriff's departments, federal agencies, etc. for Crime Analysts. They use GIS to map the crime problem in their Area of Responsibility. Here is an example of a job description from the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Hagerstown, MD.

In my experience I have seen agencies who are trying to teach existing personnel how to use various mapping tools, but they would be much more efficient if they hired experienced GIS professionals and taught them about law enforcement. Just my 2 cents.
posted by LightMayo at 1:39 PM on August 7, 2008

Become proficient at Google Maps and maybe MSN Live. If you are good enough at making custom maps for websites then you can use that as a starting point for your own consulting or development business.
posted by JJ86 at 2:36 PM on August 7, 2008

Finding locations for cell phone towers/transmitters.
posted by Free word order! at 2:51 PM on August 7, 2008

Geologist. Work for the governement, travel around the country and make maps of the geology. Lots of outdoors work, you'll learn heaps about the world around you, and the pay isn't half bad either.
posted by twirlypen at 4:18 PM on August 7, 2008

If you are willing & able to tolerate what I imagine is a lengthy background investigation, you might consider the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:22 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Would local NGOs be able to use your mapping skills to better work with the communities they serve? I could see maps and geography being really useful for census data analysis, community health care provision, welfare/social benefits, even things like laying out the best routes for new bike paths based on the current pedestrian/car traffic patterns in a small town. A map of local food-assistance-benefit recipients, perhaps, could help NGOs target those members of the community who may need help with things like low-cost insurance, subsidized transport, or tutoring for their kids after school.

The best way to sell yourself to these places is to present yourself as someone deeply involved in facts on the ground, the nitty-gritty details of a place, and making those facts accessible to the rest of the community.
posted by mdonley at 2:37 AM on August 8, 2008

Best answer: Digital Archivist or Historian - you could look into digital sustainability, geospatial metadata and work on how to preserve information within GIS's. Creating GIS archives etc. Or go the next step and inject a bit of that dirty quantitative data into History, or create representations of history in a GIS
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 3:57 AM on August 8, 2008

Best answer: The research org I work for incorporates both traditional and online GIS services for the exact purposes mdonley describes above. Feel free to mefimail me if you want more information about what that's like.
posted by shelbaroo at 4:01 AM on August 8, 2008

to kind of piggy back on pieoverdone, work for a guidebook publisher: NFT, Frommer's, etc
posted by rux at 11:56 AM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: You all rock. I'll mefimail those who requested it, and the "best answers" I marked are things that sound interesting to me.
posted by desjardins at 11:07 AM on August 13, 2008

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