Are Midwest geospatial professionals getting paid what they’re worth?

You know part of the problem with geospatial professionals is that they come from a varied number of backgrounds and usually wear many hats. Wait a minute – that sounds just like what an employer would want in a prospective employee. Unfortunately, it appears that in my neck of the woods this works to a geo-professional’s disadvantage. Let me explain –

Because the geo-tech fields are still in a stage of relative infancy, when the need arose for GIS, mapping or whatever in an organization, it was often filled internally with the most tech-savvy person willing to play guinea pig with their career. This “promotion” usually came to someone in a technical or clerical position. Traditionally, theese are not high-paying jobs and are not considered a “professional” career track. So, without any formal training, old salaries stuck with the new positions.

All the while, the scope of the geo-professional continued to grow. Someone who can call themselves a GIS Analyst is probably knowlegeable in scientific analysis, programming, design, computer hardware, technical writing, and has at least a four-year degree. Did you see that? I just rattled off 5 separate career paths, and threw in a “professional” qualifier just for good measure. A geo-professional must have most or all of the aforementioned proficiencies to be good at their job. So why is it that salaries in the plains states are generally low-balled by as much as one-third what they should be gettting paid?
How about some numbers? I do alot of work in the Wichita, KS & Hays, KS areas. Wichita has about a half-million people in the metro area, whereas Hays is a town of about 20,000 when the college is in session. The salary survey @ lists someone with 7 years of GIS experience in Kansas making only $44k average. A quick glance at shows that a GIS Analyst in Wichita should be making somewhere between $60-$76k a year, whereas the same position in Hays should between 47-57k.

So where is the undervaluing coming from? I think it’s the aforementioned stigma of hiring the only available person from when geospatial tech was a fledgling career path. The irony is, that managers want all of the qualifications that come with a well-trained geo-professional; in fact, they’re usually listed in job announcements. The pay offered however is usually for a person about 3-4 years behind the experience curve.

Its been my experience that you might get lucky aiming low; either getting a crackerjack, fresh out of school type who knows their stuff, or someone who has extenuating circumstances that make it desirable for them to work in a particular geographic area. The downside however, is the young new hire probably will only stay until the next best thing comes around; and a year or more could go by waiting for the person who wants to live in your area to come along. In the meantime, projects aren’t getting done, and it will cost an organization more money digging themselves out of the hole they put themselves in by procrastinating.

Does anyone else have any insight as to why organizations are tight-fisted with their geo-professional hiring money?


One Response to “Are Midwest geospatial professionals getting paid what they’re worth?”

  1. Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill, Pay the bills. « Dealy Geomatics Says:

    […] County, KS looks to be hiring for a GIS specialist.  Albeit a wide range, the pay is competitive (maybe folks are listening after all).  The years of experience asked for don’t quite jibe with the pay scale either, though that […]

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