Defining the Geospatial Profession

Below is the abridged version of Marvin Miller's editorial that appears in print; click here for the full version.

In 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor identified geospatial technology as one of the top three emerging technologies for the 21st century workforce.  Yet, as government advisory committees recommend approaches to develop a highly skilled workforce, the geospatial profession remains too undefined for these recommendations to produce fast results.

During the MAPPS 2012 summer conference held July 10-14, I had the pleasure of presenting this topic at a panel discussion. I concluded with recommendations that, if implemented, will clearly define the geospatial profession, help us regain our status as professionals, and set the stage for preparing the future workforce to meet the demands of our ever-changing professional organizations.

  1. Develop a comprehensive description of the disciplines included in “geospatial.”
  2. Brand the profession as “geospatial engineering.”
  3. Develop and implement a strategy to establish a national license for those geospatial disciplines not involved with boundary law.  Include a solid, comprehensive, enforceable code of ethics.
  4. Enact an unambiguous QBS law for geospatial services contracts.
  5. Establish a model curriculum for a two-year technician (community college) and four-year professional degree program.
  6. Establish an accreditation program system for college and university geospatial programs.
  7. Develop an employment opportunity campaign to attract young people to the profession/accredited-university programs.
  8. Develop and implement a campaign that will serve to introduce the ASPRS Procurement of Professional Geospatial Services Guidelines to both public and private procurement personnel.

A final observation is the aging of the surveyor workforce that tends to be content with a 200-year-old image.  The brutal truth is that in recent years more young people have entered the broad GIS field than surveying because GIS has a stronger, modern brand.  If we are to attract the next generation of surveyors who will flourish, prosper, and meet the demands of the market, we must abandon the muddy-boot, machete-wielding image of a “surveyor” as well as our nostalgia for “George Washington was a surveyor” and start projecting the image of a leading-edge, technologically savvy, educated, and learned profession. 

Bottom line: If we want to change the world, we need to change ourselves first.
~Marvin E. Miller, PLS, RPP, SP, PPS, CP

» Back to our September 2012 Issue