Case study


Natalie works as a geographical information systems (GIS) officer with responsibility for the management, maintenance, analysis and development of data relating to cycling in Scotland. Find out more about the projects she is working on

How did you get your job?

I studied for a BSc Geography at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 2009. In 2013 I graduated with an MSc Geographic Information Systems from Ulster University , which I completed as a part-time distance learner.

I found my current job working for Cycling Scotland by searching for jobs online. I had been working in a different role, but wasn’t getting to do much GIS work, so I decided to look for something else.

What's a typical working day like?

The work I do using local and national data provides evidence-based reasoning for investment in cycling education, training and infrastructure.

I currently manage three projects, and I try and split my time equally between them. Each of these projects involve various levels of data management. Typically, I will be managing multiple datasets at any one time.

Tasks include data cleansing, editing and formatting. I also undertake spatial data analysis and use GIS software to analyse data and produce maps on a daily basis, and I manage the filing system.

In addition to my project work, on a typical day I will also be in touch with various contacts via email and phone, and I travel for meetings and conferences. I also manage contracts with suppliers and developers, and I manage a budget.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Helping people analyse and map their data in ways that they didn't even know was possible.

What are the challenges?

Working with large datasets. Sometimes I can spend entire days looking at one spreadsheet, data cleansing and editing.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Both my geography and GIS degrees are pretty much directly relevant to my GIS career. In particular, my Masters degree provided me with a solid foundation to build on. The course introduced me to data management and databases, spatial data and mapping, remote sensing, web-GIS, and spatial analysis and modelling. I was also introduced to software that I continue to use in my current job.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I'm six years into my career now, and GIS has opened so many doors for me. My first role was in renewable energy, where I worked as a GIS analyst. I was part of a small team where I developed my technical mapping skills. Then I worked for a governmental executive body where I was part of a much larger team, and developed habitat surveying and mapping skills.

Now I am working for a charity where I manage GIS project work, data, licences, contracts and budgets. I'm really excited to watch my career grow further and see where it takes me next.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

My number one tip would be to choose something that sets you aside from the rest. Even now, finding someone who has done a Masters degree in GIS is still not that common, and it really stands out and sets you apart.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • I think it's important to get a specialist GIS qualification.
  • Get experience - volunteer, go on training courses and download open-source GIS software to practise.
  • Build a network - attend GIS events, become a member of the AGI (Association for Geographic Information) and keep an eye out for any conferences, lectures or workshops.

Find out more

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