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Important updates to the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM)

10-29-2023 08:40 AM
Esri Notable Contributor
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Important updates to the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM) document have just been published by the US Department of Labor.  This article summarizes the updates and reminds the reader what the GTCM is and why it is important to the GIS education community. 

This is the most extensive revision to the GTCM in 15 years and was much needed given all that has changed in GIS, society, and education during that time.  Esri has been proud to serve on the advisory board for over 15 years to the GeoTech Center, a initiative of community colleges that was instrumental in creating the original GTCM and for maintaining it.  I and my team's longstanding collaboration with the GeoTech Center has led to fruitful research and instructional opportunities, most recently a week-long GIS DEI institute for educators, held in Gettysburg Pennsylvania. 

The model provides a structure or framework for developing the personal effectiveness, academic, and workplace competencies required by an industry or an occupation, in this case, GIS.  The Building Blocks Model is portrayed as a helpful graphic to help users quickly grasp the key features of the competencies required. The pyramid shape conveys the increasing level of specificity and specialization of the content on the upper tiers of the graphic.

The GTCM describes how GIS occupational and industry competencies build on a foundation of personal effectiveness, academic, and workplace competencies.  is represented as a pyramid with nine tiers.  Each tier consists of blocks representing the skills, knowledge, and abilities essential for successful performance in the GIS industry. 

At the base of the model, competencies apply to a large number of occupations and industries. As a user moves up the model, the competencies become industry- and occupation-specific. In the case of the GTCM, it specifies competencies required for worker success in the geospatial industry, from the most general “Personal Effectiveness Competencies” (Tier 1) to the sector-specific competencies presented in Tier 5. 

How could you use the GTCM?  Instructors can use it to provide career guidance, as a guideline to plan their future curriculum, courses, and programs, to assess existing GIS courses and programs, for recruitment and hiring, as criteria for professional development or for voluntary certification, and to frame outreach efforts intended to communicate characteristics of the geospatial technology to the wider community.  I use it frequently in presentations that focus on where GIS is heading, and also in career discussions with students.  My favorite part of the GTCM might be the bottom tier, the personal effectiveness competencies, where I focus on these questions:  Are you organized?  Are you ethical?  Can you deal with data?  In short I have cited the GTCM more frequently than just about any other document over the past 20 years, along with the National Research Council's Learning to Think Spatially report. 

GTCM users should keep in mind that the pyramid framework is not intended to suggest a sequence of competency attainment or that certain competencies are of greater value or higher skill than others. The body of the GTCM is a table that contains definitions and associated key behaviors for each competency block depicted in the pyramid.

The competencies throughout the model were recently updated and published based on feedback from industry subject matter experts and public comments received on the model.   Recent updates included updating existing competencies, deleting items particularly in terms of tools that are no longer applicable, and adding competencies that have appeared with the rapid evolution of GIS tools and workflows.

For example, the competency of "Express information to individuals or groups taking into account the audience and the nature of the information (e.g., explain technical concepts to non-technical audiences)." was tightened to:  Communicate effectively to any audience.   This critical work function was deleted: Compare the capabilities and limitations of various sensor types in the context of project requirements.   And now reads as  Compare the capabilities and limitations of various sensor platforms such as satellites, terrestrial, aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The revised GTCM can be found here:

Here, you can also the model in the following worksheet formats: PDF and Excel, and access the Credential Competencies Worksheet, the Curriculum Analysis Worksheet, the  Employer Analysis Worksheet, and the Gap Analysis Worksheet.


On a related note, Rodney Jackson and I recently published an article in Transactions in GIS where we examine the perspectives of practitioners toward the GTCM, as a result of a survey we conducted of 61 GIS professionals and others, here: 


I look forward to your feedback!

--Joseph Kerski



About the Author
I believe that spatial thinking can transform education and society through the application of Geographic Information Systems for instruction, research, administration, and policy. I hold 3 degrees in Geography, have served at NOAA, the US Census Bureau, and USGS as a cartographer and geographer, and teach a variety of F2F (Face to Face) (including T3G) and online courses. I have authored a variety of books and textbooks about the environment, STEM, GIS, and education. These include "Interpreting Our World", "Essentials of the Environment", "Tribal GIS", "The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data", "International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning with GIS In Secondary Education", "Spatial Mathematics" and others. I write for 2 blogs, 2 monthly podcasts, and a variety of journals, and have created over 5,000 videos on the Our Earth YouTube channel. Yet, as time passes, the more I realize my own limitations and that this is a lifelong learning endeavor and thus I actively seek mentors and collaborators.