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ArcGIS skills development options demystified

Learning a new skill is a challenge. Learning how to use ArcGIS is no different because of the multiple functionalities the ArcGIS system offers. But no need to worry. With a logical path to follow based on your goals and interests, you can map your learning journey and achieve success. This blog post will show you how to use the new Esri Canada Learning Pathways to demystify the options and define your training priorities.

I often hear the following question:

“I completed your Introduction to GIS and Essential Workflows courses. What should I do next?”

It’s a great question! After taking those two fundamental courses, you should be able to understand what a GIS is made of, be familiar with some use cases using the ArcGIS system and have been exposed to manipulations of data. Those manipulations allow you to use the desktop application ArcGIS Pro to showcase your data with simple map products. You’ll also be able to share these map products with others as web maps using the cloud application ArcGIS Online.

By looking at the image below, also located on the home page of the Esri Canada Learning Pathways, you can see how the two intro courses are only the beginning of what’s possible with ArcGIS.

Flow chart showing ArcGIS skills development options. Set apart from the flow are the “Explore ArcGIS Possibilities” and “System Administration” categories. The “System Administration” category contains the “ArcGIS Online Administration” and “ArcGIS Enterprise Administration” sub-categories. In the main flow, the first step in the flow is “GIS Concepts”. The flows proceeds to the “Essential Workflows Using ArcGIS Pro” category. This category contains “Data Management Basics”, “Mapping and Visualization Basics”, “Editing Basics”, “Spatial Analysis Basics” and “Sharing Basics” as part of the content. The flow then proceeds to the “Specialty Skills” category. This category contains the following sub-categories: “Mapping and Visualization”, “Spatial Analysis”, “Publishing GIS Content”, “Field Operations”, “Data Management”, “Workflow Automation” and “Custom Solutions”. The “Publishing GIS Content” sub-category within the “Specialty Skills” category flows to two other sub-categories, also within the “Specialty Skills” category: “Using ArcGIS Online” and “Using ArcGIS Enterprise”. Then the “Specialty Skills” category as a whole flows on to the “Sharing Information with Web Apps” category. The sub-categories included within this category are “Using ArcGIS Dashboards”, “Using ArcGIS StoryMaps” and “Using ArcGIS Experience Builder”. The flow continues downward; the last category is “Organizing Shared Information”. This category includes “Using ArcGIS Hub/Sites”.

Flow chart showing ArcGIS Skills Development Options.

In the rest of this post, I’ll go over the training options you have based on your licensing model and needs. In future blog posts, I’ll go into further detail about each topic to help you better understand what you can gain from the skills you’ll learn. Let’s get started!

For an overview of how ArcGIS can be leveraged in an organization, consider the “Explore ArcGIS Possibilities” page under the “Fundamental Skills” category on the Learning Pathways site. On that page, there are resources that can help you understand the ArcGIS system better and get the best value from your investment. The skills you’ll gain could help you make choices that will benefit you for years to come.

In the skills development tree I’ve already shown, the next step after the “GIS Concepts” and “Essential Workflows Using ArcGIS Pro” is the “Specialty Skills” category. To find out where to start, you’ll need to decide which specialty skill you want to add to your learning plan, then prioritize what’s important to you. There is not always a perfect logical path to learn about one topic before the other. It varies depending on your situation. We can help you figure this out.

Here’s some information about each option to clarify a few details:

Mapping and Visualization

The skills in the “Mapping and Visualization” subcategory will help you make better maps. You’ll learn best practices that will allow you to create easy-to-use, understandable products for your audience. They will help you follow your organization’s standards and create maps that can adapt to various screen sizes or that are ready to print.

These functionalities are available to users of all ArcGIS Pro license levels.

We’ve added the corresponding learning pathway to the “Fundamental Skills for GIS Professionals” page. You just need to scroll down to the “Mapping and Visualization Best Practices” subsection in the middle of the page.

Spatial Analysis

Skills in spatial analysis will help you question data to uncover new insights. You’ve learned the basis of spatial analysis in the foundation courses and now you can focus on what you are looking to understand more specifically by choosing the type of analysis you need. There are multiple types of analysis, so we made a “Spatial Analysis” category with one page per type:

As you navigate the subsections on those pages, you’ll notice that we’ve added details about the type of license required to access the tools used to perform those analysis. Most of these tools are available for ArcGIS Pro Basic license users as well as Standard and Advanced level users, but on top of those, extension licenses are needed to access many of the necessary tools (including ArcGIS Spatial Analyst, ArcGIS 3D Analyst, ArcGIS Network Analyst and ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst).

Publishing GIS Content

Skills in the “Publishing GIS Content” subsection will help you create interactive maps, then share them with a link or on a web page. The audience will be able to navigate in the map by zooming in and out, moving the map in all directions, opening pop-up windows by clicking on features to see additional information and images, and more.

All ArcGIS Pro license levels users have access to these functionalities, but they will either have a deployment with an ArcGIS Online organizational account (in Esri’s cloud) or an ArcGIS Enterprise deployment. Users who have ArcGIS Pro licenses typically have either a Creator or GIS Professional username that is linked to that deployment.

These days, publishing content is a must for most GIS users. We’ve added the corresponding pathways to the “Fundamental Skills for GIS Professionals” page on the Learning Pathways site. You’ll need to scroll down a little to either the “Introduction to Web GIS with ArcGIS Online” subsection or the “Best Practices for Sharing Web GIS Content in ArcGIS Enterprise” subsection. Best practices are a little different in each type of deployment so it’s best to take the pathway that matches your deployment.

Once you complete the pathway on that page, you can continue by heading to the “Sharing Information” category and picking which application you want to learn more about:

Your choice will depend on your business needs and your audience. Don’t hesitate to contact your sales representative for guidance on which application is the best match for your needs. They’ll be happy to help.

Field Operations

The skills in the “Field Operations” subsection will help you prepare for data collection using the ArcGIS field apps. This can mean collecting locations of assets or resources for the first time or collecting new or up-to-date information about locations you already have in a digital format. Since you’ve completed the foundation courses, you have the skills required to prepare the data structure for field collection and configure applications for use in the field.

To create and use these applications, you’ll need a Creator or GIS Professional username either for ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. Once again, you’ll need to decide which app is best suited to your needs, but in many cases, all apps can be used to create a complete field workflow. In the “Field Operations” category, pick the “Prepare for Data Collection” page to see more details on the options you have and learning pathways to consider or contact us for guidance.

Data Management

If you’re in charge of structuring and maintaining authoritative data, growing your skills in data management will help you streamline your organization’s processes.

For ArcGIS Pro Basic license users, structuring is important and some basic relationships can be established between the data to facilitate data collection. But when it comes to leveraging integrity rules and more advanced relationship options, a Standard or Advanced license level is necessary. For Basic license users, refer to the “Structuring and Managing Data in a File Geodatabase” subsection on the “Data Management” page.

The more advanced functionalities are super important for those in multiuser environments where users edit the data directly in the geodatabase. These advanced functionalities help control data quality by making users follow standards when editing or entering data. They also provide efficiency for administrators by notifying them of conflicts or errors to review before letting the changes take place in the master geodatabase.

All subsections on the “Data Management” page are important to review for geodatabase administrators. Editors who only modify data in their role should instead refer to the “Best Practices for Editing in a Multiuser Geodatabase” subsection at the bottom of the “Fundamental Skills for GIS Professional” page.

Workflow Automation

The skills captured in the “Workflow Automation” subsection will help you save time by automating repetitive tasks for analysis, data management and map creation.

You can leverage automation with all ArcGIS Pro license levels. With ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise, automation can help reduce the manual administrative process involved in data and user management of a web portal.

On the “Workflow Automation” page, you’ll find pathways for each type of automation.

Custom Solutions

The skills in the “Custom Solutions” subsection are for those who want to get “under the hood” to make something very specific that’s not already available out of the box. ArcGIS offers options to customize ArcGIS Pro tools and the interface, and to make custom web applications.

Users who have any ArcGIS Pro license or ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise deployment have access to these options.

On the “Custom Solutions” page, you will find pathways organized by type of application.

System Administration

For those of you who also act as a system administrator for ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise, you can go straight to the “System Administration” page and to the subsections that match your deployment. 

The level of ArcGIS Pro license you are using or that others are using in your organization isn’t relevant to learn how to administer the system.


We hope this will help you demystify the ArcGIS training options. In future blog posts, we’ll drill down into each topic mentioned here to make sure you understand what you can accomplish by learning these specialty skills and bring value to your organization. If you’d like additional help with training guidance in the meantime, please contact us at training@esri.ca.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Carole Arseneau is a Sales Representative at Esri Canada. She advises customers from all industries on how to use GIS technology to be more efficient in their daily workflows. Carole holds a GIS certificate from Florida State College in Jacksonville and a Bachelor degree in Kinesiology from Laval University in Québec City. Being by the water has always made her feel at home and has given her inspiration to keep a positive outlook in life.

Profile Photo of Carole Arseneau