A Few Thoughts About GIS Certification, at a Glance...

by John Hickok, GISP, December 2, 2013

Licensure, as in the case of Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors, is a legal act by state governments to safeguard the life, health, and property of the general public. In rapidly evolving technologies like GIS, it is more common to see certification as a means to determine a practitioner's proficiency. Certification is official recognition of a person's professional integrity and competence in a chosen field by his or her peers. While licensed professional behavior is governed by state laws, certified individuals voluntarily follow codes of ethics that are universally adhered to across state and international boundary lines.

GIST: GISTechnology is a popular name for certification programs offered by colleges and universities. The basic rule is, GIS programs vary greatly between the schools that offer them. URISA offers a list of links to colleges and universities with GIS certificates and degree programs.

ESRI: The company certifies working knowledge of their software via a series of 2.5 hour exams. Ethics, experience, and formal education are not addressed. ESRI states that their program complements the GISP certification.

GISP: The GISCI's certification is based on analyses of portfolios submitted by candidates. Certification is granted upon review of highly documented portfolios by teams of GISCI certified professionals with a wide collective variety of expertise. In addition to a portfolio, an exam will be required for certification beginning in early 2015. The GISCI posts regular news releases online, so please continue checking GISCI.org for the latest developments. Originally formed under the direction of URISA in 2004, the GISCI represents six professional member organizations. This certification program is well established with over 5,000 GISP's in existence.

ASPRS: The Society has been instrumental in the formation of U.S. federal standards for photogrammetric deliverables since the 1930's. In the 1970's, they pioneered certification as a means of dealing with varying state laws' inability to address rapidly evolving technologies. In 1991, the program was expanded to include the Certified Mapping Scientist, GIS/LIS. At the professional level, ASPRS certifications require education, experience, and examinations similar to those of a professional civil engineer or land surveyor. Their exams require overlapping knowledge of GIS, Remote Sensing, Photogrammetry, and other academic areas. Though not as prevalent as the GISP, ASPRS certification is required for obtaining certain federal government contracts.

Final Note: The terms "GISP" and "GIS Professional" are registered trademarks of the GISCI, while ESRI-certified individuals receive digital logos which may be placed on their business cards, email signatures, etc.




An Abbreviated GIS Certification Matrix


ASPRS

GISP

Esri

Issued by

ASPRS

GISCI (AAG, GITA, GLIS, NSGIC, UCGIS, and URISA)

Esri

Professional and Technical Levels

Yes

Professional only

Yes

Experience Required

6 years for the professional level

4 years minimum; points are awarded based on type of experience

n/a

Education Required

4 year degree in a physical science for the professional level

4 year degree desired, but not required; core competency courses must be included

ESRI suggests taking courses they offer

Exams Required

Exams include core and overlapping knowledge areas

An exam will be required in early 2015

2.5 hour exam for each software knowledge area

Contributions to the Profession

Part of the recertification criteria, active status

Candidates are required to participate in professional organizations, encourage and educate others

n/a

Code of Ethics

Yes

Yes

n/a

Renewal Period

5 years

5 years

n/a

This newsletter is one writer's attempt to summarize information collected from workshops (ASPRS and URISA) and online resources.