GIS Certification: AOLS Certificate of Registration
Among the various types of GIS and Geomatics certifications available to Canadians, The Association of Ontario Land Surveyors (AOLS) offers Certificates of Registration to geomatics professionals in the province of Ontario, who become designated as Ontario Land Information Professionals, or OLIP. These certificates are available in 4 areas: Geodesy, Photogrammetry, Hydrography, and Geographic Information Management. At present there are 53 Certificate of Registration holders in Ontario. Holding an AOLS Certificate of Registration can give a competitive edge for geomatics professionals in Ontario when searching for jobs, looks great on a resumé, can reassure employers they’re hiring a competent professional, demonstrates initiative, and helps professionals to maintain high standards of achievement.
Who is the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors?
The Association of Ontario Land Surveyors is a self-governing body formed in 1892 that is responsible for licensing and regulating professional land surveyors in the province of Ontario to allow them to practise cadastral surveying (given the designation Ontario Land Surveyor or OLS). Provincial licensing to practise cadastral surveying is not unique to Ontario–every province has a land surveyor association responsible for regulating its own province, and in addition, there is the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors that is responsible for regulating Federal and territorial lands. The AOLS also grants Associate Membership to students, interns, and professionals in geomatics, which provides members with general AOLS news and information, invitations to AOLS meetings, industry events, and seminars, and access to AOLS publications.
What are Requirements for a Certificate of Registration?
To qualify for a Certificate of Registration, an applicant must demonstrate completion of a 4-year post-secondary or equivalent program in Geographic Information Management (or equivalent), be an associate member of AOLS, and complete an approved internship period (called a Term of Articles) up to 1.5 years in length with a GIM designated as an OLS or OLIP (called an Articling contract) where the applicant gains training and experience. The application process involves undergoing review of education and experience evaluated by the AOLS Academic and Experience Requirements Committee (AERC). The applicant must fill out an application as well as submitting a cover letter, resumé, official transcript(s), detailed course descriptions, and other supporting information. At the end of the Term of Articles, the applicant must pass a professional practical exam. After the exam is completed, the applicant can then can apply for AOLS membership. It is worth noting that an OLS licence is not required to obtain an OLIP Certificate of Registration (the requirements for an OLS licence are similar as for OLIP status).
Specific post-secondary courses are required to apply for a Certificate of Registration. For specialization in Geodesy, Photogrammetry, and Hydrography, the course requirements are the same as for OLS. except for the Survey Law requirement; for Geodetic specialization, an additional higher level geodesy course replaces hydrography and municipal planning requirements, whereas for Hydrography, the survey law and municipal planning course requirements are removed. For Geographic Information Management, the course requirements are different.
The designated supervisor for the Term of Articles must be a licensed member of AOLS or hold a Certificate of Registration for at least 3 years prior to providing training to an articling student, or must be approved by the AERC to be deemed competent to provide training and experience to the student.
The exam portion contains both oral and written components and is offered at the end of May and November.
There is no recertification requirement for a Certificate of Registration from the AOLS, but a registered member must fulfill a mandatory Continuing Professional Development requirement and remain in good standing (by complying with ethics and regulations) to maintain their certification. Continuing Professional Development is achieved by acquiring a minimum number of formal and professional hours over a 3-year-period, and can be fulfilled in many ways, such as participating in committees, attending regional group meetings, attending the AOLS Annual General Meeting, presenting seminars, or taking formal courses, for a few examples.
There are many fees involved with obtaining an AOLS Certificate of Registration. The main application process costs $1300 (CAD) and consists of: $200 Academic Evaluation Fee, $100 Evaluation Appeal, $100 Articling Application Fee, $100 Application for Reduction of Articles Fee, $150 Statutes Examination Fee, $250 Professional Lecture Course Fee, $150 Oral Professional Examination, $150 Written Examination, and $100 Appeals to Examinations Fee. Associate membership is free while the applicant is a full-time student, but once they are no longer a student, it costs $200/year. Applicants must pay an $80 Annual Articling Fee during their Term of Articles. Annual dues for certified members are $750. All prices listed do not include HST.
As with all GIS certifications, several factors need to be considered to determine whether or not applying for an AOLS Certificate of Registration is suitable for you. First, it is a certification specific to Ontario that does not exist in other provinces, so if you don’t work in Ontario, there isn’t much incentive to get a Certificate of Registration as it does not hold power in other provinces. With that said though, if you have AOLS certification and you move elsewhere, it still looks good on a resumé and demonstrates initiative. Another point is that these certifications promote very specialized career paths, and like other certifications, they may limit career options. The types of certifications available also are geared towards various fields of geomatics but not so much for GIS. It is important to note that the program is designed to be commenced while still a student. Professionals working in the field may apply for it later, but there is less incentive to apply for this program if they are already experienced, since the program requires a Term of Articles. The program is also very expensive, and cost to be certified must be strongly considered. As with other certifications, the dedication required to maintain the AOLS certification must also be weighed against personal life choices.
This article will be one of a series of articles intended to provide information about different types of optional GIS certification that are currently available for Canadians.