GIS Certification: Options and Discussion
There are many GIS and geomatics certification options available to Canadians. They have been discussed in detail in previous articles. A summary of these different options is listed in the table below. How they compare, how they differ, and the pros and cons of certification will also be discussed. In addition to the certification options listed, it is also worth mentioning that the Canadian Remote Sensing Society (CRSS) is considering offering a certification program in the near future, but information on it is not currently available.
The technical certifications available from geomatics associations (GISCI, CIG, and ASPRS) require at least 3 years professional and work experience to obtain certification. They all require adhering to regulations and specific codes of ethics, and require continued contributions to the professional’s chosen field in order to maintain certified standing and renew certification. The CIG and ASPRS certification programs are Canadian/American equivalents: they offer similar areas of specialization offered, both require 6 years of experience for certification at the professional level and 4 required references, and both last for 5 years. The CIG, ASPRS, and AOLS certifications all require choosing a specific area of specialization for registration.
There are differences to be aware of for each of the available certifications. Out of the available certifications, the GISP certification available from the GISCI is the most widely known designation and is internationally recognized. It is also more specifically catered to GIS. It is worth noting that the CIG, ASPRS, and AOLS certifications offer specializations in GIS, but they cater largely to areas of geomatics other than GIS, particularly photogrammetry. The AOLS Ontario Land Information Professional (OLIP) Certificate of Registration designation is unique to the province of Ontario and involves going through an internment period called a Term of Articles with a designated OLIP or Ontario Land Surveyor in order to gain appropriate training and experience. CIG certification, unlike the other certifications, does not require taking an exam. Esri Technical Certification is a software-specific certification, and only provides recognition in skills related to Esri software–Esri does not provide professional certification.
Pros and Cons of Certification
The subject of whether or not GIS certification is worth pursuing is discussed in a previously written article. Some additional points to both sides of the argument are listed below:
- Certification provides recognition of high achievement amongst a wide network of peers
- May open doors for career advancement as a result of peer recognition and networking
- Gives incentive for professionals to continue maintaining a high standard of achievement
- GIS certifications are not very well known or recognized–the power and recognition of holding certification depends on its reputation and recognition within the geomatics community
- Certification encourages a very specialized career path that may restrict one’s career options
- Some kinds of certification may hold more power or recognition in some fields more than others (such as photogrammetry or remote sensing)
- Applying for and maintaining certification requires a lot of work and professional dedication, especially outside of the scope of one’s job–this may not be possible or desirable for everyone
- All certifications are costly and feasibility of applying for and maintaining certification must be considered; travel may also be required in many cases to take the exam components (especially for the American certifications)
- Software-specific certification (like the Esri Technical Certification) is only good for that particular type of software, and is version-specific–it becomes obsolete in a matter of years
An Individual Decision
In summary, there are various kinds of GIS certification available for GIS professionals. They help the GIS professional to continue to strive for high achievement, provide national and international recognition amongst peers, and can provide a competitive edge in the competition for jobs. However, they benefit some individuals more than others–certification is not for everyone and requires thorough consideration.