Do I really need GISP Certification?

There are two trains of though on how a person who practices GIS as their career should validate their credentials. Everyone is familiar with the terms GISP (Geographic Information Systems Professional) offered by GISCI (The GIS Certification Institute) and the ESRI Technical Certification Exam offered by ESRI (Environmental Sciences Research Institute). These are the types of certifications available in our industry that are designed to make us stand out from our peers and put our names of the top of the resume list, right?

But, does it really help and is it really worth it is what everyone is asking. In order to understand which one is right for you, or maybe both, one must look at where each one takes its position on what the certification means and how it will affect their career path. They are two completely different schools of thought on what it means to be a certified professional in the GIS field. One I find is based in theory and understanding while the other is a practical measure of a particular software and the user skillset, but you be the judge.

Let’s look at the GISP first. This is a test based certification that measures your knowledge, skills and abilities in the field of GIS using a Core Technical Examination. It focuses on these core competencies:

  • Conceptual Foundations
  • Cartography & Visualization
  • GIS Design Aspects & Data Modeling
  • GIS Analytical Methods
  • Data Manipulation

Geospatial Data It looks at all aspects of different technologies and the science behind how a GIS operates outside of a specific software. It holds in high regard a Code of Ethics that must be abided by and a minimum set of qualifications that need to be met for consideration. These are:

  • Have 4 years equivalent full-time geospatial experience
  • Meet the Portfolio Requirements
  • Take and pass the GISCI Geospatial Core Technical Knowledge Exam
  • Complete all requirements within 6 years from start of application process

The ESRI certification offers a comprehensive exam that focuses solely on the demonstration of the operator or users capabilities as it relates to the specific GIS software offered by ESRI, ArcGIS, and updated when there is a ten percent change in content from one version to another. It is offered at various levels. These are specifically designed to highlight how much ESRI users know of about the functionality of a software license level and how to use the tools available and the amount of experience in the industry. ESRI considers it a “best practices” guideline for implementation.

These are offered at three levels of skill:

  • Entry
  • Associate
  • Professional

The Exam is also offered at three domains of software deployment:

  • Desktop
  • Developer (Only Available for Associate and Professional)
  • Enterprise (Only Available for Associate and Professional)

Some definable and notable differences can be seen when one evaluates their options in choosing a certificate to pursue. The GISP Certification will expire and requires recertification every three years. To recertify, one does not have to achieve nearly as many accomplishments to acquire the original certification, but must maintain an active career in the GIS community through continuing education, experience, and contributions. The considerations to ask one’s self about this certification is more along the line of a commitment to the field of GIS and helping develop and build a community with a shared code of ethics, which requires significant time for the obtainer.

An ESRI certification does not expire and is very useful to have when searching employers who use this technology. The exams however, do become relic as new versions are release and the exam for that license version is retired. So where does that leave a person with a 10.0 certification whose company is now operating on 10.3, one might ask. It leaves them right back where they started because the exam represents the knowledge required to operate at a 10.0 level and new tools and redesigns are constantly being offered up by ESRI. Their software is an ever changing landscape with a new push to move everything to Pro. The question is then, Is my ESRI Desktop Certification good enough for where my career is at now and can it meet my needs in the future?

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