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Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certifications and Professional Affiliations

Chris has worked in a business leadership role for the past 15+ years. He likes to share his experiences with others to help them learn.


The fast growing field of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology is highly competitive. GIS practitioners who are looking to improve their career prospects need to look towards obtaining certifications and becoming affiliated with professional organizations. Having just one of the following certifications can help to differentiate you from others in your field. There are several certifications available and any of the following would look great on a resume while also helping to advance your skills and knowledge.

Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Technical Certifications

The Environmental Systems Research Institute, or ESRI as it is more commonly known, is a power player in the field of GIS technology. ESRI’s ArcGIS software is pretty much the standard in both government and enterprise GIS solutions. ESRI is to GIS what Microsoft is to operating systems and Google is to the web. Therefore, having certifications from this company will really help you to advance in your GIS career.

ESRI offers a number of certifications that will suit a variety of needs and interests. As of this writing, there are three primary certification categories, each with their own levels or specialties.

First is the ArcGIS Desktop Certifications. These have 3 levels including Entry, Associate, and Professional. Next is the Enterprise Certifications which have two options including an Administration Professional and a Geodata Management Professional. Finally, ESRI offers what they call “Specialty Certifications” which include the following options: Online Administration, API for Javascript, API for Python, and Utility Networks.

All of these certifications are offered online and are open to the public. In order to obtain the certification you must pass an exam and pay a fee. All core exams cost $250 USD. All specialty exams, cost $150 USD, and you must already be certified in a non-specialty category to sit for a specialty

For more information on ESRI’s certification options, please visit the following URL:

GISP (GIS Professional) Certification

The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) exists to give professionals who work in the field of geographic information systems a formal, highly valued, and streamlined process to become a nationally recognized GIS Professional. Becoming a GISP (GIS Professional) is actually quite challenging. Because it is so difficult to obtain, it is also more highly valued and coveted than other certification options.

GISCI has very high standards for their certification; the application process is lengthy and requires an applicant to prepare a portfolio that outlines their experience, education, and contributions to the GIS Field. Participation in GIS conferences and trade shows can help to secure some experience to aid the application process. You may also need to volunteer for GIS Day or at a trade show as well. Other ways to improve your portfolio include having articles and/or maps published in trade magazines or academia.

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Once you have a completed portfolio, you can then prepare and submit an application to become a recognized GIS Profesisonal. Submitting your application to become a GISP with GISCI will cost $100 as of this writing. However, after this step, the process to becoming a GISP is still not complete.

In addition to having a complete portfolio and application, GISP candidates must also pass a comprehensive exam. The exam is 4 hours long and has 100 questions that test your knowledge in 10 categories ranging from cartography and visualization to database management and systems design. The exam will cost $250 USD for residents in North America or $300 USD for residents elsewhere in the world.

For more information on how to obtain this highly coveted certification, please visit the following URL:

With certifications in GIS, the world is in your hands.

With certifications in GIS, the world is in your hands.

ASPRS Technical Certifications

The Imaging & Geospatial Information Society (formerly the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing), or ASPRS, offers several certifications in the fields of GIS, mapping, and remote sensing technologies. As a GIS professional, the most important certifications offered by ASPRS are probably the Certified Mapping Scientist – GIS/LIS and the Certified GIS/LIS Technologist. The other certifications that this organization offers are focused on other fields.

As with other certifications, becoming a Certified GIS/LIS Mapping Scientist or Technologist requires meeting a minimum number of years of experience and education. In addition, when applying for the certification you also have to have at least 4 professional references and pass a comprehensive, written exam. Once you have become certified though ASPRS, you will need to maintain the certification by continuing to study and training for the remainder of your career.

For more information on how to obtain this highly coveted certification, please visit the following URL:

Training, Study Materials, and Professional Resources through URISA

If you find yourself in need of training or other tips to help prepare for the above mentioned certifications, I encourage you to become a member of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association or URISA. This professional organization has a large library of online resources for people looking to improve their GIS skills and knowledge base. Not only do they host webinars, conferences, and workshops, but URISA also has many technical publications that can help GIS professionals grow.

Learn, Train, and Study GIS through GITA

Another professional organization that can help you with your GIS career aspirations is the Geospatial Information & Technology Association, or GITA. GITA has a library of webinars and conference proceedings that can be viewed online.

© 2021 Christopher Wanamaker

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