Sheila Wilson, GISP, executive director of the GIS Certification Institute, and Susan White, GISP, who currently serves on GISCI’s Review and Outreach Committees, provide the top 10 things you should know about becoming a certified GIS professional.
1. The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) oversees the GIS Professional (GISP) certification. GISCI receives its authority to administer the GISP certification program from the following five GIS organizations:
- The Association of American Geographers (AAG)
- The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC)
- The University Consortium of Geographic Information Science (UCGIS)
- The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA)
- The Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA)
These five organizations are the members of GISCI. The Board of Directors is comprised of 10 people - two representatives from each organization - who govern GISCI.
2. In 2012, more than 5,000 people are active GISPs. Employers are requesting or requiring that their employees have their GISP or are working toward their GISP. More job ads are placed every day looking for GISPs. Organizations are issuing Requests for Proposals and Requests for Qualifications requesting or requiring GISPs be on staff for potential contractors.
3. Eight states have recognized and endorsed the GISP: California, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and West Virginia. The GISP has also been endorsed by the National Association of Counties.
4. Being certified as a GISP benefits both applicants and their professional fields of work and study. Surveys of current GISPs show that many have successfully leveraged their certifications to gain promotions, raises and better jobs. Applicants frequently seek certification because they are applying for a job that has requested a GISP.
5. The application appears complicated, but only 22 of the 90 pages require applicant information, and about half of those pages can be completed in a minute or less. Additional application materials include: instruction manual, Code of Ethics, Rules of Conduct.
An online application will be available in the very near future that will allow applicants to access and edit their application at anytime.
If help is needed during the application process, applicants can contact GISCI staff for assistance. Certification is good for five years.
6. Recertification is a much shorter and less complicated process than the original certification. Only five of the 12 pages require applicant information and the entire packet can be completed in 30 minutes to an hour.
7. Recertification requires that applicants achieve 60 hours for minimum points in education and contributions to the profession over five years. This can be achieved at little or no cost with only one hour of education per month. Qualifying activities include: taking classes, attending conferences or workshops, and even online webinars. For example, one webinar per month through Directions Magazine will give applicants all the education points required for recertification. Contributions to the profession can be achieved by doing presentations at conferences or poster presentations.
If conference attendance is not feasible, applicants can do volunteer work. Examples of applicable volunteer activities include: research and mapping for non-profit or service organizations such as Boy Scouts, a local running club, a church or even an incorporated neighborhood association. In addition, applicants can be a guest lecturer at a local library, high school, college or university. Other ideas include organizing a GIS Day, volunteering on a committee for a GIS organization, and much more.
If you need help determining what education and contributions to the profession qualify, contact GISCI at anytime for assistance.
8. In the future, an exam will be required for certification. The Board of Directors created the Exam Working Group, composed of eight industry leaders, to develop and implement an updated GISP certification process that includes an exam component. The Exam Working Group expects to have an exam in place in about three years.
9. GISCI believes that people inherently follow a personal code of ethics. GISPs have chosen to follow a documented Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct. The Code and Rules are considered some of the crowning jewels of GISCI. GISPs are a unique class of people committed to making our world a better place through GIS.
10. Opportunities to help shape the future direction of GISCI and make contact with fellow GISPs around the world are available for GISPs who wish to serve on a variety of committees, such as the Outreach Committee, Review Committee and many other subgroups formed to address policy and training issues.