To obtain the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) certification, which is offered by the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI), individuals must attain a certain number of points through education, professional experience and contributions to the profession. A minimum of 30 educational points are usually required in order to apply for the GIS certification. Points may be earned in three ways: formal degree or certificate program, informal documented educational programs such as workshops and individual GIS-related courses. Attending conferences by professional societies can also help individuals gain points. No exams are necessary to obtain the GIS certification.
Common skills needed by GIS professionals include the ability to record, analyze, and display geographical data. Computer skills in software and databases, cartographic processes, and terrain analysis are also good to possess. The GIS certification point system relies heavily on experience and skills, so being more proficient in these areas may help a GIS professional attain that goal. Points must be documented according to GSICI standards in order to count towards this 30-point minimum. Offering the certification on this basis helps the institute ensure that those certified meet strict standards which go beyond a simple test.
In addition to the educational requirements, a minimum of four years and 60 points of professional GIS experience are generally required to apply for the GIS certification. These points are earned based on the type of position worked as well as the number of years worked. Professional points are split into three tiers. Tier I points are for GIS positions in data analysis, system design, and similar GIS positions, and tier II points are for GIS positions in data compilation, teaching, and terrain analysis. Tier III points are for GIS user positions and individuals who use GIS technology, but not those in the tier I or II positions.
The last step of the GIS certification process is to acquire a minimum of eight points by contributing to the profession. Contributions may include authoring publications, becoming involved in a professional association, and receiving awards. These may be the hardest points to earn for the certification, as a genuine contribution must be made and recognized by a tech’s peers.
The accumulated total needed to apply for the GIS certification is 150 points. It is against the law in many areas to use the title “GIS Professional” (GISP) formally until the certification has been granted, which may take several years. It is, however, generally permissible to use the title “Licensed GIS Tech” or similar titles, so long as proper licensing has been acquired.