GIS Certified–To Be or Not to Be?

Ελληνική Έκδοση

There has been a lot of talk recently about the relative virtues (or not) of GIS Certification. Especially after the GIS Certification Institute announced they are considering to add a testing component to their certification process and invited comments on their proposal. A few weeks back, ESRI announced the launch of their technical certification program. The GIS Certification topic was always a controversial one, sure to create a heated debate amongst GIS professionals.

Closer to home, the Surveying Engineers Association of Northern Greece (ΣΔΑΤΜΒΕ), recently signed an agreement with the ACTA Certification Center on the joint issue of GIS Professional Certifications. Having taken part in this effort from the Surveying Engineers side, I would like to share some thoughts on this whole Certification issue leaving aside product-specific certifications like ESRI’s.

From one hand, I understand the views saying that it is very difficult to create a one-fits-all  “GIS Certification”. The GIS domain  is so vast, with different applications, uses and technologies that change and evolve at a breaking pace, that the idea of certifying someone as an expert or a professional is likely to change as each year passes.

Having said that, I believe that some sort of certification is very important for individuals who initially started working in non-GIS related industries but their job function evolved, demanding more and more ‘spatial’ skills. An example would be people in marketing research who would now need to use geodemographics and spatial analysis.

A GIS Certification in those cases would be very useful for establishing a base line of skills. GIS certified individuals should be able to have a thorough understanding of spatial issues both in theoretical and practical level and be able to manage spatial projects. This was also the thinking behind the GIS Certification by the Surveying Engineer Association and ACTA as mentioned above.

For people with formal GIS qualifications and substantial work experience, I would be more in favor of specific industry related certifications or -more correctly-accreditations, such as a “GIS in Transportation” or “Environmental GIS”.

And then of course there is the issue of the assessment process.  Portfolio review only or including an exam component as well? Again, my opinion is that it depends on the kind of certification/accreditation. When talking about  general GIS Certification I would argue that an exam component is not only useful but required. But for a specialist certification, a peer review and portfolio assessment would be the way to go as a much more objective and straight-forward process.

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