Certification in GIS

Caitlin Dempsey


Certification in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a professional credential that demonstrates an individual’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in the field of GIS.

What institutions offer certification in GIS?

In terms of GIS certification, there are three recognized ones:

  1. GIS Professional (GISP): The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) offers the GISP certification. It’s based not only on educational attainment and professional experiences in GIS but also on contributions to the profession, such as publications and conference presentations.
  2. Esri Technical Certification: Esri is one of the leading providers of GIS software, and their certification demonstrates proficiency in a specific aspect of their software.
  3. ASPRS Certification: The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing offers certification in several areas of GIS, photogrammetry, and remote sensing.

These certifications typically require passing a comprehensive exam and, often, demonstrating a certain level of work experience in the GIS field.

The goal is to ensure that certified individuals have a comprehensive understanding of the principles, concepts, technology, and applications of GIS. It’s a way to demonstrate to employers or clients that the individual has the knowledge and skills necessary to perform high-level work in the field of GIS.

GIS Professional (GISP)

One prominent certification is the Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP), provided by the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI). This is the oldest and most well-known GIS certification.

Obtaining a GISP is a two-part process. One part of the process is the portfolio which is meant to showcase the applicants’ educational achievements, professional experience, and contributions to the profession, such as conference presentations and publications.

The second part of the process is the GISCI Geospatial Core Technical Knowledge Exam which tests the applicants knowledge of broader GIS concepts.

To maintain the GISP status, certified professionals are required to recertify every three years, ensuring they stay updated with the evolving GIS landscape.

Esri Technical Certification

Esri offers a wide range of technical certifications focused on their software applications. These certifications demonstrate an individual’s skills and proficiency in specific aspects of Esri’s software, from desktop and developer to enterprise use.

Esri’s certification program includes multiple levels: Foundation, Associate, Professional, and Speciality. The goal is to enable GIS professionals to demonstrate their expertise in different areas of Esri’s software suite.

Obtaining an Esri certification often requires passing a thorough examination designed to test the applicant’s knowledge and skills in utilizing Esri’s GIS software.

Rolled out January 1, 2004, GISCI is the site for information on how to become GISP certified: GIS Certification Institute

ASPRS certification

The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) offers another recognized GIS certification. ASPRS certification encompasses different areas of GIS, photogrammetry, and remote sensing. The program was developed to assess the knowledge and skills of professionals in these disciplines and offers certification at different levels of expertise.

ASPRS offers two levels of certification: Certified Technologist (ASPRS CT) and Certified Mapping Scientist (ASPRS CMS) and both include specialty areas in Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing, GIS, Lidar, and UAS. Each level has its own set of requirements related to work experience, ethical standards, and continuing education.

GIS certification for career growth

A growing number of GIS professionals are opting to obtain certification, with GISP being the most common choice. Obtaining a certification is regarded by some GIS job seekers as a way to demonstrate to potential employers that they have a certain level of proficiency in GIS.


Kemp, K. K. (2000). Background on International GIS Professional Certification Efforts.

Obermeyer, N. J., & Onsrud, H. J. (1997). Educational Policy and GIS: Accreditation and CertificationUCGIS White Paper on Accreditation and Certification for GIS.


This article was originally written on February 9, 2011 and has since been updated.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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1 thought on “Certification in GIS”

  1. I am the chair of the GIS program at Lawson State Community College in Alabama. I am looking for agencies to certify our GIS program. I have found individual certifications do you know of any program certifications?

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