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GIS Certification: Is it Worth it?

Posted on February 5th, 2013 at 10:32 AM.

Unlike Canadian surveyors, for example, GIS professionals in Canada are not pressed by law to obtain certification.  This fact has led to one of the more common questions in Geomatics circles: is a GIS certification worth the investment?  This has been the subject of a debate that spans over a decade.  Many of us have accreditation from the schools that we attended. Sometimes it’s a graduate degree or a post graduate diploma. Do we need a certification outside of the ones granted by our Canadian universities and colleges?

The Criticism

There are several key criticisms to GIS certifications.  These include:

  • GIS field is too broad

GIS involves elements from so many preceding disciplines that it is difficult to accurately evaluate the competency of a GIS professional. Our field consists of professionals who have selected from a broad range of education and training options; some of these options may not even include a formal GIS program (a prerequisite for GIS certification).
  • Ever-changing Technology This problem goes hand-in-hand with the professional diversity in our discipline.  The technology we use for GIS projects (merely in general) is constantly changing and expanding.  As GIS is a discipline that will be changing with these technologies, it will be hard to have a consistent standard against which to certify professionals.
  • Nobody Cares (mostly)

    I have never seen a job that required a GIS certification.  So they are not sought after as an indicator of competency or merit.  If they were, everyone would get one.

  • That being said, there are still benefits to having a GIS certification. The benefits of GIS certification


    • Application Qualification

    Employers who have hundreds of applicants from which to create a shortlist may end up using a GIS certification as a way to rank one applicant higher than another.  Having a certification may allow you to stand out against the competition.
  • Employer Confidence

    As GIS is a relatively young field, many employers are cautious about whom to trust as a reliable GIS professional.  Reputation and a robust portfolio can help ease these concerns, but are not as available to younger job-seekers.  This is where being a certified GIS professional can give you a great deal of support.

  • Each one of us will have to make up our own mind when it comes to the benefits of certification.  They can be costly and may require you to join the organisation that gives the certification and maintain membership.

    At the end of the day if  you feel that having a certification will be of benefit to you, then it will.  It might make you feel more confident in your skills and abilities.  Confidence is key when it comes to job seeking and especially geomatics interviews.

    Until a group like the federal or provincial government(s) make it mandatory for GIS employment I don’t see a wide uptake in certifications in the Canadian geomatics community.  However if this was to happen the geomatics industry in Canada would most likely follow.

    The other issue would be marketing the availability and benefits of these certifications.  A quick survey or GoGeomatics social groups indicated the vast majority of young GIS professionals did not know these certifications existed, and if they did know, what benefit they would gain from obtaining them.

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