Professionalism in GIS: International Aspects of the Certification Debate
What constitutes a certified GIS professional? What standards should the GIS industry hold its members accountable to if they wish to assert the title, “GIS Analyst”? This article considers these questions by examining issues surrounding GIS certification based on relevant literature along with the author’s personal experiences in the professional GIS world.
Standardizing GIS began in the early 1990s, largely in the United States, and spread to other countries over time. As of today, there is no international layout agreed upon by GIS users at large for who is and is not an expert in their field. The author distinguishes between licensure and certification in that, “Certification is…designed to recognize expertise, while licensure is designed to guard against incompetence” (Mulaku, 348). The author then mentions how most professionals distinguish themselves by displaying an insignia or designatory letters indicating one’s qualification and that GIS is unique in the multi-professional and multidisciplinary unions it ties: Geographers, cartographers, surveyors, environmentalists, computer scientists, etc. some with degrees, some without, all entering a field that is still relatively fresh and shifting.
The article points out that there do exist documents asserting recommended skill sets for those practicing GIS, such as the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM) put out by the US Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration, as well as the fact that academic training in GIS is offered in thousands of institutions of higher education world-wide. The varied skill sets needed to have a strong command of GIS include familiarity with GIS operating systems (ArcMap for example), statistical prowess, analytical skills, sometimes programming, project management, and database management. This is why professional certification is such a challenge. It’s difficult to find people with a developed skillset so broad and varied.
Ultimately, the author advocates for one of the several highly regarded GIS certification institutions in existence currently to establish an international status quo that GIS participants wanting to call themselves professionals need to meet. From a student’s perspective taking GIS currently it appears that providing evidence of your skill set is the most reputable means by which one can appeal to potential employers: a portfolio of maps demonstrating one’s competence in Arc Map, the ability to navigate programs like Microsoft Excel and Access, keen intellect in choosing which information to display and what interpretations can be drawn from the cornucopia of data out there; this is the Wild West of GIS abilities to sling until a unanimous certification is established.
Mulaku, Galcano Canny. (2013, August). Professionalism in GIS: International Aspects of the Certification Debate. Journal o f Geographic Information System, 5, (347-353).