Certification FAQs

If you have questions about completing the application, please read the Procedures Manual or view the A Step by Step Guide to Completing an Application for GIS Professional Certification available here

Q: Is GISCI certification tax deductible? 

A: The application fees are not a charitable contribution. Whether it is deductible for an individual or a company depends on one's particular situation. You should consult your tax advisor for more information.  


Q:  I have a GISP Certification. What will I pay when I recertify?

A: You can recertify anytime between now and your expiration date, and you will pay $95/year for each of a 3-year recertification period or a single payment of $285 for three years.


Q:  Can I recertify before that time?

A: Yes, you can recertify any time before your expiration.  You do not need to wait until your recertification date.  The exam is not required for recertification.


Q:  I am a student, and I will not be able to qualify for GISP Certification for several years.  What are my options to pursue the certification?

A: You can start the application process for a GISP Certification at any stage of your career!   Registering on the site is free, and when you are ready to start the official process, you will have 6 years to complete all requirements.  You can start the process by taking the exam, after you have paid the $ 100 application fee and the $ 250 exam fee.   After you pass the exam, you will have up to 6 years from the time of your application to obtain the 4 years full-time geospatial experience and to submit and have your portfolio reviewed and approved.


Q: Can I use the "GISP" designation without having applied for certification?

NO!  The "GISP" designations along with "GISCI" are protected as federal registered trademarks owned by the GIS Certification Institute, which reserves all rights.  The Institute takes the duty of protecting the GISP credential very seriously.  If you have not been personally certified as a GISP by the Institute, then you cannot legally use the GISP designation, either as part of your signature or on your resume.  Any person found to have used the GISP designation without having been previously granted use of that credential by the GIS Certification Institute will be subject to legal action under federal copyright and trademark code.  In addition, such violation shall subject the person to disciplinary action under the GISCI Code of Ethics for misrepresentation of qualifications and/or any other applicable grounds.


The GISP certification is good for three (3) years after one's application is approved. GISPs must renew within three years.  GISPs who do not renew within that time, or within the one eyar grace period allowed, cannot use the GISP designation until their GISP is current.  Any person found to have used the GISP designation without current credentials issued by the GIS Certification Institute will be subject to legal action under federal copyright and trademark code.  In addition, such violation shall subject the person to disciplinary action under the GISCI Code of Ethics for misrepresentation of qualifications and/or any other applicable grounds.

Q: GISCI offers a certification program.  What is the difference between certification, licensure, accreditation, and certificates?

  • Certification: A process, often voluntary, by which individuals who have demonstrated a level of expertise in the profession are identified to the public and other stakeholders by a third party. Designed to recognize expertise.
  • Licensure: The granting of a license to practice a profession. Often regulated by states and indoctrinated in legislation. Designed to guard against incompetence.
  • Certificate: An award given to an individual recognizing completion of an academic or training program. A list of certificate programs at colleges and universities is available at: URISA List of Colleges/Unversites
  • Accreditation: The process of evaluating the academic qualifications or standards of an institution or program of study in accordance with pre-established criteria.

The GeoTech Center also keeps an excellent map listing of geospatial programs available around the country:

GeoTechCenter Geospatial Education Program Finder

Q: Why was a certification program created?

A: Professional certification was a topic of discussion within the GIS community for many years. In 1999, the URISA organization formed a committee to explore GIS certification within the profession and society. This work lead to the creation of the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI), an independent institute supported by representatives from national and international GIS professional organizations. The GISCI recognizes the following important reasons why GIS certification is needed:


  • To establish GIS as a profession and meet the criteria of a ‘profession’ as established by DL Pugh, and others.
  • To provide a means for attaining recognition by allied professions and colleagues that the GIS professional has demonstrated professional competence and integrity in the field
  • To encourage long-term professional development that will help existing professionals maintain currency in GIS technology and methods
  • To ensure ethical behavior by members of the profession and provide a basis for judging the validity of allegations or complaints against GIS practitioners
  • To assist prospective employers assess and hire GIS professionals
  • To ensure that those who produce geographic information have a core competency of knowledge
  • To assist aspiring GIS professionals choose their educational opportunities wisely
  • To strengthen the GIS industry.

Q: How does this differ from the GIS/LIS Certification Programs offered by The American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)?

A. ASPRS's certification process uses an examination that includes questions from the allied sciences of photogrammetry, remote sensing, surveying, earth science, and physics. GISCI provides a portfolio based program because a GIS examination is not considered feasible until: 1) an established curriculum is adopted by the GIS academic community and 2) a body of professionals is established to design a test in accord with the curriculum. With UCGIS efforts now focused on the completion of a GIS Body of Knowledge and over 800 individuals now certified as GISPs, the development of a GIS Professional examination will become more feasible.


While both ASPRS and the GISCI require professional experience, the GISP certification requires the added demonstration of 'Contributions to the Profession'. GISCI feels it is important to acknowledge and support GIS professionals who contribute to the benefit of their community through the sharing of their professional knowledge, skills and experience. Thus GISCI certification signifies a commitment to the profession and benefits individuals and their employers, as well as the GIS professional community and public.

ASPRS and GISCI recertification requirements also differ. GISCI balances the recertification application so that continuing education, further experience and additional contributions to the profession are required. The minimum required points for the 'Contributions to the Profession' section increases after initial certification. This challenges GISPs to stay involved and continue to help their colleagues and the public. The GISCI supports GISPs in furthering their contributions by providing opportunities for participation via the GIS-Eye Newsletter, GISP application review, the GISCI Outreach Committee, GIS Ethics Committee, and the GIS Professional Mentoring Program.

Finally, GISCI is very different from a professional association. Most GIS-related professional associations focus on the application of GIS to a specific discipline or sector of private/public practice. As such, no one association has the perspective necessary to thoroughly and completely define the profession. The GISCI was created as a federation of GIS professional associations capable of representing the broad spectrum of the profession. GISCI does not spend resources holding conferences or running workshops. Certified GIS professionals review certification applications and maintain the program for other GIS professionals. In addition, GISCI membership is limited to organizations so there are no certification fee 'discount' incentives to promote membership within any specific association.

Q: Who benefits from certifying GIS professionals?

A: Many benefit from certifying GISPs, the first being the public, industry and the individual.  The public benefits because the public sector is one of the largest (if not the largest) employment sectors using GIS technology today, it is felt that the nation’s taxpayers deserve assurance that competent and ethical GIS professionals are being hired with their public tax dollars.  Certification is one of the means governments (as well as other employers) can use to identify the most qualified individuals for GIS positions.
Citizens are possibly the largest group of people that can be affected by the use of GIS in the operations of government, so it is expected that GIS certification can assure the appropriate application of GIS technology to improve their quality of life.
Young people can be made aware of the GIS career and what it takes to become a GIS professional through the formal definition of the profession that certification provides.
Existing and aspiring GIS professionals will also benefit from GIS professional certification because it can be a means to document their expertise and thus set themselves apart from other potential candidates for the GIS position or salary level they seek.
Employers benefit in two ways. Making the GISP the benchmark by which prospective applicants are hired allows employers to quickly assess and choose between multiple applicants.  The employer has a more significant benefit in hiring GISPs because GISPs have been evaluated by an independent organization and found to have met the industry established educational, professional, contribution, and ethical requirements.
Another significant benefit to employers is that they meeting established industry practices. This is critical to companies who must comply with federal, state, and local regulatory requirements.  Meeting industry standards such as hiring GISPs diminishes the likelihood that a company would face potential negligence charges in times of crises.
GISPs benefit because, the more GISPs, the more recognition within industry and government entities.  More recognition leads to a stronger standing within and outside the GIS industry.
The GIS industry benefits because those within the industry are recognized for their knowledge and expertise.

Q: Why not test an individual's knowledge of GIS skills to certify competence as other professions do?

A: When the GISP was first developed, the general agreement on the skills needed for the GIS profession and the basic body of knowledge on which to build an exam had not yet been achieved.  Over the past ten years, the GIS profession as a whole has worked to build up the body of knowledge required to build an exam. With the maturation of the industry and the development of the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM) adopted by the Department of Lobor, the GIS Certification Institute is now creating the GISCI Core Knowledge Technical Exam and expects to have it in place in the second half of 2015.  The exam will be added to the existing portfolio requirement.  This will show that GISPs have the theoretical knowledge of GIS along with the necessary experience and education.  The exam is being created based on a job analysis, as well as the GIS&T Body of Knowledge and the GTCM.

The exam questions will come from the following content areas:

Knowledge Category                             Weight
Conceptual Foundations                         12%
Cartography & Visualization                    14%
GIS Design Aspects & Data Modeling        29%
GIS Analytical Methods                           17%
Data Manipulation                                  15%
Geospatial Data                                     13%

Study materials will be prepared and will be available prior to exam launch.

Q:  I have a GIS Certificate from an educational program I recently completed.  Why isn't that good enough to be certified?

A: Congratulations on your achievement!  Professionalism is more than just an education.  It also includes professional experience, contributions back to the profession, and ethical behavior. 

Q:  Must I be or become a member of URISA, AAG, NSGIC, GITA or UCGIS in order to become GIS-certified?

A: No, membership in organizations at the international, national, state, and local level are not required to be certified, however, we consider that a professional, engaged in contributing to the advancement and strengthening of his or her profession will naturally want to maintain an active membership in some organization of value to that individual.  Membership in organizations is one of the many activities that counts in the contributions to the profession section of the application.  We encourage you to become active in an organization because it helps us strengthen the industry.

Q: Will I get a raise if I get this certification?

A: Maybe or maybe not.  The likelihood of getting a raise increases as the stature of the GISP grows.  Internal surveys of current GISPs showed the 7% received a salary increase while another 30% received either a one-time salary bonus or promotion. It should be noted, however, that urban and regional planners who became certified have been found to have salaries that are 27.5% higher than planners who are not certified, according to a 1996 survey by the American Planning Association’s Planning Advisory Service (See: Morris, Marya. 1996. “1996 Planners Salaries and Employment Trends”. Planning Advisory Service Report #464. American Planning Association. Chicago.) 

Q: How does this certification program compare to the new licensing program for surveyors?

A: Certification programs and licensing programs are used for different purposes.  In general, certification of individuals is a voluntary means to establish professional and ethical standards whereas the licensure of professionals is a requirement meant to protect the public from any harm that an incompetent professional may cause.  In addition, licensure is administered by a governmental body (states, in the case of surveyors) while certification is usually administered by one’s professional peers.  See the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES) web site for additional information on the Model Law for the surveyor’s role in GIS: 

Q: Are there other certification programs for GIS professionals?

A: Yes, but they are closely linked to a specific discipline – at least in the United States.  The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) adopted a certification program, “Certified Mapping Scientist, GIS/LIS” in 1991, and the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) currently has a certification for “Cadastral Mapping Specialist”, although it is not focused on GIS technology.  Internationally, there are a number of related efforts and programs underway to evaluate the quality of GIS professionals.  

Q: Do I need this certification if I use GIS in my job as a (planner, landscape architect, engineer, forester, real estate analyst, etc.)?

A: No, but you may still find it of value as a means of identifying your skill in this area. This certification program is for those professionals whose primary responsibilities involve the design, implementation, management, or support of GIS applications.  If you possess the skill level indicated by the requirements of the Certification, you should consider getting your GISP. 

Q: Should I pursue this certification if I am a frequent user of GIS in my job as a (planner, landscape architect, engineer, forester, real estate analyst, etc.)?

A: Yes, see above. 

Q: I’m a professional (planner, landscape architect, engineer, forester, real estate analyst, etc.) and spend most of my time doing GIS analyses and assisting others use GIS.  Should I pursue this certification?

A: Yes. There is likely both a prefessional as well as personable benefit to you by becoming certified.  Many emplloyers pay more for geospatial professionals with GISPs.