What is the GISP®?

An individual must have at least 4 years experience, meet the requirements of the Portfolio Review, and pass the GISCI Core Technical Technical Exam in order to be awarded the GISP Certification. However, you can start the process at any time in your career!

A young professional just graduating from a geospatial program at a university or community college might consider starting the process for a GISP Certification by taking the Exam at or just after graduation.  Passing the Exam while your coursework is still fresh and when your testing ability is as good as it will be,  would be an excellent way to differentiate yourself to a potential employer as you start a job search.   Not only will you have demonstrated a measurable skill level, your will also provide a strong indication that you are approaching your career as an aspiring geospatial professional!

You can take the Exam at any time in your career, and you can also register on our site for free to begin your Portfolio Review profile at any time, as well, updating as your career progresses, and submitting whenever you have completed the requirements.  Once you pass the Exam, you have up to six (6) years to meet the Portfolio Requirements without having to start the process over.

  • GISP® is a designation awarded to a certified geographic information systems (GIS) professional that provides him/her a professional distinction in the GIS profession.
  • A geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, or present different types of spatial or geographical data.
  • GISP®  is awarded to an individual that has met the minimum standards for ethics, educational achievement, professional experience, and manner in which he or she contributes back to the profession. 
  • GISP®  is awarded to an individual means that he/she must abide by higher guidelines for ethical behavior. 
  • An individual with a  GISP® continues to educate and reeducate her or himself while preparing for recertification. 
  • An individual with a  GISP® has had their professional background scrutinized and reviewed by the GISCI, an independent, non-profit, third party organization. The Institute is comprised of leading non-profit associations (AAG, NSGIC, UCGIS, GITA, URISA, and GLIS) focused on the application of GIS and geospatial technology. 
  • An individual with a GISP® can reside anywhere in the world;  active GISPs are currently found in all 50 States and 25 foreign countries.
  • An individual with a  GISP® is more than a practitioner of GIS technology. 
  • An individual with a  GISP® is a professional, engaged in the profession and networking with other professionals.
  • Over 90% of current professional either certified or seeking certification have an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn.

The process, effective July 1, 2015,  to obtain a GISP Certification is shown below.  An individual/student can start the application process at any time in her/his career, and has up to six (6) years to complete the application requirements for full GISP Certification before having to start the process over.


  Before we conclude the Program explanation, it is important to discuss the difference among certificates, certification, licensure, and accreditation. GISCI offers a complete certification program.

Certificate: An award given to an individual recognizing completion of an academic or training program consisting of a series of courses. A list of certificate programs at colleges and universities is available at:

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. 

Accreditation: The process of evaluating the academic qualifications or standards of an institution or program of study in accordance with pre-established criteria.

Individuals looking for entry level or advanced training should contact a software provider, college or university, or educational association. The GISCI certification program is a professional recognition program for GIS professionals who have at least 48 months of geospatial experience.

Read the GISCI Policy Statement on GIS Professional Certification

Minimum Requirements for GISP Certification:

  • 4 years full time geospatial experience (an individual can start the application process for GISP while accumulating experience)
  • Take and pass the GISCI Core Technical Exam (can be taken at any time in an individual's career)
  • Complete the requirements for Portfolio Review (online registration for which is free)

Experience is the most important factor in applying skills to real world problems, but Education plays a very important role in providing the knowledge and intellectual maturity required to approach problems and communicate solutions effectively.  In addition, professionals must contribute to the advancement of the profession by donating their skills in professional efforts not designed for individual compensation, but rather to maintain the fundamental health of the Profession (through Contributions).  These standards are applied with a knowledge of the ethics and the ethical conduct required by a Professional working in the geospatial industry.

These groups set the basis for the minimum number of points required in each category.  The minimums are based upon a model GIS Professional who possess the following characteristics: a baccalaureate degree in any field supplemented with a number of courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, and other documented educational activities whose subject matter relates directly to GIS and geospatial data technologies; at least four years of experience in a position that involves spatial data compilation, teaching, etc. (fewer years if in GIS analysis, design, or programming; and more years if in a GIS user position); and a modest record of participating in GIS conferences, publications, or GIS-related events (such as GIS-Day). 

Flexibility is important, of course. GISCI recognizes that there are many professionals who should qualify but do not have the formal background that is currently available to those who are now at the beginning of their careers, and that there are other professionals who have not yet built a record or do not have institutional support to contribute back to the profession.  As a result, points for a variety of different activities within the three categories of Education, Experience, and Contributions allow those non-typical professionals to qualify with different points that add up to equivalent levels. With this in mind, the minimum number of points needed to become a certified GIS Professional as detailed in the three point schedules given below is 150 points.  Thus, all applicants are expected to document achievements valued at a minimum of 150 points. To ensure that applicants have a broad foundation, specific minimums in each of the three achievement categories must be met or exceeded.  These minimums are as follows:

Education: 30 Points
Experience: 60 Points
Contributions: 8 Points

The additional 52 points can be counted from any of the three categories.  The applicant has complete flexibility in deciding how to make up this difference. In other words, the 52 points can be made up from any combination of points from any one (or more) of the categories.



 The presentation GISP- Professional Certification From a Student Perspective was given on November 18, 2015 as part of a GeoTech Center series of webinars.  You can access that recording here:     Professional Certification From a Student Perspective