Career Development

9 GIS Certifications To Advance Your Career (Plus Tips)

October 8, 2021

Many companies and industries use GIS to gather data and improve products and services, creating positions in which professionals need advanced GIS knowledge and experience. GIS certifications can improve your application materials and show your knowledge and skills. If you work with GIS, learning more about relevant certifications and how to earn them can be beneficial. In this article, we explain what GIS is, list nine different certifications you can pursue and provide tips for choosing the best certification for you.

What is GIS?

GIS, or geographic information systems, create and manage maps. GIS uses advanced technology to capture, store and analyze information about the earth's terrains. Cartographers, analysts and other professionals can use GIS to make maps and predict changes in the terrain. GIS can also be useful in locating and tracking points of interest in cities and improving navigation applications.

Related: How To Write a GIS Analyst Resume (With Template and Example)

Types of GIS certifications

Depending on your career path and situation, earning GIS certifications can help you advance your position or increase your earnings. Many certifications require a fee and that you pass an exam before earning the credentials. These are some GIS certifications you can pursue:

1. ASPRS Certification

The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing Certification focuses on your competence, integrity and knowledge. GIS technologists and many other professions can apply for this certification, as it applies to several professions in the remote sensing and photogrammetry industry. You can take the certifying exam with online proctoring as long as you currently work in the industry. To receive your credentials, you may need to complete a written examination and submit reference letters.

2. Esri Technical Certification

Esri offers a variety of certifications that include basic and specialty exams. Consider pursuing associate, entry and professional certifications in the core category, and certifications related to GIS and coding languages in the specialty category. Many of the exams have 90 questions and may require you to pay a fee before enrolling. Before choosing an exam, consider your current experience level, skills, knowledge and the other certifications you may currently hold.

3. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certificate

This certificate from The University of Washing Professional and Continuing Education is an online program that usually takes about 9 months to complete. This is an education-based certification that focuses on cartography and GIS fundamentals. Students who enroll in this course can learn more about understanding raw data, scanning maps, researching, decision making and land-use planning. Environmental science, disaster preparedness and aerial photography are also part of this certificate course.

Related: How To Write a GIS Resume (With Template and Example)

4. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Certification

The University of Houston's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences offers the Geographic Information Systems Certification to those who work with GIS. The program focuses on providing knowledge and skills for GIS users, with an emphasis on geospatial applications. Those who complete this course and certificate may learn more about visualization, modeling, acquisition, storing and analysis.

5. Geospatial Intelligence Analytics

This graduate certification offers information and training in facilitating data analysis and communication. Those who complete this certification review material about analytics, science and intelligence disciplines. You can learn more about remote-sensing systems and how GIS facilitates analysis and communication.

Related: The Top 32 GIS Interview Questions to Prepare for Your Next Interview

6. GIS, Mapping and Spatial Analysis Specialization

This certificate from the University of Toronto focuses on practical skills and GIS knowledge. The certificate course includes an applied learning project in which you can apply GIS practices and data to your own personal interests. In this course, you can learn more about working with satellite imagery, filtering data and analyzing spatial relationships.

7. Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology

The University of Southern California's Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute offers the Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology as an online program. This course can take between 8 and 16 months, depending on if you complete it full-time or part-time. During this program, you can learn information about spatial thinking, geospatial sciences and econometrics.

Related: What Does a GIS Researcher Do? (Duties and Career Outlook)

8. Professional GIS Certificate

This Professional GIS Certificate by Michigan State University's Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences is a 7-week professional development course. During the course, you can learn more about introductory geospatial topics, GIS principles, remote sensing and cartography. The certificate includes online labs for direct experience and technical competency. This course is best for professionals currently working with GIS or recent Geology graduates who want to improve their application materials.

9. Remote Sensing and Earth Observation

This course from the Penn State World Campus teaches the student about drones, lidar and satellites. The course focuses on how you can leverage data, gather information, use remote sensing and understand terrain mapping. Students develop foundational knowledge in image analysis and GIS while completing the work in the 12-credit course.

Related: 10 Careers To Pursue With a Geology Degree

Benefits of GIS certifications

Depending on your career, experience, skills and current position, earning certifications can advance your career and potentially increase your earnings. These are some benefits of earning GIS certifications:

  • Learn new skills and specialties: Some certificate programs are education-based, which means you can complete programs and courses in order to receive the certification. This offers you the opportunity to learn about new and more specific topics related to GIS.

  • Improve your application materials: By listing certifications on your resume you can show your skills, knowledge and commitment to learning. You can also explain the skills and knowledge from your certifications in your cover letter.

  • Increase your job opportunities: Some employers may seek candidates with specific certifications, while others may prefer those with certifications over those without.

  • Validation of your GIS knowledge: Certifications are a great way to assess and validate your current GIS knowledge.

Tips for choosing a GIS certification

GIS certifications can improve your resume and show your commitment to learning and improvement. These are some helpful tips for choosing a GIS certification that works best for you:

  • Consider your current skill and experience level: Different certifications cater to those at different skill levels and with varying degrees of experience. Before you enroll for certification, consider your current level of experience and how the certification may affect your career.

  • Communicate with your manager or team lead: Consider scheduling a meeting with your manager to discuss your position and which certifications can advance your career or improve your chances for promotion.

  • Make and assess your career goals before choosing: Making career goals can help you better understand what your ideal position is and how you want to specialize. Understanding your career path and knowing your goals can help guide you when you choose certifications.

  • Review the material and testing information: Many certifications offer previews of the materials they cover and how they assess your knowledge. If a certification uses a testing method that you don't excel at, consider other certifications instead.


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