Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute

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The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) is an independent, non-profit organization providing the GIS community with a complete certification program. GISCI offers a method of developing value for professionals and employers in the geographic information systems (GIS) profession.


Started on January 1, 2004, GISCI provides a recognition program for established GIS practitioners. It offers a non-examination, portfolio-based system. The process examines applicants' education, professional experience, and ways they have contributed back to the profession. All activities in these three achievement categories are worth points. Minimum levels of points as well as an overall minimum must be submitted to GISCI coupled with appropriate documentation. The portfolio is then reviewed and a final determination is made of the applicant's status. Successful applicants are called Certified Geographic Information Systems Professionals or GISPs.

GISCI and its more than 5500 GISPs will celebrate its first 10 years of existence in 2014!

An exam is in the process of being created to be added to the GISP Process sometime in the first half of 2015.

Executive Director

Scott A. Grams served as the Executive Director of GISCI from its inception on January 1, 2004 until his resignation on May 21, 2008. Wendy Nelson, Executive Director of URISA served as Interim Executive Director until Sheila Wilson GISP was hired on December 1, 2009. Wilson became the first full-time Executive Director and held the position from late 2009 to April 30, 2013. Bill Hodge GISP became Executive Director on May 1, 2013 and continues in that capacity.


GISCI's certification program is based on the following benchmarks:

  • Education: A combination of formal university GIS-related coursework and informal GIS-related training/educational conference experience.
  • Experience: 4-years in GIS application and/or data development (or equivalent).
  • Contributions: Modest involvement with publications, professional associations, conference participation, workshop instruction, awards, etc.
  • Code of Ethics: Appropriate and ethical guidelines for professional practice and conduct.
  • Recertification: 5-year certification cycle that requires further earned credit in the benchmark areas to ensure proficiency.

Purpose of GISCI

The purpose of the GIS Certification Institute is to provide those professionals who work in the field of geographic information systems with a formal process that will:

  • Allow them to be recognized by their colleagues and peers for having demonstrated exemplary professional practice and integrity in the field.
  • Establish and maintain high standards of both professional practice and ethical conduct.
  • Encourage aspiring GIS professionals to work towards certification for the purpose of professional development and advancement.
  • Encourage established GIS professionals to continue to hone their professional skills and ethical performance even as GIS technology changes

Purpose of Certification - General

  • Certification is career recognition through the evaluation and approval of individuals engaged in a specific occupation or profession. Professional certification has expanded significantly over the past decades.
  • Certification as a general practice is offered by national membership associations representing a particular career. In GISCI's case, this is for a geospatial professional.
  • Certification can provide recognition and satisfaction for a life-time in a career activity. Individuals can advance through various levels of certification, receive honors and recognition, at the same time improve their performance, and increase customer or client satisfaction.
  • Through preparation, instruction, procedural guidelines, and ethics statements; individuals with certification improve themselves and create more productive careers.
  • Most certification programs also have renewal requirements that include continuing education to ensure that participants remain current in their field.
  • In addition, once certification is received it can indicate certain capabilities to clients and customers.

Professional Designation

A GISP is a certified geographic information systems (GIS) Professional who has met the minimum standards for ethical conduct and professional practice as established by the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI).

GISCI Member Organizations

GISCI is a joint effort of a consortium of GIS-related member associations. The member organizations appoint individuals to serve on the GISCI Board of Directors. Members must be tax exempt organizations or governmental entities related to spatial technology. The Board of Directors oversees the operation and management of the organization and is the governing arm of GISCI. The GISCI Executive Director reports directly to the Board of Directors and is responsible for running the day-to-day, as well as planning for the long-term admisistration of the organization.

  • The Association of American Geographers (AAG)
  • The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC)
  • The University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS)
  • The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA)
  • The Geographic Information and Technical Society (GITA)
  • The Geographic and Land Information Society (GLIS)

Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct

The Code of Ethics presents a set of objectives toward which GISPs must continually strive. The Rules of Conduct is a set of implementing laws of professional practice that seek to express the primary examples of ethical behavior consistent with the Code of Ethics. Both the Code and the Rules govern ethical professional practice standards, and violations of each may be brought before the GISCI as an ethics issue.

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