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GISP Certification, revisited

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#1
Brian Moran

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We've talked about this in the past here, but I'm wondering if GISP has since gained any momentum.

My stance on GISP from the beginning has been that it's a bit of a scam. It's an expensive application fee and in return you receive some letters after your name that indicate you've been in the GIS field for a while, something an employer can clearly see from a quick scan of your resume. There is no test/exam, like for a real professional cert. The Contributions to Profession section obviously favors the "teacher's pets" of the GIS world, those who submit lots of maps for awards, volunteer at GIS day booths, bring posters to every conference, join as many clubs and associations as possible, etc. Not all of us have time to do that stuff, especially if we are actually WORKING in our GIS jobs.

However, in this recent article the concensus seems to be that GISP will gain momentum in the future and end up being a more frequent requirement in the job market.

Why is this gaining acceptance? Clearly it is a brilliant marketing scheme: my colleague got a GISP, so I want one now too-- the demand supports itself thanks to professional egos-- but are we going to let it become the norm? And who is getting that $250 application fee?

#2
Matthew Hampton

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Great thread!

I am guessing that those who have not bent over to check the GISP boxes would agree with you that it's just a self-legitimating 'scam' but I'm also wondering if it's worth the effort. I am curious to hear what some GISPers think? Is this a professional hurdle that, once on the other side - job opportunities and personal wealth start cascading upon you, or is it a meaningless waste of time and resource that just satisfies the need to show excessive pride in ones achievements?

Initially I am wondering if this field really 'needs' certification. Can you show me a persistent problem of rouge geospatial analysts producing faulty data that threatens safety and livability? Does a GIS certification process really solve any tangible problems?

From a practical standpoint I think you have to balance the investment.

co-cartographic creator of boringmaps.com


#3
David Medeiros

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It always seemed like a bit of an ego thing to me. I think it was conceptualized to target GIS academics who may not have a body of practical work to demonstrate their background or established professionals who learned on the job and don't have an educational history in GIS or geography.

Now that's not to say it won't become a standard, useful certification, but I don't see where getting the GISP cert would trump demonstrable experience or even a GIS masters in terms of helping you get work... with the possible exception of hands off upper management or academic jobs.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#4
dsl

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Not to create an argument, and maybe I'm just misinterpreting what you are saying, but I don't think it is fair of you to label professionals who attend/present at conferences as "teacher's pets" and not people doing real work. For one conferences can be very valuable, good conferences can be invigorating, bad ones boring and tedious.

Anyway, I don't disagree with your overall point. The GISP certificate would be much more valuable if there was an exam, and similar to engineer certificates, the professional had to demonstrate that they are active in the field to maintain their certificate. I suppose the value behind it is, an employer can assume consistency for individuals with the certificate? Or at least know they would have a certain level of accomplishments. Although, I don't know if there is a review of the quality of the work when you submit an application. With that said, I have yet to see a job advert that requires one, or even has it listed as a desireable. The certification is also mostly a US thing, since I haven't heard mention of it much while in Australia.

Cheers,
David

#5
Gretchen Peterson

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Geoprofessionals with years of training and on-the-job knowledge ought to share that knowledge with others, no? Certainly it should not be held in a vacuum for others to discover independently. The pace of growth would be extremely slow if that were the case. I can't think of any professions where the practitioners withhold knowledge from one another. I also can't think of any professions where the practitioners think it is beneath them to teach young members of society something about what they do.

The strongest aspect of the GISP cert., by far, is the Contributions to the Profession section.

#6
Brian Moran

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Gretchen, I understand your point and it is a good one. I'm not advocating that none of us contribute to the discovery/dissemination of knowledge in our field, but some of us are more able to do so due to the nature of our jobs and employers than others. Some of us are in positions to write, research, and publish information that advances GIS technology; the rest of us are welcome to read that research, learn from it and employ it in our work. Is conference attendance and presentations the best indicator that we are "keeping up" with the latest thinking in our field? I don't think it is. Take the ESRI User Conference, for instance. Many of the best presentations and all of the important software announcements are available online soon after the conference. The main advantage of actually attending the conference is the networking and hobnobbing over fish tacos and margaritas.

Further, I think that the discovery of actual research-based knowledge in our field is not happening at most GIS conferences. As working professionals, it is nice to make presentations at conferences to share our work and the techniques we are using, but very, very few such presentations are introducing new or unique methods or theories. Our field is as much a craft or skill as it is a science. In my opinion, most conference presentations and posters simply prove one's own skills to colleagues and potential employers. Attending and even presenting at conferences doesn't equate to contributing to the field of GIS. It can, but usually doesn't. I don't think conference attendance is the best indicator of contribution to the GIS field.

And I question why contribution to the field should be a GISP qualification. As GIS professionals working in private industry or serving the public in government jobs, is it our responsibility to further the body of GIS knowledge? If so, what is the role of academia? And does our level of contribution to this body of knowledge affect how qualified we are to do our jobs? I can guarantee that most GISPs have contributed no unique knowledge to the field of GIS, yet they have qualified through posters/conference attendance, which in most cases do nothing but further their own name/career.

It is an interesting topic, because the assumption that URISA is making-- that GISPs should be contributing to the field of GIS-- assumes GIS and the jobs it generates is a scientific field. In my opinion, it is more of a skill. GIS is a tool. The distinction between a good and bad GIS analyst is in how they use that tool. There really isn't any new science GIS analysts can discover. The actual advances in our field are accomplished by software programmers and data collection engineers, and within the various scientific fields to which GIS can be applied.

#7
James Hines

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Does this not sound familiar: if a company wants to hire you as a freelance data entry operator claiming that they want to pay you at least $50 per hour just for a few hours of work but turn around & want you to pay for your application & a membership fee per month in almost every case turns out to be a scam. Why on Earth would I want to pay for a membership & or certification fee just to state I got experience. First of all my college diploma is my certification & my resume is my experience.

Imagine if it was a requirement to pay high fees every year or worse every month just to keep your certification. More money out of your pocket, & it's bad enough the vast majority of governments are bad governments & like to collect your tax dollars. And because you can not pay the monthly fees to legally claim your a doctor, a cartographer, a engineer you are instantly jobless, & when you find employment again "it's do you like fries with that sir?"

And when we talk about testing professionals to see if they got the knowledge to continue in the field what about higher end fields such as medical doctors? And what about those people who do not test well but can do the job correctly when they are not tested? It's a catch 22 where it's weeding out individuals who are simply poor test takers that when asked a question on that test only to get it wrong & yet turn around & actually have to do the practical work & do it correctly. What I'm trying to say is that some people are more street smart while others are more book smart. There is a difference. And before we dive in & test people in our field higher fields need to do this before ours.

And when testing occurs for certification it's unfair to be tested strictly from memory with no practical solution. In every exam perhaps the solution should be be based on a small project that can be checked. That way if the participant fails the testing it will be fair.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#8
James Hines

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There really isn't any new science GIS analysts can discover. The actual advances in our field are accomplished by software programmers and data collection engineers, and within the various scientific fields to which GIS can be applied.


I tend to think that the best people to advance GIS are those of us that have been trained in the field as professional map designers. The reason being is that we use the technology enough to know what it lacks, & what it needs. The problem comes when the GIS profession hires these engineers & programmers with no training in the GIS field. What we should be doing is giving incentive to those already in the trade to learn how to program & engineer the technology. In other words we have geomatics engineering so why is there no bachelor/masters/Phd of geographic engineering that teach mapping, programming, researching, & engineering in a single Geographical Engineering Degree?

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#9
David Medeiros

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There really isn't any new science GIS analysts can discover. The actual advances in our field are accomplished by software programmers and data collection engineers, and within the various scientific fields to which GIS can be applied.


I tend to think that the best people to advance GIS are those of us that have been trained in the field as professional map designers. The reason being is that we use the technology enough to know what it lacks, & what it needs. The problem comes when the GIS profession hires these engineers & programmers with no training in the GIS field. What we should be doing is giving incentive to those already in the trade to learn how to program & engineer the technology. In other words we have geomatics engineering so why is there no bachelor/masters/Phd of geographic engineering that teach mapping, programming, researching, & engineering in a single Geographical Engineering Degree?


I'm actually ok with these being distinct areas of GIS use. As an analyst I don't really need or care to know the ins and outs of software development or programming. There are a lot of voices out there suggesting you need to be both a geographer and a programmer but for most GIS uses I disagree. When used a geographic analysis tool in particular, as opposed to the top end of a database management system or business modeler, a geography background become far more valuable since I can always find a programer to handle software development specific tasks.

As for needing a specific degree for GIS, thats here in many places but I think it's only where it overlaps the basic geography degree's that it differs in any appreciable way from general database & software design and engineering.

It boils down to the different GIS user classes: end users, creators; developers. There's no need for every GIS practitioner to cover all that ground IMO.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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