Monthly Archives: January 2010

GISP? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ GISP!

Or do we?

Or better yet, what I’d really like to know, do I?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been organizing and filling out the applications for a couple of professional certifications: the APA’s American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and the GIS Certification Institute’s Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP). I have been working as an independent planning consultant specializing in the use of GIS for the past eight years, and thought it was time I got around to doing this. What’s been holding me up so far has not been that I did not qualify for either one, but my work load. It’s difficult to dedicate the time required to fill out the application forms, acquire and organize the documentation, and prepare for the tests when one has a full load of paying work sitting in front of them. Since my work load has slowed a bit this year, I figured it was time to take the plunge, and get it done.

At the same time I was assembling all of my documentation, there was a noticeable rise in the level of discussion about GISP certification amongst my Twitter followers. This is not unusual. The GISP topic comes up from time to time, and always seems to stir the emotions of the GeoNerds that hang out there. What did surprise me, though, was the level of animosity expounded toward GISP by some. I decided that before I follow through with sending in my $250, I should explore and analyze the requirements and potential benefits of becoming a certified GISP.

I decided to start my analysis by comparing GISP to the other certification process I am familiar with – AICP. The following table compares the two certification process requirements.






Education None required, but affects amount of experience needed Required – conference attendance can count toward education
Experience At least 2 years, up to 8 years if no degree At least 4 years
Code of Ethics Yes Yes
Contributions to the profession Only need a current APA membership Required, through combination of publication, association membership, conference participation, awards, volunteering
Test Yes, 150 multiple choice questions None
Fee $450 $250
Continuing education for maintenance/renewal 32 hours every 2 years Must accrue work experience, educational achievement, and contributions to the profession every 5 years
Renewal Fee No set fee, whatever the cost of the CM (continuing maintenance) materials or classes are $115


Surprisingly, AICP does not require any formal education at all. However, a graduate degree from an accredited institution does allow you to take the certification test with only 2 years of work experience. Lesser degrees require more work experience.

While the GISP does not explicitly require any formal education, it would be very difficult to satisfy the educational requirement through conference attendance alone. 300 full conference days would be needed to fulfill the GISP education requirement if the applicant had no degree or formal class time. That’s 60 full work-weeks worth of conferences.


AICP requires between 2 and 4 years of experience depending on the level and accreditation of the degree received (or 8 years with no degree). GISP requires 4 years of work experience regardless of the education.

Code of Ethics

Both AICP and GISP have written codes of ethics that members are expected to adhere to.

Contributions to the profession

AICP requires only current APA membership, while GISP requires the applicant to document their contributions to the profession. These contributions can include merely membership in a GIS organization, or more direct contributions, such as publication of a book or article, participation in a conference or workshop, or volunteering for a non-profit organization.

Test vs. No Test

The most obvious difference between the AICP and GISP requirements is the lack of a test for the GISP. Is this a problem for the GISP? Does it diminish its clout? Would a test improve its acceptance among the GIS crowd? Many of the anti-GISP commenter’s point to the lack of an exam as the main reason GISP is not a valid certification process.

My Thoughts

Amongst practicing planners, AICP is expected if you are to be considered a true professional planner. In GIS circles, GISP – not so much. Overall, I found the AICP application requirements easier to fulfill than the GISP requirements. Granted, the AICP application only allows me to qualify to take the test, but with my education and experience, I do qualify. I  do NOT yet qualify for GISP. Essentially the difference between the two boils down to test vs. experience. Which one is the better measure of professional ability? I come down on the side of experience. I believe the GISP certification process is as valid a process as any other. It emphasizes education and work experience more than does AICP. It expects adherence to a code of ethics  and rules of conduct. Most importantly in my mind, it expects contributions to the profession, (and continuing contributions to maintain certification) which AICP surprisingly does not. It’s these contributions to the profession that I lack, and will be working on the next few months so I will be able to become a GISP.

Why the Antipathy toward GISP from some GISers?

I believe GISers are a particularly independent lot, and feel like GISP is akin to following the herd. GISers are by their nature, non-conformists. GISers are a much more laid back group compared to planners. Compare the two photos below. The first is from the 2009 APA conference, the second from the 2009 ESRI UC.

APA Conference

Notice the suits, button down shirts, and ties at the APA conference.


Notice the lack of ties. There are a few button down shirts, but there’s also an abundance of polo shirts at the ESRI UC. One guy is even wearing flip-flops!

I know not everyone will agree with my analysis, but from my standpoint, GISP is a valid and valuable certification process. I believe it shows the holders of a GISP do have certain qualities that those who do not qualify for GISP do not. Over the next few months I will be working to fulfill the last few requirements, and sending in my application to become a GISP.

Blogs and other GISP related articles:

Roger Diercks’s Geofoolery blog post Trying to get to the GISP of the matter

Peter Batty’s geothought blog post: The GIS Certification emperor has no clothes

ArcUser Online article: Do You Want to Be a GISP?

The ENTCHEV GIS Blog post: Building a Brand The GISP Debate and A GIS Veterans Point of View

‘sproke: Are you REALLY a GIS Professional?

Converting Orthophoto Tiles from ArcMap for Use in ArcPad

As most of my followers on Twitter already know, I’ve been playing around with my new toy the last couple of weeks: a Trimble Juno SB GPS, running ArcPad 8. So far, I am very happy with my decision to buy this unit. It has been some work to get to know the ArcPad software, and there are a few things I think it will do, but haven’t figured out yet. However, I am surprised at how much it can do. The Juno and ArcPad have both exceeded my initial expectations.

How can I use NYS Orthophotos in ArcPad?

 In my GIS work, I make extensive use of the NYS orthoimagery supplied through the NYS GIS Clearinghouse website. I want to be able to use these aerial photos during my fieldwork. The orthophotos are supplied in MrSID format, and can be easily added to an ArcMap document using the supplied Raster Catalogs. But here’s the problem: ArcPad can read MrSID rasters, but cannot make use of the Raster Catalogs.

The individual MrSID tiles use an arcane naming system. This system is great for organizing them in a database, and to be read by a computer, but very difficult for a human being to decipher. Here’s a screenshot that shows the naming convention:

MrSID files

How do I decide which tiles to load into ArcPad?

The naming system makes it nearly impossible to decipher which tiles I need to load onto the Juno in order to use them in ArcPad. I could load all of the MrSID files onto the Juno, but that would mean transfering over 300 MB of data onto my microSD card over a USB cable; a little time consuming. So, how do I decide which tiles to use? I don’t. Here’s what I’ve decided to do:

  1. Load the entire Raster Catalog for the area I want to work on into ArcMap. (this typically includes an entire town’s worth of ortho’s)
  2. Set the coordinate system in ArcMap to match the ArcPad project you will use (typically WGS 1984)
  3. Zoom into the specific area I want to load into ArcPad (the extent of my field work area)
  4. Export the map as a JPEG image (making sure I use the Write World File option)
  5. Copy the JPEG image and World File onto my GPS unit, and load it into my ArcPad project

Here are a couple of screenshots of the imported JPEGs:

XC-Ski trail near Lake Placid NY

XC-Ski trail near Lake Placid NY

Closeup of the Jack Rabbit XC-Ski Trail

Closeup of the Jack Rabbit XC-Ski Trail

This aerial photo covered an area of ~6 square miles. At a resolution of 300 DPI, the JPEG output was ~6MB in size.

I hope this information is useful to somebody else. I’ve read through the ArcPad documentation, and have been searching through forums and blogs, but have not run across this procedure anywhere else yet. I intend to do some more tests using higher resolution orthophotos, higher DPI JPEG output, and other output formats. I’ll let you know how I make out in future posts. If anyone else has a better solution than this, please let me know. I’m always open to suggestions.