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A Look at Where the GISPs Are

A recently study published in The International Journal of Geo-Information looked at the geographic, gender, and career characteristics of those that are certified Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Professional (GISP). The GISP is an exam (added in 2015) and porfolio-based certification process. Since its inception, about 10,500 GIS professionals have received a GISP certification.

Researchers analyzed 9,781 records from the GISP registry spreadsheet which contained both members with current certification and expired certification. The study found that the majority of the registrants were based in the United States (93.6%). A further 4.52% were based in Canada and only 1.88% were based in other countries. Within the United States, California, Texas, and Florida had the highest number of GISPs.

The states ranked by the number of GISPs. Figure: Li, D., Li, Y., Nguyen, Q. C., & Siebeneck, L. K. (2020). A Study on the GIS Professional (GISP) Certification Program in the U.S. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi9090523, CC BY 4.0
The states ranked by the number of GISPs. Figure: Li, D., Li, Y., Nguyen, Q. C., & Siebeneck, L. K. (2020). A Study on the GIS Professional (GISP) Certification Program in the U.S. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi9090523, under license CC BY 4.0

The survey also coupled ZIP Code with US Census data to categorize GISP registrants into urban areas, urbanized areas, urban clusters, and rural areas. The study found that overwhelmingly registrants lived in urban areas (97.3%).

The study also looked at the breakdown by gender but the study did not rely on the self-identification of gender for the study. Instead, the study only look at a binary condition (male versus female) and relied on genderize.io, a web tool for classification. According to the paper, only “English” names were genderized and “those GISPs with non-English first names will not be classified by the genderize.io API.” This whole process seems problematic as many so-called “English” names can be unisex (e.g. Chris, Sam, Robin, Ashley, Alex, Charlie, Dorian). Indeed, the study found that 75% of GISP holders were male, significantly above estimated averages of gender balance in GIS (also see this survey by Nathan Heazlewood).

The third segment of the study broke down GISP registrants by job title and industry. The dominant group by job title was GIS Analyst level with 68%. Interestingly, the study found that “majority of the GISPs have a GIS Analyst-type position, while only a small percentage of the GISPs are GIS developers.” The researchers theorized that even though a previous study found that 29.8% of GIS Analyst level job positions require programming, the lack of representation by developers within the GISP database is more likely a function of developers not seeking out GISP certification. 41% of registrants worked for a government agency and 46% worked for companies or non-profit organizations.

Read the full journal article for the detailed methodology and analysis of GISPs in the areas of geography, gender, and career:

Li, D., Li, Y., Nguyen, Q. C., & Siebeneck, L. K. (2020). A Study on the GIS Professional (GISP) Certification Program in the U.S. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi9090523



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