GIS certification has been a contentious issue for many years. Many arguments for it have been advanced, the key one being that certification is the only way through which GIS profession can be defined for the consumer public. Arguments against certification have also been brought forward, an example being that certification will limit the widespread adoption of GIS technology, which is a tool that anybody should be free to use and it will increase the cost of hiring the GIS professionals.
Certification has been applied within many fields, from medicine to surveying. Accreditation is defined as evaluating the educational programs from where the individuals in a certain field received their training and education. Certification is defined as directly evaluating the competency of the individual in a certain field. Certification defers from licensure in that certification endorses expertise while licensure protects the public from incompetent practice. In addition, licensure is administered by a governmental body while certification is usually administered by one’s professional peers. A practitioner is someone who engages in an occupation, profession, religion, or way of life. A GIS professional is someone who makes a living through learned professional work that requires advanced knowledge of geographic information systems and related geospatial technologies, data, and methods. GIS certification is defined as a process by which an institution evaluates the level of one’s experience in GIS.
The Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute (GISCI) is the certifying body for all GIS professionals in the US whose applications have been accepted. The program is a point-based system that is self-documented and calculated by the individual seeking certification. It does not include an examination. The certification programme is voluntary and is intended to acknowledge the professional achievements of those people whose primary job responsibility involves the use of geospatial data technology. It is not a program for general users of GIS technology.
In Kenya, professional certification programs in areas such as accounting, engineering and survey are long-standing but GIS certification is yet to be set up. Despite efforts by vendors and academicians to develop and improve training and educational programs in geographic information systems, there are increasing calls for programs to certify GIS professionals. Much of the interest in implementing formal programs is tied to the need for explicit quality control. As of to date there is no widely accepted certification available for GIS professionals in Kenya. This is partly tied to difficulties in identifying desired qualifications of professionals within the multidisciplinary field of GIS.