Overview of GIS Technician Certification and Certificate Programs

Oct 23, 2019

Students who are interested in becoming GIS technicians might consider enrolling in a GIS certificate program at a 4-year university to supplement their bachelor's degree.

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Essential Information

Geographic information systems (GIS) is a discipline involving the collection, management, and organization of spatial data.

GIS certificate programs are not entry-level and are often designed as capstone programs for students who already have a baccalaureate degree or are about to graduate from a baccalaureate program. In some cases, students are required to already have a bachelor's degree in a field such as social sciences or physical sciences before they can apply to a GIS certificate program. Some programs also require incoming students to have completed prerequisite courses in mathematics and statistics. Programs require about 24 credit hours, and many include an internship. However, some programs are available online.

Certificate in Geographic Information Systems

Students enrolled in a GIS certificate program gain a full introduction to spatial analysis, cartography, geocomputing, and remote sensing. They learn how to use these tools to capture, model, and analyze spatial data. Students enrolled in a GIS certificate program complete classroom lectures, hands-on training experiences, and individual research projects.

The following courses are common:

  • Introductory geographic information systems
  • Cartography
  • Geocomputing
  • GIS applications
  • GPS for geospatial professionals
  • Animated mapping

Popular Career Options

A GIS certificate program prepares students for careers in a variety of fields, many of which are related to surveying and mapping. Some of these include:

  • GIS technician
  • Land surveyor
  • Mapping scientist
  • Photogrammetrist
  • Cartographer
  • Surveying technician
  • GIS developer
  • Geographic information specialist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth of 5% for surveying and mapping technicians from 2018-2028. As of May 2018 these technicians earned a median annual salary of $44,380. The BLS projected job increase of 6% for surveyors during that decade, and cartographers and photogrammetrists could expect job growth of 15% (faster than average). As of May 2018, cartographers and photogrammatrists earned a median annual salary of $64,430, while surveyors earned a median of $62,580.


Professionals working in the fields of surveying and mapping can gain voluntary certification from a few different organizations, including the National Society of Professional Surveyors and the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) also offers certification for GIS professionals and GIS practitioners. Many GIS certificate programs are designed to prepare students to meet the education requirements of GISCI certification.

Certificates in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are available for individuals who are interested in pursuing careers as GIS technicians, surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrist.

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