One type of certification available for GIS and Geomatics professionals is the ASPRS Certification program available from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). Certification is offered in three main categories: Certified Photogrammetrist, Certified Mapping Scientist (in Remote Sensing, GIS/LIS, or LiDAR), and Certified Technologist (in Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing, GIS/LIS, and LiDAR). Although the ASPRS is American, they certify members worldwide. At present there are 10 Canadians certified in the above specializations: 7 Certified Photogrammetrists, 1 Certified Photogrammetrist Technologist, and 2 Certified Mapping Scientists in Remote Sensing. ASPRS Certification provides recognition internationally within different areas of geomatics, can provide career advancement opportunities through recognition and networking within the ASPRS, looks great on a resumé, reassures employers that they’re hiring a competent candidate within these fields, and encourages geomatics professionals to maintain a high standard of achievement.
Who is the ASPRS?
The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing is a non-profit organization promoting the advancement of geospatial sciences and technologies such as photogrammetry, remote sensing, and GIS, and supports the interests of private, academic, and public sectors. They formed in 1934 and are comprised of members worldwide. They offer membership to students and individuals providing many advantages such as a subscription to their journal publication, called Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing (PE&RS), discounts for ASPRS Conferences and publications, and networking opportunities.
What are the ASPRS Certification Program Requirements?
As mentioned above, the three main streams of certification offered are Certified Photogrammetrist, Certified Mapping Scientist, and Certified Technologist. Certified Mapping Scientist refers to the professional level of the fields, whereas Certified Technologist refers to the technician level of these same fields. Requirements consist of 4 components: passing a Peer-Review of experience and training, filling out an application providing 4 references that are familiar with the applicant’s competence and responsibilities, passing a written exam in the area of specialization, and submitting a declaration with the ASPRS Code of Ethics. Certification lasts for 5 years for Certified Photogrammetrists and Certified Mapping Scientists and 3 years for Certified Technologists, and requires contributions to the field while certified in order to renew certification. There is also a Geospatial Intern Program available to students to work towards certification.
Experience requirements are different for the different areas of specialization. Certified Photogrammetrists need to have 6 years of experience, 3 of which were in a position of responsibility demonstrating professional knowledge and competence. Certified Mapping Scientists also require 6 years of experience: 3 years in mapping or photogrammetry in a position of responsibility, and 3 relating to their area of specialization. Certified Technologists only require 3 years of experience, 2 of which are in their chosen field. Education and school credentials can be credited for experience.
Students can apply for the Geospatial Intern Program while they are in school. They need to fill out an application and provide 1 reference from an academic adviser or faculty member, provide an official transcript with at least 2 courses relating to spatial sciences, submit a declaration with the ASPRS Code of Ethics, and take the exam within 6 months of being admitted. The areas of specialization are the same as with certification. For Photogrammetrist or Mapping Scientist Intern, students must complete the 6 year experience requirement within 10 years of completing the exam, while Technologist Interns have 5 years to complete their 3 years of experience after completing their exam. When they have completed their work experience, they must submit documentation and 3 references to ASPRS Headquarters to become certified.
Exams are catered for each individual specialization. Exam information is available here.
Certified Photogrammetrists and Certified Mapping Scientists must remain in good standing (by complying with ethics and regulations) and make contributions to their field to remain certified. They need to apply for recertification every 5 years. This is done by filling out an application showing involvement and contributions to their field over the last 5 years, such as participation in activities of service, publications, workshops/classes, technical conference participation, ASPRS committee membership, etc. They must also provide 4 references that have knowledge of the applicant’s involvement over the past 5 years. Recertification guidelines are similar for Certified Technologists, except that they must recertify every 3 years, and the references and involvement must relate to the past 3 year period.
There are many fees associated with application, certification, re-certification, and ASPRS Membership. Initial certification for Certified Photogrammetrist or Mapping Scientist is $275 (USD) (ASPRS members), $400 (non-members); recertification is $150 (members), and $275 (non-members). Certified Technologist initial certification is $150 (members) and $275 (non-members), and recertification is $100 (members) and $150 (non-members). Interns pay $150 for initial application (members), $200 (non-members), $150 final application (members) and $300 (no-members). ASPRS Membership is optional and costs $150/year (Active), $100/year (Associate, under age 35), and $50 (Student).
There are several factors you will need to consider to determine if ASPRS Certification is right for you. Like other GIS and geomatics certifications, the various ASPRS Certifications offered are very specialized, and may limit career options as they promote specific career paths. The Canadians who are currently certified by ASPRS are all in photogrammetry and remote sensing–it is possible that holding ASPRS Certification holds more weight and recognition in those fields than in other fields of geomatics (the initials ‘PRS’ of ASPRS stand for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, after all). It is also possible that ASPRS Certification may hold more power and significance for Americans than Canadians, because it is an American organization. Like in other types of certifications, costs and professional dedication to obtaining and retaining ASPRS Certification must also be weighed against work-life balance and life choices.
This article is part of a series of articles intended to provide information about different types of optional GIS certification that are currently available for Canadians.