Fun with GIS 232: Certification

04-30-2018 09:30 AM
Esri Regular Contributor
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"Workforce" is a prominent topic for state governors; every state is concerned about employability of young people after school … and even during school. And, every year, at Esri's User Conference, some GIS-using professional at a business, non-profit group, or government agency will mention to me the challenge they face "finding people with the right skills … even the beginning skills needed …" to work for them. Digging deeper, with governors and with GIS professionals, two skill sets appear: (a) job-specific fundamentals, and (b) "soft skills" of being a reliable worker, collaborating, working independently, communicating, making decisions and solving problems, being adaptable, thinking creatively, and seeking help when needed. I smile because all of these can be developed with "long-term" experience with GIS.


How do you document these things? A lot of schools run "Career and Technical Education" (CTE) courses that help students learn fundamentals in a line of work … cosmetology, public safety, diesel engines, biomedicine, network administration, GIS. Many of these courses involve independent tests on established principles, latest patterns, and current technology.


Esri offers certification about Esri software. But even the most basic -- "ArcGIS Desktop Entry Level" -- is no slouch of an exam. It is designed for GIS users with up to two years of applied experience. I can vouch for the breadth of its coverage; I took the Desktop Entry 10.5 exam a couple of weeks ago. The published info shows that it includes content about ArcMap, ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and even ArcGIS Enterprise. The Certification Team has presented enough for someone to do a critical self-check about their readiness. Given the $225 cost of each exam, scouring these materials is time well-spent.


Esri Desktop 10.5 Entry Level Certification web page


Desktop 10.5 Entry Level guidance


Should secondary students take this exam? It is absolutely not designed for them. There are significant legal and logistical challenges to overcome before one can take the exam. Minors must complete additional paperwork weeks ahead. Still, some educators have steered their students toward it. There is a frightfully low likelihood that a high school student even with two years of hour-per-day classes will pass. (Again, the course was designed for the entry-level professional with up to two years … 4000 hours … of applied experience.)


Should educators take the exam? This makes much more sense, especially in a CTE class. Just as high school teachers get "content certified," it makes sense to earn a software certification if one is teaching what would represent entry-level GIS jobs. It may help the educator (re-)discover the lightning pace of software evolution, the breadth of the ArcGIS platform, and the difference between "just a map" and "a tool for analysis, communication, and problem solving."


So, does GIS even belong in schools, and especially CTE? Absolutely. The combination of "job-specific fundamentals" and "soft skills" can be built starting even in elementary school. Developing capacity to understand maps, create and analyze data, communicate powerfully, collaborate, solve problems, and so on, cannot develop sufficiently high in a single year of hour-per-day class. GIS has a home in every situation involving data and locations, whether learning U.S. history, analyzing local community situations, or modeling global threats. Educators need always to design appropriate and realistic measures of student capacity and achievement, clarifying student responsibilities, and building in their students scholarship, artisanship, and citizenship. (Thank you, Michael Hartoonian.) Documenting this with a digital portfolio, perhaps via a Story Map Journal, might be a useful model.

New Contributor III

Great posting Charlie.

I was just wondering if you completed the Esri Technical Certification: Sample Questions for ArcGIS Desktop Entry web course prior to the ArcGIS Desktop Entry Level certification exam?

I'm attempting to open this free sample questions web course and get a "This page isn't working" error.

Maybe I need to register for the certification before I get access to the sample questions free course?

Esri Regular Contributor

You don't need to be registered for a certification test before taking this "course," but you do need to be signed into The login you use to access GeoNet should let you log in for the "course." Keep in mind that it's not a regular "course" designed to teach content but, rather, just some example questions to help you comprehend thee style of questions you might encounter on the exam. If it continues not to open properly, try accessing from a separate "private/incognito" window, which should ignore browser cache and might skirt some issues.

New Contributor III

Excellent, the incognito trick worked, thanks Charlie!

Yep, I know it's not a teaching course. I wanted to go through the sample questions prior to paying for the certification exam, to see if there are any areas where I need to polish my skills.

Thank you very much!

Esri Contributor

Something to keep in mind is that each exam question provided within the web course was written to test knowledge about a specific exam objective. The exam sections and objectives are listed for each exam on their specific web pages on the certification website. The questions listed within the web course are questions that were on the exam's beta test, but may have been categorized by the test results as too easy. Meaning that people who passed the exam were able to answer this question correctly and with minimal time spent on the question. These questions are still of great value to a candidate looking to understand what a scenario multiple choice or multiple select exam question would look like and for a candidate looking to conduct a self-assessment. 

To conduct the self-assessment, look at the question in the web course. The question specifies which exam section the question aligns. Now look at the exam's sections and objectives on the exam's web page. Are you able to determine which objective the question was written to test? Ask yourself, "Do I know this part of the objective or the entire concept as defined by the exam objective and section?" 

Another way to conduct a through self-assessment would be to look at the web course's correct answer link. This link directs the user to the software documentation. Ask yourself, "Do I understand all the concepts under this section of the documentation or only a singular part of the process?"   

Best wishes on your certification journey!

New Contributor III

Great advise, thanks Jessica!

Esri Contributor

Very nice blog, thanks Charlie.  The Esri Certification Team has published a best practices guide for aligning high er education curriculum with Esri Technical Certification?  For additional details, check out our new story map:  Esri Technical Certification for Education

About the Author
GISer since 1996 Fleming College University of New Brunswick