This week I attended Esri’s SERUG conference in Jacksonville Florida. I think SERUG went really well this year. Attendance was up from last year I believe. Presentations were great. It is always amazing to see what folks are doing with GIS and Esri Technology.

One of the hot button topics at this year’s SERUG conference was Esri’s new technical certifications. Renee Schreibman, Esri’s Southeast Training Consultant, had the job of trying to explain the new certifications and what it takes to earn one of the certifications. Renee did a great job explaining the program and answering questions. Here are a couple of highlights:

  1. If I earn a certification will I have to recertify with each new release of Esri? Looks like Esri is following the Microsoft model here. According to Renee, once you are certified you will not need to recertify with each new release. Only with major releases will you possibly need to recertify. In this case there will most likely be an abbreviated “Update your certification” type exam that would focus on the changes found in the new major release. Also you would still be certified on the past versions. This keeps with IT industry standard practices such as the Microsoft and Cisco certification Models.
  2. Do I have to take the associate exam before I take the professional exam? If you are looking to get certified on ArcGIS Desktop, you can skip straight to the professional exam if you feel you are at that level. Other exams currently under development for Developer and Enterprise may have a requirement for you to get associate first and then professional later.
  3. How many times can I take the exam and do I have to pay the $255 each time?  The last part is easy to answer. Yes you have to pay each time you take the exam. I should point out Esri does not make any money from those taking the exams. Most if not all of that fee goes to the Pearson testing folks. So now to the first part of the question, how many times can I take an exam. Basically you can take the exam 3 times. After the third time you have to talk with Esri and get permission to take it a fourth time.
  4. How hard are the exams? Based on my experience and what Renee said, these exams are not easy. They are designed to make sure you have a thorough knowledge of ArcGIS at the level you are being tested for. Esri wants these exams and certifications to mean something. When you earn one you have accomplished something to be proud of.
  5. What is the pass rate on the exams? Still too early to tell. These exams have only been out for a few months and Esri is still gathering data, however see question 4.  I have heard some number passed around on the beta exams but nothing concrete enough to say for certain. I will say it was not a super high pass rate on the beta exams if the numbers I have heard via the rumor mill are even close to correct. As stated with question 4, Esri wants these certifications to have meaning so they are not giving them away. You do have to earn them.
  6. Do I get told which questions I got wrong? No you only get told if you passed or failed
  7. Where can I take an exam? At pretty much any Pearson Vue authorized testing center. These are located all over the place. Go to to locate a testing center near you and to register to take an exam
  8. Do I have to complete all the recommended training classes before I take a Certification Exam? No, you don’t. The list of recommended classes contain topics which might be included on the exams.
  9. If I have not upgraded to ArcGIS 10 yet can I still take the exams?  Yes you can but you will have a hard time passing. The exams are all built around ArcGIS 10. If you are not familiar with the new functionality such as Feature Templates, Dynamic Test and Data Driven Pages you will be at a severe disadvantage taking the exam.
  10. Does this compete with the GISP especially since they are considering an exam? No, the two are complementary. The Esri Technical Certifications only test on knowledge about using Esri products. A GISP exam, if implemented, would test on a more rounded and theoretical knowledge most likely based on the Dept. of Labor Geospatial Core Competency Model (GTCM).

So there you go, my brief summary of Renee’s presentation and some of the questions that were asked/answered during the presentation. Renee’s presentation will be posted to the SERUG website at some point soon. In the meantime you might want to go to if you have any questions or are looking for more information. Of course I am always happy to answer questions or help to find answers.

Tripp Corbin, CFM, GISP
Vice President, GIS
Keck & Wood, Inc.
Esri Certified Trainer | Esri Certified ArcGIS Desktop Associate