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Software Engineering Certification


Are you a software engineer working on building your career? Certification may be an asset. Certification is different than licensing in that’s it’s carried out by a non-governmental organization. It’s still a testament to your skills – and it’s preferred or required by many employers.

There are a variety of certifications you can seek to demonstrate your skill with particular languages, products, or job roles. Some reflect broad knowledge, others narrow skills in specialized areas.

Application engineers with broad knowledge may want to pursue credentials through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The IEEE Society’s software development credentials reflect the knowledge in the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge Guide. Moreover, they’re internationally recognized.

Why Certify?

The IEEE has a list on their website of companies who have placed job ads where certification is either required or preferred. There are some big names there – companies like Honeywell and Global Strategies Group.

As certified software engineers, contract workers can use the IEEE logo on business cards and other materials to help them attract clients or locate new employers.

Even if the company doesn’t require credentials, they can still look good on your resume. The list of employers who have hired IEEE certified employers is quite long. Now one finds Raytheon, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Xerox, and the U.S. armed forces.

Self-employed or contract workers may see advantages as well. As certified software engineers, they can use the logo on business cards and other materials to help them attract clients or locate new employers.

Some certified professionals report indirect benefits as well. Continuing education is important; so is networking with other professionals. Certification can provide additional impetus for both.

Requirements: Certified Software Development Associate

The Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) credential is for entry-level software engineers. You don’t actually have to have your education completed before you attempt the exam – you can do so when you’re in the final year of a bachelor’s program. (Non-degreed software engineers are also eligible; it’s recommended, but not required, to have two years’ experience first.)

If you pass the exam, you’ll receive a score report that simply reports that you’ve passed. If you don’t pass, you’ll receive your scaled score along with diagnostic information that can help you pass on a subsequent attempt.

You will not need to go through a recertification process to maintain your CSDA credential. You will likely want to go on for the more prestigious SCDP credential, though, when you become eligible.

Requirements: Certified Software Development Professional

The Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) is a step up. In order to take certifying exams, you’ll need at least one education prerequisite and at least one experience requirement. The level of experience required depends on your educational level. If you have an advanced degree in software engineering, two years of experience will suffice. Otherwise, you’ll need four years of experience in software engineering or development. You can meet the educational requirement in various ways, including having a bachelor’s degree or being a CSDA certificate holder. Licensed software engineers are considered to have met the educational and experience requirements, as are senior members of the IEEE.

There are two testing windows. In 2012, one window begins in May and ends in June; the other begins in November and ends in December. As a CSDP, you will need to recertify every three years.

Next Steps

One thing to keep in mind if you’re planning to take IEEE certification exams: While the exams are available to members and non-members alike, they cost a little less if you’re a member. If you need to take a review course through IEEE to refresh yourself, you’ll again find $100 savings. Full membership, though, is only available to experienced software professionals.

There can be career advantages to professional memberships – through the IEEE as well as other computer and project management organizations.

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