Certification is a formal process whereby a community of knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled representatives of an organization, such as the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), provides formal recognition that a person has achieved competency in specific areas (demonstrated by education, experience, and knowledge). Certification differs from a “license” that is a permission granted by a government entity for a person to practice within its regulatory boundaries. Certification also differs from a "certificate" that documents the successful completion of a training or education program.
After three years of intensive research and development, INCOSE established its Professional Certification Program in March 2004 to provide a formal method for recognizing the education, experience, and knowledge of systems engineers through the "Certified Systems Engineering Professional" (CSEP) designation. This designation requires at least five years of systems engineering experience confirmed by systems engineering knowledgeable references. Certification is valid for three years from the date awarded, and may be renewed in three-year intervals by demonstrating various ways of continuing education and ongoing professional development. The original CSEP examination was based on the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook Version 2A. In 2008, the exam was updated to reflect Version 3.1 of the handbook, which is based on the international systems engineering standard ISO/IEC 15288. In 2010, the exam was again updated to reflect Version 3.2 of the handbook and the latest version of ISO/IEC15288. The exam will be based on Version 4.0 of the handbook starting on 1 May 2015
The program was expanded to multiple levels of certification in 2008. Now the INCOSE Certification Program has an entry level “Associate Systems Engineering Professional” (ASEP) for junior or recently graduated engineers who do not yet have the requisite years of SE experience. The ASEP requires and uses the same exam as CSEP. Upon achieving at least five years of SE experience the ASEP can transition to CSEP. In 2010, INCOSE introduced the “Expert Systems Engineering Professional” (ESEP) designation for senior systems engineers with at least 25 years of recognized systems engineering experience (20 years if already a CSEP) and demonstrated systems engineering accomplishments.
In 2008, the certification program added its first extension. This extension, designated “Acq,” was for professionals that work in the United States Department of Defense acquisition environment and was earned by first achieving the CSEP designation and then taking an additional acquisition exam based on the Defense Acquisition Guidebook Chapter 4, on Systems Engineering. The Acquisition extension was retired in 2014.