Boost Your Skills and Get Certified

In these difficult times, holding certifications may provide the edge you need

4 September 2009

psIn these difficult times, when competition for jobs is fierce and hanging on to the job you have is getting even tougher, holding certifications may provide the edge you need. Technologies change rapidly, yet many companies expect their employees to keep on top of the latest concepts and demand that new hires prove they are up to speed. Gaining certification in a particular area is one way you can demonstrate your skill, and IEEE can help. It offers three certification programs in two important areas: software development and wireless communications.

The IEEE Computer Society offers certifications for associate-­level and professional-level software developers: Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) and Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP). The third program, offered by the IEEE Communications Society, leads to certification as a Wireless Communications Professional.

“I feel managers should develop adaptable technical professionals, not narrowly defined specialists whose specialty might become obsolete,” says Susan Land, 2009 president of the IEEE Computer Society. “Certifications help members stay current.”

Three organizations recently adopted the Computer Society’s certification programs. Two groups in India, Siemens Information Systems Ltd., in Bangalore, and the Vellore Institute of Technology, in Tamil Nadu, are using the certifications to raise software development standards in their organizations. And in the United States, Rose-Hulman Institute of  Technology, in Terre Haute, Ind., hopes to help engineering students bridge the gap between the academic curriculum and industry requirements. “We selected the CSDA and CSDP as the benchmarks for software certification to raise the level of competence in our organization,” says Raghu Nambiar, Siemens Information Systems’ general manager for software practices and technical competences. Here’s an overview of the IEEE programs, which are geared to either a seasoned professional or to those taking their first steps toward a career in software or wireless.

The CSDA and CSDP certifications are based on the knowledge areas contained in The Guide to Software Engineering Body of Knowledge [IEEE Computer Society, 2004]. The guide summarizes the knowledge needed for certification, with references to more detailed explanations of 10 individual topics, including software engineering principles in areas such as software construction, design, testing, requirements, and methods. It also describes disciplines related to software engineering, such as mathematics, quality management, and systems engineering.

The CSDA certification is targeted at students in their final year of study for a bachelor’s or equivalent degree in a computing-related field and entry-level software developers with two years or less of experience. The CSDA tests for knowledge of established software development practices and is the first step toward becoming a CSDP. The CSDP certification is meant for midcareer software professionals and covers topics that demonstrate the mastery of a body of knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job of software engineering.

IEEE senior members and licensed software engineers are automatically eligible to take the CSDP examination. Educational requirements include having a bachelor’s degree or CSDA credentials or being an educator. Having an advanced degree in software engineering and at least two years (about 3500 hours) of experience in software engineering or development or having at least four years (about 7000 hours) of experience in software engineering or development is also required. Both programs comply with ISO/IEC 24773:2008, Software Engineering–Certification of Software Engineering Professionals–Comparison Framework. The standard provides guidelines to ensure that software engineering certifications are portable, or recognized, from one geographic region to another.

The IEEE Communications Soc­iety Wireless Communication Enginee­r­ing Technologies (WCET) certification program is aimed at engineers who already hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least three years of experience in the workplace.

Areas the WCET exam covers include radio-frequency engineering, propagation, and antennas; network and service architecture; security; licensing agreements; industry standards; and government regulations. The society has developed a handbook to help candidates understand eligibility requirements, as well as how to apply for the exam and what to study for. In addition, A Guide to the Wireless Engineering Body of Knowledge [Wiley, 2009] provides insight into commonly accepted best practices and references for WCET study.

IEEE Member Jeff Smith, who earned his WCET credentials in 2008, is a consulting systems engineer with Cisco Systems, in Englewood, Colo. He works with the sales force to build wireless systems, as well as to field questions that run the gamut from security issues to interference from cell towers.

“I deal with a lot of people who don’t know me, so having this certification says that I’m a recognized expert in my field and that I have a wide variety of wireless engineering knowledge,” he says. “Because the WCET certification focuses on such a wide area, it helps me with my job.”

Learn more about the WCET certification and the software certifications.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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