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How ISA’s Certification and Certificate Programs Can Benefit You and Your Employer

This post is authored by Paul Gruhn, president of ISA 2019.

Are you aware of ISA’s certification and certificate programs? Have you achieved one of the titles? If not, are you aware of how they can help both you and your employer reach your goals?

Certification programs are usually established by the professional organization or association that monitors and upholds prescribed standards of workplace competence for the particular industry it represents. Industry surveys and job task analyses are completed to define essential work responsibilities of particular practicing professionals and the know-how they need to excel. Exams are then created to test and confirm that professionals in these disciplines possess the commensurate degree of knowledge.

ISA offers two certification programs, Certified Automation Professional® (CAP®), and Certified Control System Technician® (CCST®). ISA works with a very broad and diverse range of automation professionals to delineate critical job components and develop corresponding test specifications. The rigorous program development and ongoing maintenance process ensures that ISA certification provides real-world, documented evidence of an individual’s professional expertise and qualifications.

The CAP designation provides an assessment and confirmation of an automation professional's skills on the definition, design, development/application, deployment, documentation, and support of systems, software, and equipment used in control systems, manufacturing information systems, systems integration, and operational consulting. Depending upon someone’s degree, obtaining the certification requires between five to 10 years of experience, and passing an exam. Note that this title and certification is very different than—and does not compete with—the Control System Engineer (CSE) Professional Engineer (PE) license.

The CCST designation provides an assessment and confirmation of a technician's skills in pneumatic, mechanical, and electronic instrumentation. There are three levels of CCST requiring different levels of technical experience, education, and training. All require passing an exam.

ISA offers two certificate programs, one for functional safety (safety instrumented systems), and one for cybersecurity. Certificate programs differ from certifications in that they are essentially a training program. Attending class is required in addition to passing an exam. The experience requirements are generally less than what is required for certifications.

The ISA/IEC 61511 Safety Instrumented Systems certificate program consists of three classes (totaling 8.5 days) and matching exams. Those who accomplish all three are given the title of “expert.” The ISA/IEC 62443 Cybersecurity certificate program consists of four classes (totaling 11 days) and matching exams. Those who accomplish all four are given the title of “expert.”

These programs fall in line with ISA’s mission statement to “advance technical competence by connecting the automation community to achieve operational excellence.” Certification holders have demonstrated their higher level of technical competence. In doing so, they earn more than others and have greater employment opportunities. Employers who hire them will benefit by utilizing their knowledge and experience to achieve greater operational excellence. You’ll get it done right, efficiently, economically, safely, and securely the first time. It’s a win-win for everyone!

About the Author
Paul Gruhn is a global functional safety consultant at AE Solutions and a highly respected and awarded safety expert in the industrial automation and control field. Paul is an ISA Fellow, a member of the ISA84 standards committee (on safety instrumented systems), a developer and instructor of ISA courses on safety systems, and the primary author of the ISA book Safety Instrumented Systems: Design, Analysis, and Justification. He also has contributed to several automation industry book chapters and has written more than two dozen technical articles. He developed the first commercial safety system modeling software. Paul is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in Texas, a certified functional safety expert (CFSE), a member of the control system engineer PE exam team, and an ISA84 expert. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Paul is the 2018 ISA president-elect/secretary.

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