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Why You Should Work With Certified Automation Professionals

A system integrator shares his first-hand experience with ISA’s Certified Automation Professional program and explains its value to industry.

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The International Society of Automation (ISA) has a certification program called the Certified Automation Professional (CAP). The ISA website describes CAPs as “…responsible for the direction, 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.” This certification is based on the ISA’s Body of Knowledge—a set of information that covers a large range of automation topics which includes basic control through project work structure. This certification goes beyond classroom theory and problem solving, as it provides credentials that show a certain amount of current real world experience has been obtained.

I was introduced to the CAP program through co-workers several years ago. They had earned certification a few years prior to my arrival and I was looking for something to show that I had years of experience in the industry. Over the next several months, I reviewed as much information as I could about the requirements and ISA’s Body of Knowledge. One particularly meaningful piece of information came in the form of a pre-instructional survey for a CAP exam review course. It was basically a set of sample questions which one might find on the actual exam. The answers were provided on the last page which allowed you to assess your comfort level in your ability to pass the exam. After reviewing the survey, I discussed it with one of my co-workers. He confirmed that the information in the exam he took was relevant to current industrial automation. He also was kind enough to tell me that he had failed the test the first time he took it. This helped me decide that I would need to find some time and material to prepare for the exam.

That was several years ago now. Family priorities took over my personal life and project schedules took over my work life. I hadn’t found the time to obtain the certification. As with any electronic technology, the automation industry changes at a fairly rapid pace. Last year when I re-committed myself to obtaining the certification, I expected the material to be somewhat out of date since the program had been in place for a while. I applied, was accepted, and bought a book on the ISA’s Body of Knowledge. Overall the information seemed generically relevant to the current industrial automation technologies—generic in a way that would allow the information to be utilized for several years.

Although I didn’t feel excessively confident, about three months ago I decided to schedule the exam. This decision renewed my efforts to get through the entire book. Around the same time, I was assigned to a large project. It was a great opportunity to work with some of the latest technology and a larger customer. The project and customer were large enough to allow me the opportunity to experience project management to an extent that the smaller projects had only touched on. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the project I was working on would help me with the exam I had just signed up for.

I have now taken and passed the CAP exam. The exam questions were surprisingly relevant and were posed in ways I believe would be difficult to answer by someone lacking direct experience in the subject. In addition, I found several of the questions were based on current automation technologies and attitudes. I believe that if I had not worked on the large project with current technology just before the exam, I may not have accomplished the certification. This is why I am convinced that the CAP program validly credentials someone who has a wide range and several years of experience in the automation industry.

Roy M. Weidner is project manager at Loman Control Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. See Loman Control Systems' profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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