23 March, 2021

Systems engineering as a distinct field originated in the 1940s, but recent developments have brought an ever-broadening array of applications for this interdisciplinary approach to engineering. Experts supervise the development and deployment of essential processes for industries such as aerospace, defense, manufacturing and software. As a systems engineer, you could make invaluable contributions to your organization by documenting and communicating requirements, designing solutions, managing systems across their life cycle and taking charge of multidisciplinary teams.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of these career opportunities, certification from the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) can be a crucial distinction that helps you take the next step. Becoming a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP), requires fulfilling several qualifications, including passing the INCOSE Knowledge Exam. On the exam, you must demonstrate your understanding of how a systems thinking approach can be used to create processes that yield results. Your INCOSE CSEP exam prep has the potential to make a major difference in your future as a technical problem-solver and leader.

How Do You Earn INCOSE Certification?

By demonstrating their ongoing engagement with the field to employers and fellow practitioners, CSEP certification can help systems engineers advance into new roles and earn higher salaries. The credential indicates that a professional has both the specialized knowledge and on-the-job experience to complete a wide range of systems engineering tasks without direct supervision.
Preparing for the INCOSE CSEP exam
Earning a satisfactory score on the INCOSE CSEP exam is just one of the necessary qualifications. Applicants must also:

  • Have at least five years of work experience in systems engineering
  • Hold an undergraduate or graduate degree in an engineering discipline (or substitute additional years of relevant employment)
  • Provide three-to-five references who are familiar with systems engineering practices and with the professional’s own work during the required five-year period
  • Pay an application fee

CSEPs renew their certification every three years. Applicants for renewal show that they are keeping current with changes in methods and technology by documenting their continuing education or professional development activities.

Other Types of Professional Systems Engineering Certifications

If you do not yet meet the work experience requirements for the CSEP credential, you can qualify for certification as an Associate Systems Engineering Professional (ASEP) by passing the exam. Becoming an ASPEP demonstrates that a practitioner has the knowledge necessary for a position as a junior systems engineer. This certification can be renewed every five years for up to 15 years, or ASEPs may apply for CSEP status once they have the mandatory professional background and references.

After decades of accomplishments in the field, a CSEP may apply for certification as an Expert Systems Engineering Professional (ESEP). According to INCOSE, just over 300 people are currently ESEPs. Most of these professionals hold the title of chief systems engineer in their organizations, and they act as mentors to others in the field.

What You Can Expect on the INCOSE CSEP Exam

The INCOSE Knowledge Exam is available in both digital and paper-based formats. The computer version lasts two hours and consists of 120 multiple choice questions, while the paper version features 100 questions to be answered in 100 minutes.

To take the computer exam, you can make an appointment at testing facilities located around the world. However, the paper-based test is only available by registering for specific events held in various locations throughout the year. In either format, test takers are limited to three attempts per year.

Exam questions are based on the principles and methods laid out in the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook. This text breaks down the processes involved in developing and maintaining a system through its life cycle. Certified systems engineers are expected to understand how to design for both effective performance and affordability within an organization’s budget.

Some of the learning objectives for the handbook and exam include:

  • Understanding a system’s definitions and concepts
  • Analyzing the functions of each phase in a life cycle and their relationships
  • Knowing the rationale for building a new system
  • Identifying stakeholder requirements and seeing why they are significant
  • Understanding the importance of validation, verification and risk management
  • Noting how systems engineering contributes to business outcomes
  • Considering how systems engineering processes and concepts can be applied to different product sectors and domains

INCOSE does not publish the minimum passing score for the exam. Rather, the organization draws on the results from more than 60 professionals at various stages of their careers to establish a baseline for what a systems engineer should know after completing a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of industry experience.

Once a professional submits their application and fee, they have one year to fulfill all requirements, including passing the exam. They are allowed to retake the test during this period, but after a year they must start the whole process over again.

What INCOSE CSEP Training Should You Pursue Before the Test?

You can get ready for the exam by carefully reading the latest version of the handbook, taking notes and reviewing a CSEP study guide. INCOSE shared sample questions so applicants can familiarize themselves with the format and subject matter. However, the organization does not provide official study materials beyond the handbook itself.

The most important factor in excelling on the test and earning your certification is developing your knowledge and hands-on experience in the field. By completing a master’s degree in systems engineering, you can build the expertise you’ll need for the exam and for a career in the discipline.

The George Washington University online Master of Science in Systems Engineering program provides the extensive grounding in systems engineering principles and practices that’s appropriate for practitioners seeking certification at all levels. The advanced systems engineering curriculum focuses on designing and optimizing efficient processes and also features courses in effective management and decision-making for technical organizations, equipping graduates for leadership responsibilities.

Systems engineering certification can be an advantage for both recent graduates who are just getting started in the field and seasoned engineers striving to take the next step. The INCOSE Knowledge Exam is one hurdle you’ll need to clear, but preparation makes all the difference. A specialized education in the latest approaches to systems engineering can help you to pass and move forward in your career.

About GW’s Online Master’s Degrees in Engineering

George Washington University offers a comprehensive selection of online master’s in engineering programs. The programs are designed with the same curriculum as the on-campus degrees and with a focus on positioning graduates for career advancement. GW offers the following programs in a 100% online format:

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