July/August 2011

Getting CAP: A personal voyage

By Abdul Rauf

Editorial note:This is the first of athree-part series on the Certified Automation Professional (CAP) program.

As the world's appetite for more goods increases so, too, does the stress on manufacturers. Automation is fast becoming an integral part in the manufacturing process to meet these growing demands. Plant floors are now populating with more robust and efficient platforms. Rapidly evolving technologies are making profound impacts on automation professionals to build a diversified skill set and knowledge base.

Why automation

Since my early days as a school kid, I found robots quite fascinating; there is something quite charming about having to create a whole "system" that functions on its own. That, and playing Dr. Frankenstein, has always been a favorite childhood pastime. As my life journey took me to college, I found robotics and automation far more complex and intriguing than what I had experienced as a child, but that feeling of "giving life" to a system still lingered and pushed me to pursue automation as a career. My passion continued to grow as I transitioned to a professional; I took to my projects with the same enthusiasm I had some 15 years ago. My first four years were full of passion and a drive to glean as much as possible, but as time wore on, and I settled into a groove, things started becoming monotonous; I had reached a saturation point. It was time to reignite my flame for my career, and I started looking to different solutions. All roads led to ISA; I was aware of ISA but never got a chance to explore its certification programs. By chance while leafing through ISA's website, I discovered the certification section and the Certified Automation Professional (CAP) program.

Perusing through the CAP Body of Knowledge, I found it to be rich in content with quite a few untapped reservoirs of knowledge. It made me curious, and I decided to explore it a little further. After an initial exchange of e-mails with ISA about application methodology and exam format, which seemed quite simple and straightforward, I took the necessary steps for filing my application. I was back in school as a child, studying reference material during free hours in the office at work until my exam dates arrived getting myself psyched.

My voracious appetite was finally satiated as I laid hands on A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge, 2nd Edition by Vernon L. Trevathan. It was sufficient enough to help me pass the exam, and there I was, having climbed my 8000er, among a select few professionals around the world holding CAP.

What is CAP?

As presented by ISA, CAP professionals are 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.

The CAP Body of Knowledge covers a wide range of topics ranging from control system design and installation, field instrumentation, MES systems, enterprise control systems, safety instrumented systems, and batch processing-basically, anything and everything related to automation in some way. Covering such a broad range of topics helped me learn about standard automation practices in automated system design and installations.

Need for certification

University curricula for automation are not the same the world over, and that makes it doubly difficult for an employer to evaluate if a prospective employee will be a good fit. CAP provided a third-party evaluation of my skill set and disposition to purse automation as a long-term career. It increased my market reach and visibility for upcoming opportunities. Employers grew more curious as it advocates my seriousness to move ahead in the automation field.

Qualifications for CAP

Your journey toward getting certified starts from an evaluation of your credentials and subsequent submission of an application. An applicant may fall in one of two categories:

  • If you hold a four-year technical degree, you will need five years of work experience or a total of 7,500 man hours in the field of automation.
  • If you hold a two-year degree or do not have a degree, you will need 10 years of work experience or a total of 15,000 man hours in the field of automation.

ISA has eased the burden of snail-mail application by offering an online application. The application is then evaluated to determine the candidate's eligibility. Once the application is accepted, you are on your way to stardom. So get registered for upcoming testing windows, and start preparing for CAP!


Abdul Rauf is an ISA Certified Automation Professional working at Avanceon as senior application engineer. He can be reached at arauf@avanceon.com. For more information from ISA on CAP certification, visit http://www.isa.org/cap.