September/October 2011
Association News

Pathway to CAP and professional development

By Abdul Rauf

Editorial note: This is the second of a three-part series on the Certified Automation Professional (CAP) program.

With the growing production demands and need for standardization, automation system vendors are introducing more robust and efficient platforms to meet customer requirements. As they become more aware of their clients requirements, vendors also recognize the need for a consistent skill set for their employees. Since I joined the automation field, I have kept up with these growing technologies using any continuous education opportunities available. This led me to discover the Certified Automation Professional (CAP) program from ISA.

CAP helps automation professionals develop a strong knowledge base of a wide range of topics and the best standard practices used in industry. It was a perfect match to my career development needs and demands, so I decided to move ahead.

Eligibility

The first step to proceed in the CAP program is to check eligibility for certification. An applicant may fall in one of two categories:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

I had already completed 7,500 man hours at work, so I collected documentation of past projects and shared a summary with our Human Resource (HR) department. With consultation from my engineering manager, HR drafted a reference letter that verified my work experience, which I presented with my CAP application to ISA.

If you do not have sufficient work experience and are a new graduate as well, you can still go for the CAP Associate program. The applicant has a six-month window of eligibility to take the exam, three months before or after the applicant's graduation date from the four-year degree program. A CAP Associate counts as 1,500 man hours of experience.

 pathway

Application processing

Filling out the application for CAP is quite straightforward and hassle free. The online application at ISA's website allowed me to fill in personal details and professional work experience history. ISA uses this information to evaluate the candidate's eligibility for CAP. As a rule of thumb, one is not required to present proof of their work experience and academic credentials. The ISA randomly selects a number of applications and subjects them to an audit. In case an application is selected, proof of your credentials will need to be shared with ISA.

The application fee for CAP is $345. As an ISA member, I took advantage of their reduction on the application fee by $50. Payments can be made online using a credit card or via check/money order. For any related queries, you can call ISA at 919-549-8411.

Testing windows

Three testing windows have been made available throughout the year-each window lasting for about 60 days. The applicant is required to register before the exam application postmark deadline date to avail the respective testing window. I registered last year for 2010's Window 3: 1 November - December 2010.

Preparation

The CAP body of knowledge covers a vast set of knowledge areas, including control systems design, installation, maintenance, and so on.

With automation becoming ubiquitous in industries, the automation professional encounters a wide range of automated control systems from batch processing in food industries to continuous critical and safety processes in the oil and gas sectors, and it becomes incumbent upon the automation professional to keep themselves familiarized with industry requirements.

To meet these growing demands, the CAP body of knowledge (www.isa.org/link/CAP_skills) covers a wide range of topics from MES system design, enterprise control systems, safety instrumented systems and batch processing.

With the integration of automation as an integral part in our production industries and growing demands, standardization and need for skilled recourses has now become a proven fact. CAP helped me to match up with these demands. It increased my reach to new job markets and advocated as a potential resource looking ahead to grow in the automation field. Peers tend to find CAP unique and grow curious, so it provided me a great opportunity to increase my professional networking across the field.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Abdul Rauf (arauf@avanceon.com) is an ISA Certified Automation Professional working at Avanceon as senior application engineer.

Resources

Certified Automation Professional (CAP)
www.isa.org/cap

A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge, Second Edition
www.isa.org/autobok