Certification is a formal process whereby a community of knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled representatives of an organization, such as the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), provides formal recognition that a person has achieved competency in specific areas (demonstrated by education, experience, and knowledge). Certification differs from a “license” that is a permission granted by a government entity for a person to practice within its regulatory boundaries. Certification also differs from a "certificate" that documents the successful completion of a training or education program.
After three years of intensive research and development, INCOSE established its Professional Certification Program in March 2004 to provide a formal method for recognizing the education, experience, and knowledge of systems engineers through the "Certified Systems Engineering Professional" (CSEP) designation. This designation requires at least five years of systems engineering experience confirmed by systems engineering knowledgeable references. CSEP certification is valid for three years from the date awarded, and may be renewed in three-year intervals by demonstrating various ways of continuing education and ongoing professional development. The original CSEP examination was based on the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook Version 2A. In 2008, the exam was updated to reflect Version 3.1 of the handbook, which was based on the international systems engineering standard ISO/IEC 15288. In 2010, the exam was again updated to reflect Version 3.2 of the handbook and the latest version of ISO/IEC15288. The exam has been based on Version 4.0 of the handbook since 2015.