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A better world through a systems approach

Certification Process Timing 

How long do I have to complete my certification process? 

You have one year from the time your application or payment is received initially in the INCOSE Certification Office to complete your certification. The one-year period includes the time to schedule and pass (and retake if necessary) the exam. If the process is not completed within the one-year time period, the applicant will have to restart the process from the beginning, including paying another application fee. Individuals are limited to 3 attempts at the exam per 12-month calendar period. 

How long does the CSEP review process take? 

Our review and processing typically takes four to six weeks. The review starts once all of an applicant’s materials, including references and proof of degree, are received. 

For how long is a CSEP certification valid? 

A Systems Engineering Professional Certification is valid for a period of three years for CSEP.  

For how long is a CSEP renewal valid? 

Renewed certifications are valid for the same number of years as their original certifications. A renewed CSEP application is valid for 3 years.  


How do I obtain an application for certification? 

The preferred method is to download the application form from our website, If you cannot download the form, email

What happens if I submit the application without the required fee? 

Your application will not be processed without the correct fee. You will be notified if the funds submitted are insufficient. 

Once I submit my application, how long will it be before I receive notice of the Certification Office's decision?

This time varies based on both application content and volunteer availability. All applications are screened by the staff and the Certification Office on an on-going basis. You will be notified within two weeks by the staff of receipt of your application and will be advised if any material is missing. After the staff determines that an application is complete, the Certification Office will complete its assessment of the applicant's education and experience. You will be notified if the education, experience, and references are sufficient for you to pass review. If the education and experience are not sufficient, you may be asked to submit additional information. 

You may take your exam before or after you receive your application package review results. The exam results will be available to you almost immediately after completing a computer exam, and a few weeks after completing a paper exam. 

If I apply for CSEP or ESEP and am not approved, do I have to re-apply to get certified at a lower level? 

If you are denied at the CSEP or ESEP level, you will be given the opportunity to apply at the lower level without having to pay a new application fee. There will be a limited time for that opportunity, which will be listed for you in your denial message. If you are already certified at the lower level, your application fee at the higher level may be used to pay for your next renewal at that lower level. 

How will I be notified if I am awarded CSEP? 

The Certification Office will provide the successful applicant with a PDF certificate via email within three weeks of the applicant completing all steps in the certification process. 

Educational Background 

What degrees qualify for the minimum experience when applying for CSEP or ESEP? 

Qualifying Bachelor’s degrees include BS or BSE (or international equivalents through such mechanisms as the Washington Accord or the Bologna Agreement) in the following or related engineering disciplines: aeronautics, astronautics, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, mechanical, nuclear, software, systems. Other qualifying fields of study include: chemistry, computer science, mathematics, chemistry, physics. If the Bachelor’s degree does not come from the above fields, then a Masters or Doctorate degree (or international equivalent) in those fields is acceptable. The acceptability of other degrees outside this guideline is subject to the decision of the Certification Program Office. To expedite the review in cases where they may be any doubt about the acceptability of the degree, applicants should submit with their application a copy of their transcript showing the courses taken to obtain the degree. Degrees such as Information Technology and Systems Management may be accepted if they include coursework similar to the calculus and physics classes typically included in engineering programs of study. 
The following link gives information about the ABET criteria for accrediting engineering programs. Although INCOSE does not require ABET accreditation to qualify a degree, we do follow a similar approach: 

How do graduate degrees help individuals qualify for certification? 

Graduate degrees are an excellent way to increase one’s knowledge about systems engineering. For both CSEP and ESEP candidates who do not have a qualifying undergraduate degree, a technical graduate degree may help minimize the years of experience they are required to document on their application and with references. For ESEP candidates, a graduate degree may also be a piece of the leadership requirement. 

Continuing Education & Renewals 

Why do I need to track Professional Development Units? 

The requirement for continuing professional development is intended to reinforce the need for lifelong learning in order to stay current with changing technology, equipment, procedures, processes, and established standards. You will need to present a record (log) of your time spent in such activities, with Professional Development Units assigned as described here

What courses and activities qualify for PDU credit? 

The Certification Office does not pre-approve particular courses or activities. A course or activity does not have to be presented by an “approved” sponsor/provider for you to claim credit for the course or activity. It is your responsibility to determine if the course or activity meets your continuing education needs and to maintain documentation adequate to support your decision to claim credit for the particular course or activity. 

What do I submit with my renewal application to prove that I have attained the required Professional development Units (PDUs)? 

When you submit your renewal application with your log of continuing education, you sign a statement that you have completed the courses/activities on the log and that they satisfy the continuing education requirements. You do not have to submit any additional formal proof with the application. However, you may be randomly selected by the Certification Program Office, as part of its quality check, to submit detailed descriptions and/or completion certificates of your continuing education courses and activities. 

May I carry over excess PDU credits into the next renewal cycle? 

You may carry over up to 30 PDUs to the next renewal period. 

What kind of record should I keep of my continuing education? 

You should maintain a summary log to list your Professional Development Unit (PDU) courses and activities. The log should contain a sufficient name and/or description that identifies that the course or activity relates to systems engineering. Include the name of the presenter, the name of the sponsoring organization, and the location of where the instruction, class, or activity was held. For classes that are part of a college curriculum, list the class number. All records of attendance and completion of PDU credits should be maintained for four years for audit purposes. Records for any "carried forward" PDUs should be retained for four years beyond the subsequent certification renewal. 

What can I do if I fail to renew in time? 

Late renewal options are available for certifications that have expired within the previous twelve months. Details are posted here

Knowledge Exam 

What are the qualifications to be approved to take the Certification examination? 

No qualifications are required to take the exam except for notifying INCOSE of your intent to take the exam. Before approving you to take the exam, INCOSE will confirm that you are not already a SEP and have not taken the exam more than 3 times within the past 12 months. The fee to take the exam varies. 

How may I find out when and where the next examination is scheduled? 

The INCOSE knowledge exam is offered on demand, online. The knowledge exam is also offered at INCOSE events as posted here:

What reference documents were used to create the examination questions? 
The INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook is the reference document that was used to create the questions in the certification examination. Review details on which version of the handbook is in use here

How can I get a copy of the reference documents used for the examination questions? 

Copies of the current version of the Systems Engineering Handbook may be obtained from INCOSE. A soft copy may be downloaded free by INCOSE members at . Printed copies may be purchased directly at Wiley

How are examinations prepared? 

INCOSE volunteers create new questions which are “beta tested” as part of ongoing examinations. Successful new questions are used to supplement or replace existing questions in the examination. 

What kind of study guides or practice exams are available for the examination? 

INCOSE’s Certification Program has not created any “study guides” for the knowledge examination. We recommend study of the current version of the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook which is the reference document for the certification examination. Study guides and training may be produced by external parties without oversight, review, or endorsement from the Certification Program. 

When may I expect to receive my exam score? 

The computer exam provider will tell you if you have passed the computer examination within minutes after you complete the examination since it is computer scored. If you take the examination on paper, it will take a few weeks before you receive your results via email. 

What is the minimum passing score for the certification exam? 

The passing score for the exam is based on the results of a series of tests that have been performed on the exam itself and is based on the results of over 60 individuals from varying levels of systems engineering experience. The passing score reflects the minimum level of knowledge expected from a satisfactorily practicing systems engineer with at least five years of industrial experience after receiving a four-year bachelor’s degree in a technical field from an accredited institution of higher education. The approach used to establish a passing score is similar to the approach used by State Governments that issue Professional Engineering licenses, and likewise a specific passing score is not published. When you take the certification exam, you will be advised immediately after you complete the computer based exam that you have passed or failed the exam. You will not be given a numerical score. For your guidance, you need to exhibit a level of knowledge similar to what is expected to pass and obtain credit when taking an academic course at a college or university. 

Why do I need to pay a separate fee to take an examination? 

You pay a separate fee to take the certification examination in order to keep the total cost of the certification process down by not having INCOSE serve as an agent in forwarding funds to the Test Organization. Paying the test fee directly is also a more efficient process if you have to retake the examination. 

Do I need to pay an additional fee to retake the examination? 

Yes, you do have to pay a separate test fee each time you schedule the certification examination. 

How long is the examination? 

A two-hour time period is allowed for answering the 120 questions on the computer knowledge examination. The paper exam may be fewer or more questions, and the candidate will be allotted 1 minute per question. 

What kind of questions are on the examination? 

The certification examination questions are currently multiple-choice questions. All correct answers must be selected from the possible answers given to receive credit for answering a question. A typical question may have five possible answers listed of which three are correct. Partial credit is not given for a question. 

Am I permitted to bring material to use during an examination? 

The certification examinations are closed book. The applicant is not allowed to bring any types of reference materials, writing tablets, notes, etc. All devices that might compromise the security of the examination process are forbidden. Computers, cell phones, pagers, and other electronic equipment are not permitted in the test room. The test organization will provide any material/equipment needed to take the examination. 

In what languages are the test offered? 

The test is only offered in the English language. 

What accommodations in taking the test can be made for those with whose native language is not English? 

Applicants with English as a Second Language (ESL) can be given an additional 30 minutes to take the exam. These applicants may also bring a paper English translation dictionary to reference during the exam. Use the INCOSE certification Special Accommodations form to make this type of request. ESL extensions must be requested and justified by the applicant and are subject to the approval of the INCOSE Certification Office. 

What accommodations in taking the test can be made for those with special needs? 

An applicant with special needs must make them known when applying with INCOSE. Use the INCOSE certification Special Accommodations form to make this type of request. INCOSE will do its best to accommodate all requests. 

Can I reschedule the exam with the test center? 

Yes, but you may not be given a refund of your exam registration fee. 


May I count graduate coursework toward the experience requirement? 

No. Experience may be counted from internships, co-ops, or work done outside of coursework. Research and projects done only by students cannot count toward the experience requirements. An individual who is working and also going to school may count his or her work time. Volunteer or unpaid work may also count toward the experience requirement. 


May I submit a generic letter of recommendation instead of having my reference complete the INCOSE reference form? 

No. The references must use standard INCOSE reference forms

When selecting references, should I choose supervisors or co-workers? 

If possible, select one or more current or former supervisors as references because their inputs are given much greater credibility by the review committee than are inputs from your co-workers. Subordinates are never appropriate as references. References must provide their assessments in their own words, and they must describe their knowledge of Systems Engineering that qualifies them to serve as references. 

Do each of the references that I select need to be able to confirm my experience for the full number of years that I need to qualify for certification? 

No. Each individual reference does not have to verify your experience for the entire minimum number of years of experience that you need to qualify for certification, BUT your collective set of references does need to be able to confirm your experience for the entire minimum number of years claimed by you on your application, including any additional years of experience required due to your educational status. If the collective inputs from your references do not cover the entire minimum number of years of experience needed to qualify for certification, the review committee may either turn down your application because you do not meet the minimum qualifications on verified experience or may ask you to identify and contact additional references for inputs to confirm your unverified years of experience. The latter will delay the processing of your application. For example, if your three references all confirm the same three years of your experience, you do not have the minimum number of years of verified experience. If the review committee does not turn down your application, it may request that you identify and contact at least one additional reference who can verify your experience for the additional unverified years that you have reported. Your references should provide their assessments in their own words, instead of or in addition to any "copy-paste" of information from your application.  

Equivalency Programs 

Does a systems engineering certification or degree count toward getting an INCOSE certification?

 INCOSE works with several universities and other certifying bodies to recognize equivalencies or create streamlined paths to INCOSE Certification. Please go to or email for more information. 

I hold SE-ZERT Level C. What is the process for me to be recognized as an INCOSE Systems Engineering Professional? 

Individuals holding SE-ZERT Level C and Level B should work with GfSE to request INCOSE Certification. 

What can I do to get my non-INCOSE certification recognized as equivalent by INCOSE’s Certification Program? 

Certification equivalency is evaluated by INCOSE’s Certification Program Office in response to a request initiated by the other certification’s sponsoring organization. The sponsoring organization should email to start a conversation about equivalency. 

Training Courses 

I would like help with the Certification process. How can I find a training provider? 

The Certification Program does not endorse or oversee any provider, including products of INCOSE chapters and working groups. The Certification Program does maintain a list of known training providers that can be emailed to you. Please visit Training Providers for the most current list. 

I help others with the Certification process. How can I ensure I get the latest information about changes to the Certification Program? 

Updates about the Certification Program are posted on the less formal website: and in the INCOSE Certification groups on LinkedIn. You are also welcome to email the Certification Program Manager with specific questions.