by February 3, 2011 0 comments

There are more than a million employees working in the IT industry and they constantly look out for moving to higher paying jobs. IEEE is one of the largest non-profit professional organizations in the world. IEEE has two certifications — CSDA and CSDP — meant for students and working professionals respectively. In this article, I provide an overview of this certification and why you should take this exam. I also share my experiences with these certifications.

Why get certified?

Deepak (name changed) is from a middle class family in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. He is a sincere student, and got decent marks in his +2 exam in 2005. Just like his friends, he dreamt of going to US and earning in Dollars by becoming a software engineer and so joined BE (CS) in a private engineering college near Chennai. Getting a seat in an engineering college is very easy in Tamil Nadu — there are more than 300 private engineering colleges and passing +2 is enough for getting a seat there. The tough part is paying the hefty semester fees and other fees, for example, it is mandatory to buy a laptop from the college. Their parents had to mortgage ing that Deepak will get a job in campus placements when he completes. However, in 2008, because of global economic slow-down, there were no campus placements in his college. His financial background did not allow him to opt for higher studies or join courses in reputed institutes like C-DAC for getting a job. Instead, he chose to use his time fruitfully by preparing for certification courses in his free time. With few months of preparation, he easily cleared Oracle’s SCJP certification and IEEE’s CSDA certification. He had to shell out around Rs. 20,000 for these certifications, but he immediately got a job in an MNC and this amount was just half-month’s salary. Today, he is doing well as a software engineer.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students pass out of our colleges dreaming about getting a high-paying job in IT companies. Though the job market is booming again, getting a good job is becoming tougher than ever before with increasing competition. Most colleges don’t equip students with necessary skills and knowledge necessary for getting employed. Getting certified is one of the few effective ways to distinguish oneself from thousands of other job applicants looking for entry level jobs. Similarly, certifications can also help fast track the career growth of working professionals.

Overview – IEEE certifications:

Well known certifications in the industry are technology related, such as MCSD and SCJP. While technology certifications are useful, certifications that demonstrate competency in essential knowledge domains are also important. There are not many certifications in this category, one exception being IEEE’s CSDA and CSDP certifications.

IEEE is one of the world’s largest non-profit professional organizations. IEEE is well-known in the IT world since around 30% of the scholarly publications in EE and CS domains are published by this organization. IEEE has two certifications on software engineering

(see Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) certification is meant for students for bridging the gap between what is learnt in the college and what is needed in the industry. Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) certification is meant for working professionals to establish proficiency in software engineering discipline.

There are many universities abroad which have adopted the IEEE curriculum on which these certifications are based on. In India, CSDA appears to be becoming popular. C-DAC’s FPGDST (Full-Time Post-Graduate Diploma in Advanced Software Technology) course, for example, is now aligned with CSDA syllabus.

CSDA and CSDP certifications 

There are no pre-requisites for taking CSDA exam. However, for getting a job in the IT industry, you’ll be expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree with CSDA. For CSDP, you need to have CSDA certification or a bachelor’s degree. In addition, you’ll need to have at least four year’s of experience in the IT industry or two years of experience if you have an advanced degree in software engineering.

Cost of the exam: Around Rs 15,000 for CSDA and Rs 20,000 for CSDP.

Where to take the exam: You can take the exam in Prometric, which has a presence in most cities in India.

What is the type of the exam: It is an objective type exam with 180 questions. It will take around 3.5 hours to complete the exam.

How much time it takes to prepare for the exam: It depends. For CSDA, if you already have had software engineering as a course in your degree program, if you spend a few months preparing for the exam it will be sufficient. CSDP is a tough exam to crack. Typically it will take around 6 months to 1 year to prepare for the exam.

What are the topics covered in the exam: The questions will be from 15 Knowledge Areas divided into four modules as shown in the table. The topics covered for CSDA and CSDP are the same, but the percentage importance for these topics will be different for these exams.

How to prepare for the exam: These certifications are based on Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK) (this document is an international standard now). IEEE has an online course which consists of a detailed tutorial and sample tests/questions. 

You can also read a book that has CSDP sample questions and detailed discussions on the answers (“Real-World Software Engineering Problems: A Self-Study Guide for Today’s Software Professional”, J. Fernando Naveda and Stephen B. Seidman, Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Press, 2006).

My experience

I passed both CSDA and CSDP in 2009-2010. Since I had many years of experience as a software engineer, CSDA was very easy to pass and didn’t require much preparation. Yes, I did read Ian Somerville’s book (Software Engineering, 8th edition, Ian Sommerville, Addison Wesley, 2006) which was useful for refreshing my knowledge.

CSDP is a tough exam to crack. Unlike while taking the CSDA exam when I felt confident that I would pass the exam before pressing the “finish the exam” button, I wasn’t sure I would see “congratulations” screen once I did press the button while taking the CSDP exam! This was after preparing for six months. The reason is that CSDP does an in-depth assessment of your knowledge as well as how you apply your knowledge in the real-world. After attending the CSDA exam, I read many books to prepare for CSDP. I also prepared myself using the CSDP online training material provided by IEEE.

I think reading this material is sufficient for those who want to prepare for the exam. Preparing for the exam clearly helped me understand the software engineering concepts better, hence I feel it is worthwhile to get this certification.

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