SAN JOSE, Calif. – Only 12 people took the first exam given in the U.S. to certify software engineers working on safety-critical systems, and only six passed it. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying is driving ahead with plans to offer the exam again next April while educating engineers and employers about its significance.
“This was the first offering and efforts are underway by the IEEE and others to promote the exam to future candidates,” said Tim Miller, director of examination services at NCEES. “I suspect there was a lot of ‘wait-and-see’ from potential candidates,” he added.
The exam gives a license that could open doors and provide job security for engineers working in utilities, traffic control, automotive, wastewater management and other critical infrastructure areas, backers say.
“I think there is going to be increasing demand from American public officials and the public at large that these types of systems be built under the supervision of and by U.S. licensed professional software engineers,” said Phillip Laplante, a professor of software engineering at Penn State who chaired the committee that developed the test. “The types of systems that are regulated under the licensing provisions cannot be [effectively] offshored,” he added.
Meanwhile LaPlante continues to work on educating engineers and employers about the importance of certification. “I have been pretty busy giving about two talks a month at various conferences and meetings and also spreading the word through publications, radio appearances and webinars,” he said.
The NCEES offers a study guide for the exam. About 30 states offered the exam last April.
I've been chronicling the exam saga in my blog for over a year. I've covered the history of this up to the current exam time and how we got to this point.
There is no free study guide, what they are selling is a list of books, for $40 from IEEE, the sponsor of this mess, that you must read. I I summarize the exam training material here:
covers NCEES refusal to disclose how many took the test when I asked. If this is about safety why hide the data? Glad someone finally got some numbers. The prerequisites for the test exclude a wide group of experienced people from taking the test, which is why they numbers are low, and will remain low.
In my personal view this is being pushed by people that are selling training material. I've covered that as well.
has links to all the past articles. Best to start with the oldest one first.
I have my PE in Electrical Engineering, but I have worked in firmware and hardware design and debug for the last 30 years. I became registered in late '87. Back then there was no such thing for software.
But also back then, it was seen as a right of passage and even if your target employment didn't require it, it was seen as a mark of quality. These days it seems irrelevant. It basically permits me to design building electrical systems which I could probably do if I put my mind to it, but I have no experience, so it would probably not be the best design.
As @Synthetic eluded to, it seemed the value began to erode when the waves of H1B's began to arrive and outsourcing became common.
Having looked at the links provided by @BPaddock_2, most of what is there seems irrelevant to what I do, and none of this could guarantee that the code written by someone that passed this test would be worth a flip.
Then, you have to wonder if this applies to hardware design which is becoming much like software thru the use of HDL's which actually look like software , require some of the same best practices as software but in fact is not the same thing at all. So at what point does this cross over to Electrical Engineering and could there be equivalency between the 2?
Fact is, any PE can stamp any drawing (that's the old school saying) as long as the contents reflect the regular work you do. So there are some grey boundaries.
Lastly, the study guide way back then was 49.95 but was a couple of hundred pages and was hard bound. But still pretty useless except as a guide to the categories of questions that would
be asked. So I purchased one each of a 1000+ pages "Problem Solver" study guide and worked the problems every night for 3 months. I passed with an 82, but the 49.95 book in of itself was pretty useless.
I can't help but feel that this is another effort to harvest money based on a created need rather than an actual benefit to having passed the test. Does anyone who took the test and passed or took the test and failed care to comment on the applicability of the test to the real world challenges of safety critical programming? I remember with some disdain the various tests that I took as an undergrad, they relied on theory rather than reality. I do remember most clearly one course Advanced Electronics, that brought the practical into the course and the related tests/quizzes/homework. Pretty sad considering all the courses that I took that only one stands out. Again, does this new test help to teach or really verify that someone is capable of safety related software?
What is the evidence that the committee that designed the exam is the best qualified entity to preventing software glitches in critical systems? Will the examination detect the "out of the box" thinkers who will really solve these currently unsolved problems? The worst software development experience I ever had was by a CMM level 4 certified vendor. They made mistakes that few self taught programmers would have made (and blamed us for not paying extra for the CMM level 4 COMPLIANT code). We didn't know that actually using their capabilities cost extra.
I've become cynical in my old age. All of these certifcation programs, I've come to realize, are simply a way to get money from people. They are simply another business model. They are designed to create a revenue stream for studying for and then taking the test, then they create an infinite revenue stream for people to retain their cerified status.
In other words, it's a racket.
Proof positive of this is what happens with H1B visas. Any purported value of these certifications gets trumped by lower cost labor.
The AMA is carefully watching this new telemedicine stuff carefully, for that same reason. You don't see them hyping up the wonders of technology applied to medicine, especially when that tech can get in everyone's hands.
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