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News & Press: Feature

Uncertified, Unlicensed, Uncontrolled

Monday, June 7, 2004   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Larry Schmitz, CCP, CMC

Currently, in most, if not all states, when you hire an electrician to wire your house, that person has been tested and licensed by your state's Department of Licensing and Regulation. The same is true of plumbers, barbers, beauticians, etc.

But, if you hire a computer consultant to design a critical computer application or troubleshoot your computer network problems, you are basically on your own. You have no assurance, vis-à-vis a state-issued license, that this person is qualified to perform the task at hand.

In the U.S. today, the critical field of information technology - and those who practice it - is uncertified, unlicensed and uncontrolled.

While a comprehensive certification program, complete with code of ethics, recertification continuing education requirements and holistic testing of IT comprehension levels has existed for years through the cooperative efforts of the large information technology professional societies in the U.S. and Canada, it has not been completely supported by those in the field.

Why not? The answer, simply stated, is because in the United States IT certification is not required to work in the field.

While state legislatures have promulgated hundreds of licensing requirements for the general protection of the public in fields like accounting, healthcare, law and other professions and trades, they have not addressed the dramatic impact that computers have on almost everything we do.

How is the public protected when the CPA and the physician, while knowledgeable in their fields, are relying more and more on the results provided to them by various computer systems in order to make critical decisions, especially when they have no assurance that the people who designed, tested and installed those computer systems were competent to do so?

I believe the solution is certification and voluntary licensing of professionals engaged in various forms of computer consulting.

Although I am not advocating more government, I am convinced that since the business community has not demanded a uniform system of certification, it falls to the legislatures of the 50 states to agree on a standard that the competency of computer professionals can be measured against - much like the CPA certification in public accounting.

The good news is the solution already exists; the U.S. only has to codify and adopt it.

The Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) was formed in 1973 through the cooperation of several large professional information technology societies to develop a series of comprehensive, vendor-independent examinations that test IT professionals on the emerging and expanding body of knowledge that represents the computer industry.

The resulting certification, the Certified Computing Professional (CCP), is patterned after CPA certification. Certification involves: a multifaceted series of examinations designed to test applicants' overall knowledge of the field; work experience requirements; a code of ethics ascribed to by certificate holders to protect employers, clients and the general public; and an ongoing continuing education requirement to ensure that certificate holders stay current with changes in the profession and in the body of knowledge.

The examination test items are also continuously being reviewed to ensure that the examinations themselves remain current and relevant.

As our society becomes even more computer-dependent in critical areas like health, safety, commerce and military defense, it is time for the business community, academia and the government to embrace this uniform standard of proficiency (CCP) as the certification vehicle for those who practice IT.

And yes, if the only way to accomplish this is professional state licensing of CCPs, then so be it. The public needs a standard of excellence that it can rely on.

About the Author

Larry Schmitz, CCP, CMC was the 1999 AITP president, a member of the Board of Regents, Foundation for Information Technology Education, member of the Board of Directors, Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals and retired executive officer of Management Consulting at Schenck Information Technology Solutions. He also served as president of Strategies & Solutions, an IBM Premier Business Partner, and spent a number of years heading up Price Waterhouse's consulting practice in Wisconsin. After 30 years in the IT consulting field, he believes now is the time for the profession and state regulatory bodies to come together in establishing professional standards and voluntary licensing in this critical field. He can be reached at (800)236-2246 or by e-mail at


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In support of the concepts laid out in this article, the AITP Board passed the following resolutions at their June, 2004 Board meeting:

The Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) endorses the Certified Computing Professional (CCP) examination offered by the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) as the preferred standard for certifying the expertise of information technology professionals.

The AITP rejects the "Professional Engineer" framework as a valid approach for the licensing of information technology professionals.

The AITP supports a voluntary licensing framework for persons engaged in Information Technology (IT) consulting services within the United States that is based upon the CCP examination offered by the ICCP in conjunction with an
information technology ethics and ethical practices examination.

Furthermore, in order to maintain licensure, these persons must adhere to a professional code of ethics, must acquire continuing education, and must meet minimum professional experience requirements.

AITP plans to solicit support for their position on this important matter from other IT professional societies

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