Why Get Certified?
Certification is a way to demonstrate to your current and future employers, your coworkers, and your auditees that you have mastered a defined Body of Knowledge (BOK) through studying, testing, and work experience. You can use your certification to demonstrate increased competency and get promotions and pay raises. A recent survey reported in ASQ’s Quality Progress magazine showed salary premiums of $5,130 to $22,209 a year for their certifications.
Which Certification Is Right For You?
Choosing the right certification is essential
And the right certification is entirely dependent on where you want your career to go. Are you looking for a promotion in your current line of work? Or are you interested in a lateral move to a different area of expertise? Whatever direction you want to take:
- Research organizations and certifications, starting with the links below
- Use your network to identify people who are doing the job you want and find out what certifications they have (LinkedIn is a great place to start)
- Talk to your supervisor
- Talk to the people you wish you worked for
Certification is not just about successfully passing an exam. All reputable certifying organizations also require varying amounts of work experience related to their BOK. Be sure you research the requirements carefully.
Here are some fast facts about auditor certifications from 3 important organizations.
American Society for Quality (ASQ)
3 of ASQ’s 17 certifications focus on mastering audit skills. ASQ requires exam applicants to have specific work experience, depending on the certification.
- Biomedical Auditor (CBA) has an international device focus
- Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (CHA) focuses on product safety
- Quality Auditor (CQA) focuses on audit skills, regardless of the industry
Society of Quality Assurance (SQA)
SQA’s 2 certifications help you demonstrate your mastery of GLP or GCP regulatory requirements and their application. SQA requires exam applicants to have at least 2 years full-time QA experience and a signature from their manager or an SQA member.
- Registered Quality Assurance Professional – GLP (RQAP-GLP) focuses on Good Laboratory Practice
- Registered Quality Assurance Professional – GCP (RQAP-GCP) focuses on Good Clinical Practice
1 of ISACA’s (formerly Information Systems Audit and Control Association) 4 certificationsconcentrates on IT audit skills. This can be a helpful certification if you are interested in auditing computerized processes and data integrity.
ISACA requires 5 years of work experience in addition to passing the exam to become a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). However, you can sit for the exam before completing the experience requirement, as long as you put in that time within 5 years of passing the exam.
How Do You Get Certified?
First of all, be sure you meet the organization’s requirements for certification.
Become a member of the certifying organization
Even if you don’t meet the organization’s requirements for certification now, join up. This will get you access to resources you won’t otherwise have (like journals, members-only on-line resources, and local chapter memberships) and discounts on exam registrations, training materials, and classes.
Apply for the exam
Once you meet the organization’s requirements, select a date to take the exam and submit the application with your testing fee. (Be sure to allow yourself enough time to study – who wants to pay twice!?)
Study the BOK
Take practice tests. The BOKs for all these exams are broad, and it’s likely you don’t have hands-on experience for all of it. Start with a practice test to identify the areas you need to study more. Continue taking practice tests as you study, simulating the test environment. Not only will you gain confidence in your mastery of the material, you will learn how to manage your test time.
Set aside study time. Your supervisor may even agree to let you have some time at work, provided you demonstrate that you are applying your new skills to your job.
Find a way to study that works for you.
- Form a study group and work to encourage each other and fill the gaps in each other’s knowledge. Sometimes the best way to learn something well is to teach others
- Take advantage of free or low-cost exam prep classes offered by local chapters
- The most expensive preparation activity is a formal boot camp. Don’t be fooled though! A 3-5 day boot camp is no substitute for having studied on your own and is no guarantee of success
Here’s a final, funny tip. You are probably not used to holding and writing with a pencil! Practice tests will help build up those hand muscles so you can test for 3-4 hours.
Take (and pass) the exam
Nurture yourself. Get a good night’s sleep before taking the exam. That’s not the time for cramming! If you have the stomach for it, be sure you’re well fed and hydrated before starting and take a snack you can eat when you’re done. It’s amazing how hungry you can get taking a 3-4 hour test.
Know where to go. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But there’s nothing worse than feeling panicky the morning of the exam when you can’t find the right location. Try a dry run a week or two before the exam to remove that piece of uncertainty and then stay current on road conditions. Plan to arrive in the exam room 30 minutes before the exam starts.
Bring what you need. Make a checklist of what you need to bring for the exam. Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers to be successful.
Watch your time. If you get stuck on a question, move on. But make sure you keep the alignment between the question you’re working on and the answer sheet.
Don’t forget to stay certified
Who wants to take that exam again? Be sure you understand what it takes to keep your certification. Generally, you must maintain your membership in the certifying organization, pay an annual certification maintenance fee, and complete a minimum number of Certified Professional Experience hours each year. Some organizations even audit your ongoing certification records, so be sure you keep good records!
Your career is your responsibility. Have those personal development conversations with your boss and ask for financial support to reach your goals. If they decline to pitch in, don’t let their unwillingness to spend money on you discourage you! Think about yourself as a free agent and be prepared to personally invest in your career.
For an interesting take on personal responsibility in career management, see the recent article from CIO.com: “Congratulations, You’re Your Own Skills Manager.”