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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 ESEP review process take? 

Our review and processing typically takes two to three months. The review starts once all of an applicant’s materials, including references and proof of degree, are received. The longest delay in an ESEP review is the scheduling of interview with the applicant and, if necessary, references. 

For how long is an ESEP certification valid? 

An Expert Systems Engineering Professional Certification is valid for the duration of an individual’s INCOSE membership. No certification renewal is required.  


How do I obtain an application for certification? 

The preferred method is to download the application form from our website, here: 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. 

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

If you are denied at the ESEP level, you will be given the opportunity to apply as an ASEP or CSEP without having to pay a new application fee. You will have the pass the INCOSE knowledge exam to get certified at those levels. 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 ESEP? 

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 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, or 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 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. 


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.  


Are the interview questions for ESEP similar to the exam questions for ASEP and CSEP? 

No, the interview is about an individual’s technical leadership experience, not a knowledge check of the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook.  

Will all of my references be interviewed? 

The number of references interviewed varies. The ESEP review team gathers information until they have enough to make a decision, either for approval or denial. This may include zero, one, or two reference interviews. 

What should I do if I’m worried about the interview? 

If English is not your first language, or if you are deaf or hard of hearing, or for some other reason need special accommodations, please let INCOSE know before scheduling your interview. You may be eligible for extra time or visual access to the interview questions. It is a good idea for all ESEP candidates to review their individual application and have a copy of it on hand during the interview.  

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. These are only available at the ASEP and CSEP level. There are no current equivalencies for ESEP.  

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.