I thought I’d write up my experience of applying for Charted IT Professional (CITP), through the BCS. I recently secured this, slightly overdue, qualification and thought it would be a useful exercise to write some notes up on my blog in case there are any others seeking something similar.
I’ve contemplated attaining chartership for many years, and first started considering it around 2002, some sixteen years ago! Originally I intended to apply for Chartered Engineer (CEng), which my degree is validated for under the (then) IEE and Engineering Council as well as BCS.
Things have changed a great deal since then, and CEng is no longer the only route to chartership, and in many cases become less common – both in the profession and in academic degree programme accreditation. CEng can be found in accreditation arrangements at some institutions (e.g. York), however Chartered IT Professional (CITP) has now emerged as a more popular alternative.
Part of this is probably due to the changes to permitted entry routes for CEng (the SARTOR arrangements). This raised the bar from an accredited bachelors degree to Masters level, which has not probably helped in promoting its uptake.
After putting chartership on the back burner for a few years, I later joined an employer chartership mentoring programme, which I did find useful in shaping my thoughts, but in practice it was at that time more about gathering experience. A few years later, after IEE merged with another institution to form IEE, I decided to join BCS.
Fast forward a few years, and it became apparent to me that running membership in both the BCS and (what became the IET out of the IEE) was an expensive hobby, and it made a lot more sense to focus my efforts on membership of BCS and CITP (and potentially still CEng) through the same.
This is perhaps one of the key benefits of BCS membership: the institute can offer both CEng and CITP routes without having to pay the extra cost of a second institute membership fee each year.
A lack of chartership was not a barrier to career progress in my early career, however I recognised this may eventually no longer be the case, and I intended to focus on attaining it now because I felt it would be more beneficial after the first part of my career. I’ve also left it slightly later, but I’m satisfied with this approach given it’s also a lot cheaper, saving £450 in extra annual fees.
I applied for CITP at the same time as applying for CESG Certified Professional (CCP), under the CCP Scheme Fast Track Route. The CCP forms reflect the requirements of CITP. The process also involved an interview, which I found was relaxed and got the distinct impression my application pack was an important factor. The interview went by surprisingly quickly, and lasted 45 minutes.
Here were some of the take-home lessons I picked up through the process.
Writing the application
Writing the application pack will take time. I spent the best part of two weeks, most evenings working on my submission. It’s important to set aside enough time to complete the process and to take it seriously.
When writing the application, some recommendations I have are:
- 20% of the time will be taken up putting pen to paper, and the remaining 80% revising and reducing word count
- Write text outside of the application form in a font setup that you find comfortable, and then copy it over into the application form
- Word-based application forms may involve tables and other elements that complicate formatting and layout, so it helps to have someone knowledgeable about Word on hand if you need assistance
- Use examples where you directly achieved a result under competency headings
- Use the Situation, Task, Action and Result (STAR) format for paragraphs about your examples. It is is a strange style of writing, but can help a great deal in focusing on the important content.
One of the most useful exercises I carried out during the application was to collate into a single location, all of my CPD. BCS of course provide an excellent tool for this, and it may help to take a look (search “BCS PDP tool”).
With an organised summary of CPD, which is a requirement of most certifications and chartership schemes, it became a great deal easier to provide examples of training I had undertaken in my responses. This is an important thing to focus on in the process. For many responses I did list courses I had taken, and I also broke down my university degree into it’s constituent modules. It may also help to get a hold of any degree transcripts.
Structuring the statement
Using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method is helpful, and produces as good result in written statements, but makes writing the statement more time consuming. As I mentioned earlier, a common writing technique is STAR, which is a structuring scheme designed to convey the personal contributon and result achieved.
A fictional example:
The company decided to develop a new information system that delivered a new capability to the customer, enabling communications in theatre to be more effectively integrated with the legacy Swordfish system. I was tasked with reviewing the security vulnerabilities in the new product, and ensuring remediation plans were put in place that addressed outstanding vulnerabilities. I used my network of contacts in the information security industry to shortlist a number of penetration testing firms and then selected a primary partner to deliver seven penetration tests. I secured a budget of £273k over the financial year, developed the test scopes, managed the delivery of the tests, and agreed the remediation plans with the customer. I also liaised with engineering teams to implement fixes. Significant vulnerabilities beyond risk tolerance were prioritised, and all information was appropriately protected. The result was a system that was ready for go-live on-time and to cost, delivering new communications capability for the customer.
STAR is frequently used in HR recruitment processes and is very effective in interviewing for a good reason: it ensures accurate information to make a decision on the part of interviewers, and keeps applicants honest and truthful about their contribution. I’d advise against dropping the STAR method, as you’ll probably find your responses may be insufficient.
Experience is key
While corporate mentoring programmes are no doubt helpful, it became pretty clear to me when drafting the statements for CITP, that my experience was the critical asset. I can see applications for CITP earlier in career would be more challenging to produce, as finding competency examples would require greater research and thought. If you don’t have the experience, it is going to be very clear to an assessor.
In my view, ten years’ experience or more is more or less essential, in complex roles (i.e. not first line or second line support), due to the expectations of the CITP criteria.
This also seems to be bourne out by the industry data. Industry surveys of CITP show experience is strongly correlated to chartership, with 10 or more years’ experience accounting for most roles in the market (Source: Payscale).
Perhaps the most taxing aspect of any chartership application is the paperwork required. Developing organisational charts, writing summaries, using structured writing styles, and more, can take up a great deal of time.
This, though, is part of the process and the familiar saying applies: if it was easy, everyone would achieve it.
Chartership is a recognised qualification in many ways, and others have noted:
- It’s internationally recognised as an important career milestone.
- It is an effective way of showing career progression, over and above CV material.
- It may be beneficial in a legal context, for example as an expert witness or witness on behalf of your employer.
- In some role areas, chartership is an important element in sign off of engineering or other processes. This has been particularly true in safety critical systems engineering, for instance trains, aerospace, and similar. But I think moving forward this is probably going to become more prominent in IT, given the potential impact in areas such as cyber security, data protection and privacy. In fact, one of the proposals floated for a new UK institute for cyber security in 2018 was precisely that: a chartership standard. Expect to see more in that area, as professions and government seek more stringent standards.
- Chartership is also a mark of professional excellence, and is considered by some to be strongly correlated to highly adaptable and capable individuals who are able to tackle complex problems and make decisions.
- It highlights a professional that has agreed to abide by a professional code of conduct.
Clients of chartered professionals can typically expect a high level of professionalism, e.g. conflicts of interest management, keeping information confidential, making appropriate representations e.g. based on evidence, and so on.
Qualifications and experience are an implicit element of chartership. Having chartered status will therefore provide confirmation of the quality of these elements of your CV.
Progression and earning power
Role types in industry surveys that are strongly correlated to CITP tend to be management, director level roles, and senior project/programme managers.
Earning potential according to some surveys is strongly correlated with chartership, ranging from £50k to £123k. CITP is strongly correlated to salaries over £60k with 10 or more years experience (Source: Payscale).
Of course, this is not to say chartership is the causative factor.
Am I satisfied in leaving CITP to a few years later in my career? In a word yes.
My overall take on the process is a positive one. Career experience is going to be the single biggest determinant in progressing a chartership application in my view, but regardless of how much experience you have, I would strongly recommend documenting CPD and other activity systematically from the start (e.g. after graduation or when starting a first role in the IT industry), to make the process more straightforward later on. Also keep notes on organisational charts, where you fit within them, perhaps also on a project level as well as functional basis.
If you are an employer with a large IT function, you should make chartership a core element of your employee development programme.
If you’re choosing a degree at university, I’d strongly recommend choosing one that has exemptions from the relevant chartership assessment requirements.