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. This was before CITP became more prominent in the IT field.
Things have changed a great deal since then, and CEng has become less common in academic degree programme accreditation, and generally within IT. CEng can be found in accreditation arrangements at some institutions (e.g. York), however for many other reasons, not least because of BCS efforts to establish CITP, CEng has become less prominent although it remains relevant and has a high bar to entry.
After putting chartership on the back burner for a few years, I later joined an employer chartership mentoring programme, which was positioned by my then employer as an employee benefit, and continued developing my portfolio of evidence for CEng with IET. I later joined the other mainstream institute for IT in the UK – the 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.
I must say, not holding 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’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.
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 that’s a focus of mine moving forward. 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. The STAR method 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. Experience in industry surveys of CITP 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. It’s internationally recognised as an important career milestone. It is an effective way of showing career progression, over and above CV material. Some have even suggested chartership is 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 also 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’re choosing a degree at university, I’d strongly recommend choosing one that has exemptions from the relevant chartership assessment requirements.