It’s not easy to start a career in decision science. It takes passion, hard work, and a relentless appetite for conquering obstacles. I’ve spent years overcoming these obstacles with clients, data, and code. I eventually decided to get the Certified Analytics Professional designation to give some validation to my abilities and was fortunate enough to pass and earn certification on my first attempt! The application process and exam were not nearly as difficult as learning how to analyze data, but they were much more difficult than they needed to be. It’s just a young program… my certification number is #1501 and aside from a new website, the certification process has not changed since it first rolled out.
I had considered online certificate programs (such as Coursera) and Masters Degree programs that focus on data science. Both of these paths have struggled to gain traction in the job market, so I chose to pursue a certification. I chose the CAP certification because it is the best branded, most well recognized, and best sponsored option among decision science certifications. In a CIO Magazine article titled 16 big data certifications that will pay off, the CAP was their first option.
The CAP certification is also backed by a prestigious organization. It run by the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS), a professional organization with over 11,000 highly educated (50% PhD) members. The idea of this well-established organization backing my certification is appealing, primarily because I don’t have a PhD and this certification associates me with many extremely distinguished people. INFORMS has done a great job of launching the CAP program, but as I said before, the certification process was more trouble than necessary. We started datattest.com as a blog to share experiences, challenges, and tactics for earning a CAP designation. Our goal is to be a guiding resource to help you obtain this valuable credential. We are not paid for this work, it just feels like the right place to contribute.
If you are interested in obtaining the CAP certification we recommend you take it soon! INFORMS put out a survey to all their registered members on March 23, 2016 to collect input on building a “Guide to the Analytics Body of Knowledge”. We are confident the CAP exam will be expanded and changed to cover the entire content of this guide. The CAP exam was very challenging, but it wasn’t as mature as other certification exams we’ve taken. Certifications like the Project Management Professional are much less technical and come with bodies of knowledge that were 400+ pages. By contrast the current CAP Study Guide is 113 pages inclusive of a 30 page glossary. If you have anywhere near the confidence in your knowledge to consider taking the exam at this time, we strongly recommend you do so.
We assume that if you’re reading past that last sentence you’re interested in getting certified as a CAP. That’s great! Let’s get started! Here’s our proven process with much more detail than you can get anywhere else:
- Visit and register with https://www.certifiedanalytics.org/. To register, click just about any link offering free material and you will be prompted with a registration form. INFORMS requires you to register to obtain the free information listed below:
- 24 free practice questions. Do these. Analyze the correct answers and the incorrect ones. You’ll quickly see what we mean about the exam still being “immature”. To start there are only 24 practice questions for a 3 hour test! If you study each wrong answer you are essentially turning each question into 4 (three wrong answers and 1 correct). Still feeling good about your knowledge? If you’re in the ballpark of passing 50% of the questions you should proceed.
- The CAP Candidate Handbook, which provides information on the certification process.
- The CAP Study Guide, which provides free study content!
- Free webinars that are mostly promotional material or duplicate content from sources above.
- A continuing education section with links to mostly online training providers, which can be a great study supplement if you are not experienced in some content covered on the CAP exam.
- Verify your eligibility requirements for obtaining either the CAP or the Associate CAP. Do you meet all of the CAP requirements? Are you close? If not, don’t be discouraged because INFORMS also offers an “Associate CAP” certification for those with less experience who are working towards a full CAP certification. Remember that there are very few fully certified practitioners and the field of decision science is on fire. An Associate CAP certification is still a very valuable asset if you don’t meet the full eligibility requirements.
- Apply for the examination at https://www.certifiedanalytics.org/apply.php. The application is free. They ask you to submit copies of transcripts that can be scanned and uploaded to their electronic application. It’s generally a quick and painless process that provides a response within a few days.
- Check for a nearby examination site. The CAP Candidate Handbook and website don’t have much information about this. They seem to want you to blindly commit to their process and fees before learning where to find a testing center. But I’m here for you once again… after going through their process we can tell you that the exam is administered by Kryterion and they have testing centers all over the world. Here’s a link from the email I received upon registering for my exam: http://www.kryteriononline.com/locate-test-center/. The exam can be scheduled almost daily at any one of their preferred testing centers. There are 70K+ sites and we found one within a couple miles.
- Join INFORMS.org, the sponsoring organization for the CAP certification. Membership costs about $160 per year but it provides a discount on the CAP exam that more than makes up for the first year of membership. If you don’t want to continue as a member of INFORMS, just don’t renew. Membership with INFORMS is not required to obtain or retain the CAP credentials.
- Upon joining INFORMS you will be eligible for 3 of their journals. Pick the Analytics journal and two others that cover areas you may not be as familiar with. INFORMS created the CAP exam content so these journals are valuable study resources and you already paid for them. Study them!
- Remember that CAP Study Guide you accessed when you registered in step 1? Now is the time to read it and be honest with yourself about what you know and what you don’t know. Some experienced practitioners have been able to pass the exam and obtain certification with little studying. However, the depth and breadth of “analytics” as defined by INFORMS is incredibly broad. Dust off your study skills and learn everything listed in the CAP Study Guide that you don’t already know.
- Once you study and feel prepared, register with INFORMS to sit for an exam at one of their partner testing centers. By this time you should have received INFORMS’s approval to take the certification exam along with a link to schedule a time and location to take the exam. Follow the link, pay the exam fee, and show up to take the exam! The exam takes 3 hours and you can rescheduled 72 hours in advance without penalty and up to 24 hours in advance for a small fee.
There you have it… a sequential checklist of experience-based steps for obtaining a Certified Analytics Professional designation! It is our first contribution to your success. Our vision is to provide you with lots more free and helpful content. You can likely pass without our advice. But we will save you time and effort that may make the difference in obtaining a valuable certification that can help distinguish you in the marketplace. Make sure to subscribe for updates so you don’t miss anything!