What is a CPE, and do I need one?

Certified Professional ErgonomistWhat is a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE)? Certification has become increasingly important in a crowded field of ergonomics practitioners. Although I can argue both sides of the certification issue… (I know ergonomists without the CPE designation who are excellent practitioners), many employers seek to hire a certified professional ergonomist, knowing that they have a recognized baseline of knowledge and competence.

The CPE designation is a distinction in the field of human factors and ergonomics. It’s not a requirement, it’s voluntary. The Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE) is an independent, non-profit organization providing professional certification for ergonomic practitioners demonstrating expertise and a comprehensive understanding of ergonomics and human factors. The certification shows that the practitioner has gone above and beyond, and has core competencies that are outlined below:

Core competencies:

  • Analysis (discover, gather data)
  • Design (develop systems; apply ergonomic principles)
  • Validation (testing; evaluation of products, tasks, jobs, environments)
  • Implementation (training, education, communication)

As of 9/30/16, there were 881 ergonomists nationwide with full certification.

Minimum requirements are as follows:

  • Minimum Education: A BS degree and academic coursework covering the BCPE core competencies
  • Work Experience: A minimum of three years full-time equivalent human factors & ergonomics (HFE) practice.
  • Pass the full day written Board exam
  • Recertification: ongoing certification maintenance required with a formal review every 10 years

How is certification different than licensure?

A license is a state’s grant of legal authority to practice a profession within a designated scope of practice. In some fields, you must have a license to practice. For example, as a physical therapist, I must have a license to practice physical therapy. I have a license in the State of California, which is governed by the State of California Physical Therapy Board.

In contrast, certification is voluntary. This voluntary process validates your qualifications in a specific field. Many fields offer certification, but you do not have to be certified to practice. In the field of ergonomics, anyone can call themselves an ergonomist. There is no licensure, and no technical requirements for an “ergonomist”. People come to the field with a variety of backgrounds, and there are many levels of knowledge and expertise.

How do I find a CPE?

Names and select contact information for certified professional ergonomists are published on the BCPE website at www.bcpe.org.

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