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SolidWorks Certification- Why Take The CSWE Exam

View our latest posts: 3 tips to pass the CSWP & Is SOLIDWORKS certification worth it?  You can prepare with online SOLIDWORKS certification tutorials.

This post is one in a series by Jim Lucas, a CSWP on the road to the CSWE.
If you are on this website, you may already be determined to take some sort of SolidWorks certification.  If that is you- don’t waste any time reading this article…. Just go straight into reading about the technical suggestions on how to take the exam you have in your crosshairs. (See the CSWP Posts as a Good place to start).   If you are just considering going for the Expert level CSWE, this article may help you make your decision.

Types of CSWE (Certified Solidworks Expert) Test Takers:

I’ve broken potential CSWE test takers into three potential categories, and I am going to ask you to put on different glasses depending on which you are.
Type 1: Overly enthusiastic (too hot).  If you are still riding the adrenaline high of passing the CSWP, watch out- you may be riding the “winner effect”.  This is a great psychological phenomenon that helps us be persistent, but it also is why video games are addictive and why Russians lose wars.  You also may be a certification whore.  I am one too.  Learn from my mistakes.  Take a hard look at the costs versus the benefits.
Type 2: Unsure or hesitant to even get started (too cold).  If you haven’t taken any certification yet and/or are just exploring different CAD package, and you are uncertain to take the first step because this decision will affect you for years.  While this article isn’t really isn’t meant for you, I think you’re at the right place because SolidWorks is the leading 3D CAD software in many categories.  It has the largest user base as well as the largest R&D budget.  It has fantastic technical support and in my opinion it has the best optimization of ease of use, power and versatility.   Don’t just take my word for it- look around and ask questions.
Type 3: Just right.
You’ve got a level head.  You’ve thought about this for a while, found the pros to outweigh the cons, done some time accounting and are ready to explore other people’s opinion.  You are the Goldilocks of CAD certification.

Cost/Benefit Anaylsis of Taking the CSWE

Ultimately this is a personal decision with a slew of factors and unknowns.  I’ve created a basic work sheet below that you can use to help make that decision.  Next to each category, place a numeric value.  At the end, figure out if the benefits outweigh the costs.

Benefits

  • Improved skills I like to run to stay in shape, and I’ve noticed that I’m more inclined to go for a run if I’ve signed up for a race.  Same thing if you sign up for a test… You’ll be more likely to take 30 minutes to 1 hour a day to hone your skills.  This gives you an excuse to practice.
  • Resume eye candyIf you have a job and don’t think you need this, it’s the best time to go for it.  It’s just like getting a line-of-credit when you don’t need the money, or getting health insurance when you’re not sick.  I talked to 10 people (5 Technical recruiters, 3 General recruiters, 2 HR managers) who specialize in hiring technical personnel.  Even though only 2 of the 10 knew about specifically about SolidWorks certification 9 out of 10 said that displaying a certification would help an application.  The sole holdout who said it would have no effect looks for total hours of experience (Editor’s Note: It’s arguable that a certification would help show this as well, especially when listing very high cumulative hour totals that are likely to span many versions and of the software, each with different specifics). At the time of writing this, there are approximately 202,000 SW users,  20,073 CSWPs and 1,360 CSWEs.   That means about 10% of SolidWork users get their CSWP, and less than 1% get their CSWE. 
  • End-of-year reviewDistinguish yourself from your colleagues, but make sure the skills are relevant to your boss and appreciated.  In other words, it needs to make him look good and/or save the company money.   Don’t do it at the cost of being an effective employee. But remember, many companies tout “Certifications” in marketing materials and sales pitches.  
  • Master of the craftThis is an excuse to exercise your brain, and hone your skills, with problems that you may not have seen before.  While this doesn’t generally get assigned much value, I would suggest that the people who place significance on this end up being the best served long-term. Even the simplest of tricks can add up to huge savings and efficiencies over time.

Costs

  • Time: Are you already neck deep in SolidWorks?  Then there might not be too much of a time investment for you.  Consider the opportunity cost though… what could you be studying that actually would IMPROVE your condition?  If you are already known as a SolidWorks champ at your work, maybe pick-up a history book, or study composite materials, or start playing basketball, or making your own 3D printer, or ???.  Depending on your level of proficiency, obtaining this license will take about 150 hours of focused study on exam subjects (after getting your CSWP) OR about 3000 hours of constant SolidWorks making new industrial designed type items (in a typical consumer products work environment).
  • Image: What do you want to be when you grow up?  Do you want to be labeled the “SolidWorks guy”.   When I look for a CSWA (Certified SolidWorks Associate), I’m shopping for someone who I only expect to know basics of SolidWorks.   I would hire this person if I expected the candidate to be able to make simple parts, or to check files for manufacturing (for QC purposes).  When I hire a CSWP (Certified SolidWorks Professional), I would expect the person to be proficient at designing parts and hit the ground running.   I like looking for CSWP – specialty exams (such as Advance Surfacing, Sheetmetal, Simulation, etc…).  This is great fluff, and shows interest/competence in certain areas.   If I were hiring a plastic part designer, I’d love to see that he’s taken mold design.  I’ve never hired a CSWE (Certified SolidWorks Expert)– this is a SolidWorks jedi.  If I were hiring this guy, it would probably be to help manage/train/mentor a group of designers and/or be a go-to designer and/or evaluate other cutting edge products for use in our company.     
  • Monetary cost: This exam is very reasonably priced, and there is no renewal cost.  They are free if you are on maintenance with your VAR (reseller). Additionally attendees at Solidworks World every year get a free test voucher.
So there you go… do the math and let me know how your formula comes out.

Now you’ve got the “Why?”,  we’ll hit the “How?” in the next article.

Learn How To Pass The CSWE – See The Complete Article Series

Jim is a CSWP and on the road to getting his CSWE.  He works for HawkRidge Systems, an authorized reseller of SolidWorks. Jim also runs i-elf, a product development consulting company.  He can be reached at Jim.Lucas@i-elf.com.

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