I am a professional audio technician holding the key to a bright future forme, for my company and for our installation industry. That key is NICETcertification, and you need it. The credibility and prestige certificationbrings to me is so important I’ve set a goal: to become the first level IIINICET-certified audio technician. Do you think that’s too ambitiousDo youask, “So what?” It’s the future, and like the future, some think it tooambitious, and others ask, “So what?”
Attaining level I certification often seems complicated. Others I work withhave often asked about the study and review needed, about NSCA training,about the variety of paperwork needed, about deadlines, about NICET tests.Here are a few questions I’ve been asked since I reached level IIcertification, and the answers I’ve given.
What is NICET certification?NSCA, along with the National Institute for Certification in EngineeringTechnologies (NICET), has developed a certified audio techniciandesignation on four levels, level I (trainee) through level IV (seniortechnician). NSCA offers the industry an educational opportunity to preparefor NICET examinations, providing a full understanding of the materials onwhich the test is built as well as the degree of knowledge required to sitsuccessfully for the tests. NSCA training doesn’t give the answers to thetest questions. That would be ethically questionable and would rob thecertification of its credibility.
Why should I or my employer care about seminars or tests or becomingNICET-certified?When you take advantage of industry-oriented technical training, youenhance your abilities and thus your value to your employer. A diploma orcertificate from training is only a claim. However, NICET certificationvalidates and verifies this claim. Installation specifications from designconsultants, customers and municipalities are already beginning, slowly, torequire installation personnel in key positions to have NICET level I or IIcertification, and this trend in growing. To you this means you can moveinto key positions. To your employer, it means not being omitted from bidconsiderations. Eventually the requirement will apply to most installationpersonnel and to most bid situations. Even if it is not a bid requirement,it is an important competitive advantage in the design-build world, todifferentiate contracting companies with experienced, career staffs fromothers.
So what’s on the test, anyway?NICET publishes a description of the content of each segment (called a”work element”) of the examination. This description tells what range ofmaterial is tested. Nobody but NICET knows what questions will be on yourindividual test, however. That’s the key to its credibility in the eyes ofthose outside our industry.
I’m highly experienced. Can’t I skip the NICET exam on level I and moveright on to level II?No. There is no grandfather clause. No matter how experienced you happen tobe, you must still “test through” levels I and II cumulatively. If youreview the work elements and say, “I already know Ohm’s law; I can alreadysolve fraction and percent problems” (calculator use is permitted on thetest), you shouldn’t object to demonstrating that. If you’re rusty at it,you may have a surprise coming, and that’s why NSCA training is sovaluable. Sometimes we think we know all about the basics and then discoverour knowledge is spottier and more incomplete than we think. Thesecertifications are relevant, broad-based and good for the technician andthe technician’s employer. It can never hurt to be refreshed on thefundamentals and to master them more completely.
Is the NSCA training a broad educational seminar, or a “study review” forthe NICET test?NSCA training does not teach you the answers to all the questions. Thatwould cast a shadow on the value of the examination and the certificationissued. It would also be impossible in a seminar of a few days. NSCAtraining reviews the scope of the examination work elements, gives a reviewof the gist of each subject in outline form, and offers references tofurther sources of independent study. Each student of NSCA certificationtraining receives a fat study guide, which may be brought into the actualtest, and includes reference material and formulas. Certificate applicantswill want to supplement these with notes from other learning sources, butthese will provide the outlines for a successful examination.
What is this CATTS thing I’ve heard of?That’s the same NSCA training program. CATTS stands for “certified audiotechnician training seminars,” and they’re offered regionally across theUnited States at a price well below any commercial training available.Instructors are all business owners or seasoned technicians from theinstalled sound industry. They are familiar with the NICET exam materials.They are guides at your sides rather than sages on the stages, and in adown-to-earth way want to help you pass the examinations. The programincludes discussion, activities,video presentations and problem solving inteams. The CATTS programs help you become a more proficient audiotechnician in the field because everyone there benefits from a freeexchange of anecdotes, problems, difficult experiences and solutions, allshared among peers who have exactly the same problems.
What education is required for NICET certification?There are no educational requirements, not a college degree, nor ahigh-school diploma, nor CATTS training from NSCA, nor any other educationor training of any kind. This certification is based on the examination, onwork experience, and on the recommendation of others. NSCA is not using acertification program as a ruse to sell training, build enrollments andmake money. You can check out teach-yourself books from the public libraryand study on your own. You can sign up at a community college or vo-techschool, public or private. You can take a correspondence course orinternet-based-training. You can attend the training offered by industryassociations other than NSCA. Best of all, you can create your own studyprogram, perfectly suited to you, from any or all of these.
This separation of training from certification is the genius of NICET’sprogram. People go to law school and get a law degree, but then must passthe bar examination to be able to practice law. People go to medical schooland get an MD degree, but they must pass medical boards to be able topractice medicine. Examination independent from training contributesabsolutely to the credibility of these certifications. We in the soundbusiness must adopt this model if our certifications are to have value inthe eyes of architects and inspectors.
What’s the NSCA training application process?Fill out the Rapid Facts Card at the back of this magazine and circle (123)to be sent information about the regional CATTS program. It’s free andthere’s no obligation. Do it now. If you like what you see, fill out theregistration forms and send them in.
What’s the NICET application process?Fill out the Rapid Facts Card at the back of this magazine and circle (124)to be sent the NICET information booklet, a booklet describing the contentof the examinations, and a schedule of upcoming examination sites. A set ofapplication forms will be included.
First, look at the testing locations and deadline dates. Select a test dateand location convenient to you. Fill out the NICET exam and certificationapplication form. You will select here the examination segments, the workelements, you choose to take. You’ll provide information about yourexperience; it’s something like a job application. It will take 60 to 90minutes.
Second, complete the personal recommendation form. You need a personalreference, plus verification from your current or previous employer of yourwork responsibilities. Level I is entry level, requiring only actualemployment in the industry in a technical position. Higher levels requireterms of experience, which you may already have.
Third, sign up for an actual examination, date and city of your choice fromhundreds of offerings, all across the United States and all around theyear. For level I certification you must pass nine of 14 work elements.Four of these are required, core elements; the other five you select from alarger group. For level II certification, you must pass 12 of the 14 levelI work elements, plus 25 from level II. If you have the work seniorityrequired for level II, you can take level I and level II examinationelements at the same examination sitting.
>From the examination application to the examination date, you have animportant task: study. If you want, let NSCA’s CATTS program guide yourstudy.
What’s the NICET exam process?Show up on time. It’s an open-book examination, so bring a calculator andany reference materials you can actually carry in your hands. Yourexamination has been custom-created and printed by a computer. After awaiting period, NICET sends you the exam results, pass or fail, workelement by work element. If you’ve accumulated enough of the right workelements and sent in all the right recommendation forms, you’ll be issued acertification. Maybe two! If the particular combination of work elementsyou’ve passed don’t add up to the required menu for a certification, youcan study more and sign up for the same work elements to be tested later,or maybe choose other elective work elements to try.
These are outstanding opportunities. NICET certification will help shapethe future of NSCA and of our industry. I firmly believe this combinedprogram will bridge the gap between uneven, unstructured on-the-jobinstruction and the professionalism we all desire.
NSCA has provided me the best available tools for my professionaldevelopment. NSCA is eager to provide you with the same. The missingingredient is you. Level II certification has unlocked new doors for me.It’s time for you to grab the keys and go.