Thursday, December 5, 2013

Students -- Getting Certified

I came across a good post by James Mignano recently on 5 Reasons College Students Should Be in Professional Organizations. In the article, these five reasons are given as good reasons for joining organizations like ESA:

1. Test the Water (make sure your major is a good fit)
2. Add to Your Education (via association-sponsored events like roundtable discussions)
3. Experience the City (association-sponsored events can take you to new venues)
4. Build a Portfolio (by making presentations, committee service, and more)
5. Network (meet people that can help you shape your career)

Mignano's post got me thinking about reasons that a young person should choose to become certified -- particularly a young entomologist.

So these are my top 5 reasons that college students and young professionals should become a BCE Intern.

1. Stand out
Student membership in ESA is at an all-time high. There are nearly as many student members as there are full members. As you look through the membership roster, you can view all of those other student names as competition. These are the people that you are going up against for entry to PhD programs, post-doc slots, career jobs, etc.  One great way to differentiate yourself from the competition is by becoming a BCE Intern.

BCE Interns have shown an early and strong commitment to their profession by choosing to become certified. Think about it from the perspective of the person making the hiring decision. If you are the recruiter and have two qualified candidates (both with strong GPAs, good communication skills, strong research ability) but one of them has shown the personal drive to become certified and the other has not, which one would YOU hire to get the open slot?

2. Get smarter
BCEs and BCE Interns both take at least two exams. In some places (like the University of Nebraska) the exams can double for taking and passing the entomology graduate exam. All BCEs must pass a General Qualifying exam and at least one specialty exam that focuses on their area of expertise. The exams are tough, but fair. Studying for them is a great way to keep those brain cells firing. Many have found that taking the exams while still in a "studying mindset" makes good sense.

3. Save money
If you feel that certification is eventually in your future, then it only makes sense to do it while a student. The fees are lower by far. Under current rates, the BCE Intern application is $20 for ESA members. If you wait until you are applying for BCE-full, the fee goes up to $180.

As a special bonus for you Nebraska students, Dr Shripat Kamble has offered to pay the application fee for the first 10 applicants to BCE Intern from UNL.

4. Build your credentials
The family of certification is a small (but growing) group of professionals who tirelessly work to improve not just the certification program, but by extension, the profession itself. The stronger the BCE is, the stronger entomology is. There are many ways to build your skills set when you become a BCE. There are leadership opportunities, committee service positions, be a proctor for someone else's exam, and more.

5. Expand your network
People recognize the importance of a BCE -- especially those that have gone through the process themselves. Becoming a BCE Intern is a great way to network with some of the best and brightest professional entomologists in the world.

You convinced me!  Now what do I do?
The BCE Intern application process is simple. You need to fill out the form, get two letters of professional reference, provide a copy of your transcripts, sign the BCE Code of Ethics, and pay the application fee (unless you're one of the UNL students sponsored by Dr Kamble).  Take the sample BCE Qualifying Exam to see what you are in for (the login and password are both BCEQ).