Control Systems Design and Troubleshooting

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CSE / PE - Control Systems Engineer / Professional Engineer

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CSE / PE Requirements and Documentation

Control systems engineering (CSE) is a branch of professional engineering,
requiring an understanding of the science of instrumentation and automatic
control of dynamic processes. The ability to apply knowledge to planning,
design, development, operation, and the evaluation of the control systems
to ensure the safety and practical operability of such processes is a must.

ISA supports the Control Systems Engineer (CSE) License, a specialized
Professional Engineering (PE) license recognized in the United States for
engineers in automation and control. The CSE examination includes some
elements of electrical, mechanical, chemical, and other branches of the
engineering disciplines, centered on the technologies needed for feedback
and feedforward control of dynamic systems. The Professional Engineer's
examination in Control Systems Engineer (CSE) is available through the
United States of America engineering state boards each year in October.

For more information visit ISA:

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ISA's Support of the CSE License Program:
  • Sets the standard for the automation professional.
  • Promotes safety and improves productivity.
  • Establishes your professional credentials.
  • Prepares you for additional job responsibilities.
  • Improves ROI by impacting mission critical decisions.
  • Proves that you're an automation leader.

To qualify to become a CSE / PE:
  • You must meet minimum requirements for work experience and education.
  • You must pass a multiple choice exam.

Individuals seeking the PE designation, in their respective states, usually:
  • Hold four-year engineering, technology or science degree from an approved institution (verifiy state requirements). And
  • Have a minimum of four years of experience (foreign degrees usually require 6 years and an ABET equivalent degree evaluation).
  • In some states an ABET Technology degree is not accepted. See the CAP examination for Certification in control systems and automation.
  • Pass both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Examinations

States Offering the CSE / PE License:
  • Most states in the United States offer the CSE examination as one of the Professional Engineers (PE) licensing exams. The following states do NOT offer the CSE examination: Alaska, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. Contact your state board for the specific requirements for your state.
  • In most states the Professional Engineer (PE) can "Stamp" or practice in any discipline he or she is qualified.
  • Note: Some states are discipline specific. The Professional Engineer (PE) can only practice in one discipline.

Specifications for CSE Examinations Effective Beginning with the October 2011:

  • The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) provides the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) examination in Control Systems Engineering (CSE). The CSE examination is a multiple-choice exam.
  • The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam. It contains 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour morning session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour afternoon session. Examinee works all questions.
  • The exam uses both the International System of units (SI) and the US Customary System (USCS).
  • The exam is developed with questions that will require a variety of approaches and methodologies, including design, analysis, and application.
  • The knowledge areas specified as examples of kinds of knowledge are not exclusive or exhaustive categories.

Not qualified for the CSE / PE License:

Try the CAP® (Certified Automation Professional) certification Examination.

The examination covers the following specification areas:

Control Systems Engineer (CSE) Examination Specification
  Specification Area Approximate Percentage
of the Exam %
I Measurement
  1. Sensor technologies applicable to the desired type of measurement (e.g., flow, pressure, level, temperature, analytical, counters, motion, vision)
  2. Sensor characteristics (e.g., rangeability, accuracy and precision, temperature effects, response times, reliability, repeatability)
  3. Material compatibility
  4. Calculations involved in pressure drop
  5. Calculations involved in flow element sizing
  6. Calculations involved in level, differential pressure
  7. Calculations involved in unit conversions
  8. Calculations involved in velocity
  9. Calculations involved in linearization
  10. Installation details (e.g., process, pneumatic, electrical, location)
II   Signals, Transmission, and Networking
  1. Signals - 5%
    1. Pneumatic, electronic, optical, hydraulic, digital, analog, buses
    2. Transducers (e.g., analog/digital [A/D], digital/analog [D/A], current/pneumatic [I/P] conversion)
    3. Intrinsically safe (IS) barriers
    4. Grounding, shielding, segregation, AC coupling
    5. Basic signal circuit design (e.g., two-wire, four-wire, isolated outputs, loop powering, buses)
    6. Circuit calculations (voltage, current, impedance)
    7. Unit conversion calculations
  2. Transmission - 5%
    1. Different communications systems architecture and protocols (e.g., fiber optics, coaxial cable, wireless, paired conductors, buses, Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol [TCP/IP], OPC)
    2. Distance considerations versus transmission medium (e.g., data rates, sample rates)
  3. Networking (e.g., routers, bridges, switches, firewalls, gateways, network loading, error checking, bandwidth, crosstalk, parity) - 5%
III   Final Control Elements
  1. Valves - 8.75%
    1. Types (e.g., globe, ball, butterfly)
    2. Characteristics (e.g., linear, low noise, equal percentage, shutoff class)
    3. Calculation (e.g., sizing, split range, noise, actuator, speed, pressure drop, air/gas consumption)
    4. Selection of motive power (e.g., hydraulic, pneumatic, electric)
    5. Applications of fluid dynamics (e.g., cavitation, flashing, choked flow, Joule-Thompson effects, two-phase)
    6. Material selection based on process characteristics (e.g., erosion, corrosion, plug, extreme pressure, temperature)
    7. Accessories (e.g., limit switches, solenoid valves, positioners, transducers, air regulators, servo amp)
    8. Environmental constraints (e.g., fugitive emissions, packing, special sealing)
    9. Installation practices (e.g., vertical, horizontal, bypasses, location, troubleshooting)
  2. Pressure Relieving Devices - 3.75%
    1. Pressure relieving valve types (e.g., conventional spring, balanced bellows, pilot operated)
    2. Pressure relieving valve characteristics (e.g., modulating, pop action)
    3. Pressure relieving valve calculations (e.g., sizing considering inlet pressure drop, back pressure, multiple valves)
    4. Pressure relieving device material selections based on process characteristics
    5. Pressure relieving valve installation practices (e.g., linking valves, sparing the valves, accessibility for testing, car sealing inlet valves, piping installation)
    6. Rupture discs (e.g., types, characteristics, application, calculations)
  3. Motor Controls - 5%
    1. Types (e.g., motor starters, variable speed drives)
    2. Applications (e.g., speed control, soft starters, valve actuators)
    3. Calculations (e.g., sizing, tuning, location)
    4. Accessories (e.g., encoders, positioners, relays, limit switches)
    5. Troubleshooting (e.g., root cause failure analysis and correction)
  4. Other Final Control Elements - 2.5%
    1. Solenoid valves (e.g., types, sizing)
    2. On-off devices/relays (e.g., types, applications)
    3. Self-regulating devices (e.g., types, sizing, pressure, temperature, level, and flow regulators)
IV   Control Systems
  1. Drawings (e.g., process flow diagrams, P&IDs, loop diagrams, ladder diagrams, logic drawings, cause and effects drawings, electrical drawings) - 5%
  2. Theory - 7%
    1. Basic processes (e.g., compression, combustion, evaporation, distillation, hydraulics, reaction, dehydration, heat exchangers, crystallization, filtration)
    2. Process dynamics (e.g., loop response, pressure-volume-temperature relationships, simulations)
    3. Basic control (e.g., regulatory control, feedback, feed forward, cascade, ratio, PID, split-range)
    4. Discrete control (e.g., relay logic, Boolean algebra)
    5. Sequential control (e.g., batch, assembly, conveying, CNC)
  3. Implementation - 10%
    1. HMI (e.g., graphics, alarm management, trending, historical data)
    2. Configuration and programming (e.g., PLC, DCS, hybrid systems, SQL, ladder logic, sequential function chart, structured text, function block programming, data base management, specialized controllers)
    3. System comparisons and compatibilities (e.g., advantages and disadvantages of system architecture, distributed architecture, remote I/O, buses)
    4. Installation requirements (e.g., shielding, constructability, input/output termination, environmental, heat load calculations, power load requirements, purging, lighting)
    5. Network security (e.g., firewalls, routers, switches, protocols)
    6. System testing (e.g., factory acceptance test, integrated system test, site acceptance test)
    7. Commissioning (e.g., performance tuning, loop checkout)
    8. Troubleshooting (e.g., root cause failure analysis and correction)
V   Safety Systems
  1. Basic documentation (e.g., safety requirements specification, logic diagrams, test procedures, SIL selection report) - 2.5%
  2. Theory - 5%
    1. Reliability (e.g., bathtub curve, failure rates)
    2. SIL selection (e.g., risk matrix, risk graph, LOPA)
  3. Implementation - 7.5%
    1. Safety system design (e.g., I/O assignments, redundancy, segregation, software design)
    2. Safety integrity level (SIL) verification calculations
    3. Testing (e.g., methods, procedures, documentation)
    4. Management of change (e.g., scope of change, impact of change)
VI   Codes, Standards, and Regulations
  1. American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
  2. American Petroleum Institute (API)
  3. American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  4. International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
  5. Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  6. International Society of Automation (ISA )
  7. National Electrical Code (NEC)
  8. National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)
  9. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
  10. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
  Total   100%

The Control Systems Guru Online Training Courses:

Purchase Control Systems Certification Exam Study Guides
from the web site:

CSE Certified Automation Professional® (CSE®) Program

Working in process automation and manufacturing automation industries around the globe, CSEs are responsible for the direction, definition, design, development/application, deployment, documentation, and support of systems, software, and equipment used in control systems, manufacturing information systems, systems integration, and operational consulting.
CSEs are an elite group of automation professionals that have proven they possess an extensive knowledge of automation and controls. CSEs have documented evidence that they possess the expertise and qualifications to excel in their fields 


ISA Certified Control Systems Technician® (CCST®) Program

Working in dozens of different industries worldwide, CCSTs calibrate, document, troubleshoot, and repair/replace instrumentation for systems that measure and control level, temperature, pressure, flow, and other process variables. Many companies prefer candidates with a CCST certification because they can trust their documented knowledge of automation and control systems.



ISA supports the Control Systems Engineer (CSE) License, a specialized Professional Engineering (PE) license recognized in the United States for engineers in automation and control. ISA offers training courses and review materials to help engineers prepare for the exams, which are offered by state boards in the US in October

ISA and NCEES recommended material for the CSE: Control Systems Engineering Exam Reference Manual: A Practical Study Guide, 3rd Edition. Which cover the material and the knowledge requirements of the NCEES exam specifications, to be able to pass the CSE examination.

Meet the author Bryon Lewis, PE of the book: Control Systems Engineering Exam Reference Manual: A Practical Study Guide, 3rd Edition.


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