What Is The International Cytometry Certification Exam (ICCE) And How To Pass It

Clinical workers in flow cytometry and other fields have had certification requirements for quite some time.

However, scientists in the basic research space have relied on experience and pedigree as a metric for skill and knowledge, not certifications.

Professional certification is a process where an individual can take some form of exam that demonstrates a level of competence that a body of experts have determined are necessary for performing the job that the certification covers.

This process is also a way to improve best practices in a particular field, such as the field of flow cytometry. 

There is now an option for certification in flow cytometry.

This option offers a way for you to help assure potential recruiters that you have a particular knowledge base in the theory and practice of flow cytometry.

This certification process is known as the International Cytometry Certification Examination (or ICCE), which leads to the CCy designation for those who pass the test.

What Is The International Cytometry Certification Exam?

The ICCE was developed over a period of several years to ensure a base level of knowledge in certificate holders, covering the core knowledge needed to develop protocols, acquire and analyze quality data, and grasp the theory and practice of cytometry.

Design of the ICCE began with a survey to gauge the level of interest in the community. Regardless of geography or subgroup, the results of the survey were very positive overall. 

In 2010, a second survey was sent out to outline what knowledge was necessary for a cytometrist to have in their work. Using this data from this second survey, the outline of the exam content was created.

In 2011, volunteers wrote a total of 220 questions for the exam, which were then edited and added to by a panel of subject matter experts. Finally the exam was beta tested and a passing level was decided upon by a separate group of experts in close collaboration with the testing vendor.

How To Pass The International Cytometry Certification Exam

Before you consider taking the ICCE, you should consider who can take the exam, what is on the exam, and why you should take the exam.

You should also consider how to keep your cytometry certification current after taking the exam.

1. Who can take the exam?

Anyone with an adequate level of flow cytometry experience can take the ICCE.

If you have a four-year degree you need two years of cytometry experience. If you do not have a four-year degree, then you need four years of cytometry experience.

The exam is designed for those at the early stages of their career, but more seasoned cytometrists are not excluded and may find benefit from taking it as well.

2. What is on the exam?

As you can see in the exam outline, the exam covers seven sections, with varying levels of weight given to each area.

The most heavily weighted sections are: Instrumentation, Data, Experimental Design, and Theoretical Principles.

These four areas make up 77% of the total points in the exam. Sample, Safety, and Quality Control make up the remaining 23%.

3. Why should you get certified?

Unlike the QCym or ASCP this certification is necessary for clinical staff, flow cytometry jobs in research do not require the ICCE. At least, not yet.

However, the ICCE will make you a more competitive candidate for research jobs and can be used as leverage for future promotion or reclassification.

Taking the ICCE shows that you are well-qualified and motivated, especially considering the continuing education (CE) requirement that is needed to renew your certification.

4. How do you keep your certification current?

There are several ways to renew your certification and keep it current.

All of these ways are based on getting continuing education hours over the course of the certification period.

Initial certification lasts for 3 years. During these 3 years, you need to get 36 credits total of CE credit.

There are multiple ways to receive credit (fully explained here), including attending regional meetings, giving a cytometry-related presentation, or volunteering as leadership in a scientific society.

You can also receive credit for taking part in courses and training from approved vendors including courses offered by Expert Cytometry.

Many experienced cytometrists deem the ICCE as unnecessary. Other scientists have voiced concerns that some of the exam material might be too specialized. For example, why should you have to answer questions about T cell biology when you work with plankton?

Flow cytometry has been embraced tightly by immunologists, but there are many scientists in other fields who are just becoming familiar with the technology.

However, despite these concerns, the ICCE is here to stay. The international cytometry exam and certification process as a whole has the support of multiple companies that are providing training, as well as the support of ISAC, ICCS, and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. In the end, the most telling test of the value of the ICCE will be when flow cytometry job postings in basic research start asking for the certification. This day may not be that far away.

To learn more about the International Cytometry Certification Exam and to get access to all of our advanced materials including 20 training videos, presentations, workbooks, and private group membership, get on the Flow Cytometry Mastery Class wait list.

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Tim Bushnell, PhD
Tim Bushnell, PhD

Tim Bushnell holds a PhD in Biology from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a co-founder of—and didactic mind behind—ExCyte, the world’s leading flow cytometry training company, which organization boasts a veritable library of in-the-lab resources on sequencing, microscopy, and related topics in the life sciences.

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