The BCS Professional Examination

The BCS Professional Examination is available as a route for Professional Membership to individuals who have not qualified through an accredited degree. The highest level (Advanced Diploma) is set and assessed at degree level. One of the core modules in the examination deals with professional issues in information systems practice. The description of this module, contained in the BCS booklet about the Examination is reproduced below. It acts as a benchmark against which to judge the professional issues content of accredited degrees and is a good indicator of the topics with which students should be familiar. Some of these topics are explicitly covered in Computer Science courses. You are encouraged to learn about others by reading relevant texts.

Professional Issues in Information Systems Practice


    In order to function effectively, professional Information Systems Practitioners need not only appropriate technical knowledge, skills and experience, but also a broad understanding of the context in which they will be expected to work. This does not mean that they must become experts in these areas (although those who go on to assume substantial management responsibilities may later need to acquire professional knowledge and expertise in some of them).


    To understand the context - ethical, social, legal, financial and organisational - in which professional Information Systems Practitioners work.


    • Show an understanding of the role of professional codes of conduct and apply them to specific situations.
    • Understand the nature and legal standing of a range of organisations.
    • Understand the range of functions that exist in an organisation, the need for organisational structure and the characteristics of various types of structure.
    • Understand and read, at a basic level, a balance sheet, a profit and loss account, and a statement of sources and application of funds.
    • Understand and calculate, in simple cases, the basic information needed for day-to-day financial mangement.
    • Understanding the main pieces of legislation that apply to the profession and recognise situations to which they are relevant.
    • Understand the mechanisms used to protect computer software and the reasons for such protection.

    Prior Knowledge Expected:

    Candidates are expected to be familiar with the material covered in the Certificate syllabuses and have an appreciation of current affairs such as may be obtained by regular reading of a serious newspaper or news magazine.


    2. The role of professional institutions and their characteristics: established by Royal Charter, self-governing, controlling entry to the profession and maintain discipline; reservation of title and reservation of function. Some familiarity with the best-known professional institutions (e.g. those governing the law, medicine and accounting) will be expected. The development and structure of the engineering profession; the roles of the Engineering Council and the professional engineering institutions.

    4. Limited companies and the role of directors and members; the advantages of limited company status for commercial organisations. Other legal forms of organisation.

      The concept of delegation and specialisation. Management structures: structure by function, by product, and by region.

    5. FINANCE
    6. The financial structure of companies. The requirements for financial disclosure imposed by statute and by stock exchanges. Capital items and depreciation. The balance sheet, the profit and loss account, and the statement of sources and application of funds.

    8. Simple management accounting practice.

    10. Data Protection Acts 1984 and 1998. Computer Misuse Act 1990. Relevant provisions (i.e. those relating to liability) of the Consumer Protection Act 1987.

    12. The concept of intellectual property; software, documentation and designs as intellectual property. The mechanisms available to protect intellectual property. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The EC directive on the Legal Protection of Computer Programs, 91/250.

    14. Professional Codes of Conduct, their strengths and weaknesses.

    16. The statutory framework of employment, Job design: specialisation, rotation, enlargement, and enrichment. Job evaluation. Appraisal.

    18. Planning, estimating, monitoring and control. The use of simple graphical techniques such as Gantt charts. Activity networks and critical path analysis.

    Primary Texts:

    Bolt F. et al, Professional Issues in Software Engineering, UCL Press (2nd Ed.), 1995, ISBN:1-85728-450-X PB.

    Myers C. (Ed), Professional Awareness in Software Engineering, McGraw -Hill, 1995, ISBN: 0-07-707837-3.

    Myers C., Hall T. and Pitt D., (Eds), The Responsible Software Engineer: Selected Readings in IT Professionalism, Springer, 1997, ISBN: 3-540-76041-5 .

    Other Texts:

    BCS Code of Conduct

    BCS Code of Practice

    IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics

    Laudon K. C., Ethical Concepts and Information Technology, Comm ACM, 38(12) pp33-39. December, 1995.

    Anderson R. E., et al, Using the New ACM Code of Ethics in Decision Makin g, Comm ACM, 36(2) pp 98-107. February, 1993.

    Benn P., Ethics, UCL Press, 1998, ISBN: 1-85728-453-4.