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Decoding the ABC's of Credentials, Certificates & Designations: What do those letters behind your name mean?

12/01/2018 4:16 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

By John Ganoe, CAECAMICB


Even for those deeply entrenched in the credentialing world, there's a certain degree of confusion around some of the terminology used to describe specific paths professionals take to further their careers and skill sets. The field of community association management is no different so it's important to educate managers, homeowners, and other community association professionals about the different options the profession has to offer and the value they hold.

According to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), “credentialing" is an umbrella term used to refer to concepts such as professional certification, certificate programs, accreditation, licensure, and regulation. 


ICE defines certification, licensure, assessment-based certificate, and accreditation in the following ways:

A certification program is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a particular job, and, upon successfully passing a certification exam, to represent a declaration of a particular individual's professional competence, such as a community manager who has achieved the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA®).  In some professions, certification is a requirement for employment or practice. 

• Similarly, licensure tests an individual's competence but is a mandatory process by which the government grants time-limited permission for that licensed individual to practice his or her profession, such as a real estate salesperson or real estate broker.

• In contrast to certification and licensure, an assessment-based certificate program is an educational or training program that is used to teach learning objectives and assess whether those objectives were achieved by the student.

• Accreditation is the process by which a credentialing or educational program is evaluated against defined standards and is awarded recognition if it is in compliance with those standards. The Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA®) is such a program. ICE currently offers accreditation to professional certification programs through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). 



Specialty Designations

Community association professionals may also choose to bolster their careers and expand their level of expertise in certain areas. This is where specialty designations come into play. A “designation" is recognition of professional knowledge and expertise in a given subject matter or job skill.  To earn designations, membership is required in a professional organization and usually requires work experience.  Certain specialty designations are offered through the Community Associations Institute (CAI) including, the Association Management Specialist (AMS), Large Scale Manager (LSM), Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM), Community Insurance and Risk Management Specialist (CIRMS) and Reserve Specialist (RS). This allows a community association professional to drill down into a specialized aspect of the business.  In some cases, for example the PCAM and AMS designations, passing the CMCA examination is a prerequisite to applying for these designations.

I've experienced a wide disparity in the background and quality of the managers with whom I've worked," said Ron Perl, Esq., a Partner at Hill Wallack LLP, who leads the firm's community association practice group.  “A manager who holds the CMCA assures me they have an important foundation in place – the ongoing education and knowledge necessary to successfully manage millions of dollars worth of other people's property and a serious commitment to high ethical standards."

Stephen Castle, CMCA, AMS, PCAM agrees all committed community association managers should hold the CMCA certification. “The CMCA certification demonstrates to employees and new managers a commitment to professionalism," said Castle. “Further, CMCAs show their support for established national and international standards of knowledge and professional conduct for community association managers.”


The CMCA Goes Global

As CAMICB grew to be the premiere certification body in the United States for community association managers, it also gained international recognition for its established body of knowledge and strict ethical standards. Over the past two decades, the CMCA certification program crossed borders and oceans in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Mexico South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. This global expansion secured a high level of professionalism for association management and common interest communities worldwide. In 2017, CAMICB launched the international CMCA examination.


About ICE

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence, or ICE, is a professional membership association that provides education, networking, and other resources for organizations and individuals who work in and serve the credentialing industry.  ICE is a leading developer of standards for both certification and certificate programs and it is both a provider of and a clearing house for information on trends in certification, test development and delivery, assessment-based certificate programs, and other information relevant to the credentialing community.

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