A couple of years ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article titled "3 reasons to not get certified". My intent, obviously, was to explain in what I considered a humorous way why a person should get certified. One or two of the given reasons for not getting certified might apply to a very few people, but those looking for a real reason to avoid certification would not find it in that article.
I'd like to revisit the subject, this time from a more practical perspective. To put it bluntly, I want you to be certified. Of course, if I never see you it won't make much difference, but if we're going to work together, I'd like to have some confidence that you know what you're doing. Regardless of whether or not you are certified, it will take time to establish the level of trust that allows both of us to rely on the other.
If you are certified in your field, I know immediately that you care enough about what you do to take the time to provide evidence of your knowledge by studying for and passing the examinations needed for your certification. There are reasons for not being certified, the most valid being that you are new to this part of your career, and you don't have the experience required to sit for the exam. I'm sure I don't have to explain why someone with demonstrated experience will earn my confidence more quickly than someone still learning a trade.
What is it that makes certification important? Why is it valuable? Nearly anyone can, through working with others, through trial and error, and through the School of Hard Knocks, become quite competent. But wouldn't it be smarter to acquire much of the same knowledge through study? Although experience may be the best teacher, that teacher doesn't always get it right. Experience might teach you that some things work, but those things might not comply with applicable codes and standards, and might even be illegal.
Knowledge you may have gained through only experience cannot be verified unless we work together and you have the opportunity to demonstrate what you know. Certification, on the other hand, comes by proving to a governing organization that you know your stuff. It is based on relevant codes and standards, and it is objective.
I'll grant that certification does not guarantee that a person will perform in an acceptable manner, but it provides a level of confidence that will make it easier for someone else to work with you, and shorten the time it takes to build an important personal relationship.
It's important to understand that I am not being unreasonable. In fact, I expect from you only what my clients expect from me as an architect. They will not hire an almost-a-professional. They will hire only licensed architects and engineers. You might argue that my client has no choice, as only licensed architects and engineers can provide professional services, and you would be right. In practice, because certification is not required of everyone, I often do work with people who are not certified, but given the choice, as there usually is, I will choose first to work with the certified person.
You might ask what sort of certification I expect. That depends on what you do; not all occupations have certification programs. Regardless of what product or service you offer in the construction industry, though, you can take part in CSI's certification program. The entry level credential offered by CSI is the CDT (Construction Documents Technologist). To pass the exam, you must have a good understanding of the AIA general conditions of the contract, of the relationships between documents, and of how the entities involved in construction should interact. I consider this essential, and when meeting new product representatives, the first thing I do is look for CDT on their business cards. If it's there, they have immediate credibility. If it's not there, I will explain what it means and why it will be important for them when dealing with other specifiers.
Beyond that, CSI's advanced certifications show a greater commitment to providing superior service. The CCPR (Certified Construction Product Representative) demonstrates that a person knows even more about the roles and responsibilities of manufacturer, supplier, and other members of the construction team. The CCS (Certified Construction Specifier) is not limited to specifiers, but should be considered for all members who themselves write specifications, such as hardware representatives.
Certification will help you in your career. I have heard of specifiers who claim they won't speak to anyone who doesn't have CSI or CDT on their business card, but I won't go that far. With that approach - arbitrarily ignoring most of the people and materials in construction - I could not effectively do my job. More important, I would not be serving my clients as I should.
I have to admit that encouraging you to get certified is selfish. I want you to enjoy the benefits, but like Tom Cruise begged Cuba Gooding, in Jerry Maguire, I need you to help me do my job, and I want you to be as good as you can in helping me. One might say that specifiers have a simple job: to know everything. I cannot do that, nor can any specifier. So please, give us a hand!