The focus of this blog is construction-related topics. The purpose is discussion, so please feel free to comment! See Specific thoughts for thoughts from the daily life of a specifier.

06 February 2013

Why get certified?

Aren't you tired of all this talk about certification? No one will tell you, but there are a few good reasons to save your time and skip the exams. Why waste the time and effort on something you probably don't need? If any of the following reasons apply to you, sit back and relax - you're in great shape. For now, anyway...

You make too much money

You're quite comfortable with your salary, even after the correction - or recession or depression or whatever - of the last few years. You make more than enough to take care of your needs, with plenty left over for your cabin, your annual vacation to the Bahamas, and your flourishing Keogh plan. Kids in college are no problem, and you may even have a fund set up for the grandchildren. You can't possibly make any more money even if you do get certified. I'm pretty sure you're not reading this. 

You have a great job and you aren't going anywhere

You have looked around, and it's clear there is no better place to work. You have a great compensation package, and, because you have been holding the same job almost twenty years, you know your firm or your clients are completely loyal. There is no way they would turn you loose or cut into your income or benefits. If you are approaching retirement, you know you will never need to work again. You're not going anywhere, and you don't need to be certified. What was that about the economy?

You're irreplaceable

Doesn't it feel great? The principals understand and love what you do, and the rest of the staff simply can't believe you know as much as you do. If you're a consultant, your clients realize there is no one else who can do the job quite as well as you. Sure, there might be other people who can do your job, but it's obvious to everyone that they are far less qualified. You're on top, and no one can take your place. Certification won't make you any more valuable. Never mind that most of the stuff you know is years old, and don't worry about that hungry new employee who seems to have been born with a USB port in his head.

Reality check

I don't know many people who would not benefit from certification. While certification won't make you irreplaceable or guaranty you get a raise, it increases the possibility, and, if you do find yourself looking for a job, improves your chances of getting one.

Like it or not, the business world relies on credentials, at least for preliminary evaluation. A person who graduates from a school or apprenticeship program may have a good education, but when a company is hiring, the person with credentials is considered more valuable. A graduate architect or engineer has less to offer than a person with a professional license, and a master mason looking for work will have an advantage over an apprentice.

In the construction industry, CSI credentials are significant. There are four:
  • Construction Documents Technologist (CDT)
  • Certified Construction Specifier (CCS)
  • Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA)
  • Certified Construction Product Representative (CCCS)

As a specifier, I have great respect for those holding the CDT. When new sales representatives visit my office, the first thing I look for on their business cards is CDT. If they have it, they automatically get more respect and credibility, because I know they are familiar with conditions of the contract and Division 01, and I know they have an understanding of the relationships between owner, designer, contractor, and supplier. And a CCCS tells me they are committed to providing the best service possible. If they don't have CDT on their cards, before they leave my office they get a brief sermon about the value of the CDT. I know I am not alone in this; virtually every specifier I know feels the same.

In my corner of the world, specifiers' jobs and construction administration jobs are rarely advertised; when positions open, architectural firms seek out those with the CCS and the CCCA. Similarly, many manufacturers look for representatives with a CDT. Some require their reps to have a CDT; others may not have a formal requirement, but do encourage their reps to obtain CSI credentials. Hot tip: If your employer encourages something, you would be unwise to ignore it.

When I became a specifier, I knew little about specifications and nothing about CSI. I had graduated from an accredited school of architecture, but the only reference to specifications I recall was a casual mention in our Professional Practice class, and construction administration was similarly neglected. The school apparently believed there was nothing essential in contract documents - specifications and drawings, basic tools of our trade - that was essential, or could not be picked up on the job with little effort. I know you'll be shocked to learn this, but they completely ignored the role of product representatives, along with product evaluation. (Want to know what a specifier thinks? "Go-to guys" explains why we rely on product reps, and "A tale of two companies" illustrates how difficult it can be when product reps don't deliver.)

Not long after taking the job, my boss suggested I join CSI. That being a time when a suggestion from the boss was tantamount to an order, I joined the local chapter, and quickly acquired CSI's Manual of Practice (MOP). Eureka! All was revealed! What previously had been a confusing collection of unrelated documents suddenly took on meaning, as, for the first time, I was able to see all of the documents as an integrated, coordinated whole. I joined the chapter study group, and passed the CCS exam about a year later. Without the understanding I gained from the MOP, from elder members, and from studying for the exam, it would be much more difficult to do my job.

If you work with specifications, either preparing or reading them, I urge you to pursue CSI credentials. If you're new to the industry, studying for the CDT will be an eye-opening experience. If you've been around a while, but haven't taken the exam, you may be surprised to find there is logic behind the documents and processes we use daily. "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." (Mark Twain? Will Rogers?)

Rather than give you all the details about this year's exam, and take the chance of providing the wrong information, I'll just refer you to There you will find everything you need to know about exam dates, registration for exams, and a free online seminar that will help you learn about the benefits of the CDT.

1 comment: