Understanding the Importance of Community Management Certifications

Having a community manager who is a true professional makes a big difference in how well your community operates. But how do you know if the person managing your community has the professionalism you seek?

Certification can be one good indicator of a manager’s professionalism However, with so many different certifications, it can quickly become confusing to know which ones your manager should have.

Here are answers to some common questions to help you make sense of certifications and to understand why they matter.

Do California community managers have to be certified?
The state of California does not require that community mangers obtain certification nor does it offer its own certification programs. However, it does require 30 hours of specialized education—including coursework in California law—in order for managers to qualify as “certified.” (See California Business and Professions Code 11502.)

What kinds of certifications can a community manager hold?
There are three levels of certification, as well as an additional designation, that a community manager can have:

Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA). At a minimum, your community manager should have this nationally recognized designation, which is awarded by the Community Association Mangers International Certification Board (CAMICB). The manager should also have taken the state-required California law course that is offered as an optional part of the CMCA for California managers. Retaining this certification requires taking 30 hours of continuing education courses every two years.

Association Management Specialist (AMS). This more advanced designation is awarded by the Community Associations Institute (CAI), an affiliate of the CAMICB. A community manager must complete two of the following courses to receive this certification:

  • Facilities Management
  • Association Communications
  • Community Leadership
  • Community Governance
  • Risk Management
  • Financial Management

The AMS certification replaces the CMCA designation and must be renewed every three years.

Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM). The most advanced certification, the PCAM requires completion of all courses in the list above and submission of a written case study. This designation also requires renewal every three years.

Large-Scale Manager (LSM). A PCAM with 10 years of experience, including experience managing a large-scale association, can also seek this additional certification by completing 16 hours of coursework or attending a CAI workshop.

What are the benefits of having a community manager with advanced certifications?
To achieve each level of certification, a community manager must have an increasing number of years of experience. In addition, many HOAs find that community managers with specific expertise can match their particular needs better. For example, if yours is a large community with more than 1,000 units and an annual operating budget of more than $2 million, you’ll get more from a community manager with LSM certification. Finally, these distinctions indicate that the community manager works for a firm that values ongoing education and is committed to providing clients with a high level of service.

Can board members get any special education, too?
Your community management company can provide educational sessions for your HOA’s board of directors. In addition, here in California, CAI’s eight chapters offer the CAI course Board Leadership Development Workshop (also available online).

Credentials do matter. Learn more about finding a community manager with the right credentials for your community. Contact FirstService Residential, the leading community management company in California.

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