Guide to HOA Management Certifications

What Does “Certified” Mean?

A “certified common interest development manager” has a tested understanding of homeowner association laws and best practices, with special focus on the business and management skills needed to oversee a community association. HOA boards who choose to hire a manager should always choose a candidate with the training and experience that fits the special requirements of the association. And while certification is an important first step, it does not guarantee that a manager has the skills that you need. Each type of certification represents different types of training and levels of experience.

While California does not require association managers to be certified, it does require that managers meet certain educational requirements to claim certification. Many management companies also require their managers to become certified as part of their professional training. The certification process educates a manager about the laws and policies that govern condominiums, townhouses, planned unit developments, and other common interest developments. Managers who are not certified cannot claim or imply any sort of certification without violating the law (California Business and Professions Code §11505).

Skills Required in California Certification Programs
Budget preparation, bankruptcy laws, financial statements, assessments and delinquencies
Contract negotiation
Employee supervision
Maintenance
Rule enforcement
Recreational programs and facilities
Owner communications
Strategic planning for board members and resident activities
Ethics codes
Conflict resolution

California does not provide a management certification exam. Instead, a variety of private organizations provide certifications that meet the requirements of California State law. The California Bureau of Real Estate (BRE) must review and approve each program.

Programs must meet the certification requirements defined by California law, which only allow a manager to be certified after they complete an educational program of at least 30 hours and pass a test on the coursework. Read Business and Professions Code §11502(b)(1) for a complete list of HOA laws and subjects that must be a part of the certification program.

Overview of Manager Certification Programs

Within the framework of requirements outlined in the Business and Professions Code, each certification provider offers a curriculum based on that particular provider’s interpretation of the law. Each provider also establishes the minimum qualifications for their certification. The most widely used certification providers are the California Association of Community Managers (CACM), the Community Associations Institute (CAI), and the Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB).

We’ve listed the most common service providers below, along with the specific certifications that they provide. The most advanced certifications offered by each provider appear at the end of each section.

California Association of Community Managers (CACM)

The California Association of Community Managers (CACM) is an organization founded by and composed of community association managers. CACM offers the Certified Community Association Manager (CCAM), the Master of Community Association Management (MCAM), and an optional Specialty Certificate.

Certified Community Association Manager (CCAM)

CCAM Overview
Minimum Management Experience 6 months
Hours of Coursework 36 hours
Length of Certification 3 years
Prerequisite Certification None

In order to claim the CCAM designation, a manager must have been employed as a community manager for at least six months, complete 36 hours of classes (or otherwise provide sufficient experience to be exempt), pass a test on the material with a score of 70% or higher, and apply for certification. Once approved, the certification will be valid for three years, after which a manager must take continue his or her education to be recertified.

The coursework for the CCAM consists of the following:

Basics of Association Management – Provides general information regarding community associations such as roles of directors and managers, hierarchy of governing documents, financial management obligations, administration techniques, and risk management. A manager may test out of this course if he or she has two years prior experience in the field and can pass the final exams.

California Law – Examines the laws the govern homeowners associations in three main areas (a manager may test out of this course if he or she has two years prior experience in the field and can pass the final exams):

  • Governance: board responsibilities, liability, types of meetings (annual, board, special, etc.), minutes, records, and agendas.
  • Finances: balance sheets, financial statements, annual disclosures, accounting, assessments, and records.
  • Maintenance: working with contractors, property maintenance, environmental concerns, and risk management.

Ethics for Community Managers – Discusses the importance of ethics in management and describes rules of conduct, ethics complaints, disciplinary actions, and appeals. Read the CACM Professional Code of Ethics(link is external) for more information.

Specialty Certificate

Specialty Certificate Overview
Minimum Management Experience 2.5 years
Hours of Coursework 29.5-33 hours
Length of Certification Indefinite
Prerequisite Certification CCAM

A manager can obtain the Specialty Certificate after holding the CCAM certification for at least two consecutive years. The Specialty Certificate requires 29.5-33 hours of additional coursework (depending on which specialization a manager pursues) and a written narrative that demonstrates the manager’s understanding of the material. The Specialty Certificate does not require recertification. The course offers specialization in four areas of community association management: High Rise, Large Scale, Portfolio Management, and New Development Management.

Managers who want a Specialty Certificate must complete two mandatory classes and one optional class:

Human Resource Management (Mandatory) – Discusses recommended practices for the process of hiring, firing, training, and motivating employees.

Risk Management in Community Associations (Mandatory) – Provides tools for identifying and avoiding risk for HOAs.

High Rise (Optional) – Focuses on  maintaining mechanical systems and fire safey, adhereing to regulations, and protecting the property. Discusses the legal and financial issues particular to high rise associations.

Large Scale (Optional) – Covers best practices for facility, recreational amenity, and landscaping management. Develops plans for maintaining architectural control and board governance. Focuses on strategic planning and community-building for large scale associations.

Portfolio Management (Optional) – Provides tools to manage time, common areas, service providers, and safety regulation.

New Development Community Management (Optional) Teaches Department of Real Estate regulations and documentation. Developes phasing schedules and plans for ongoing and start-up operations.

Master of Community Association Management (MCAM)

MCAM Overview
Minimum Management Experience 6.5 years
Hours of Coursework 18 hours
Length of Certification 3 years
Prerequisite Certification CCAM, Specialty Certificate

The MCAM it is the most professional certification offered by CACM. In order to claim the MCAM designation, a manger must have held the CCAM certification for at least six consecutive years, specialize in a field of community association management, and complete 18 hours of additional coursework. Managers must also pass a multiple-choice test with a score of at least 75% and successfully complete a twenty-page written essay and an oral presentation. Once certified, the MCAM replaces the CCAM designation and is valid for three years before a manager must complete additional coursework to be recertified.

The coursework for the MCAM includes both of the following classes:

Effective Governance Principles – Teaches principles of the strategic planning process to increase board of director efficiency.

Advanced Ethics: Leadership and Decision Making – Provides tools for identifying ethical responsibility and ethical decision making.

The CACM website(link is external) provides additional information about their certifications and requirements.

Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB)

The CAMICB offers a nationally accepted management certification, the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA). The CMCA has been approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA(link is external)) for adhering to standards of purpose, structure, governance, policies, and procedures.

Since CAMICB is a global entity working with homeowners associations throughout the world, their general course and examination material does not always test for knowledge about specific state laws. But the CAMICB now offers an option(link is external) for California HOA managers to obtain a CMCA that meets the requirements of California statutes. Boards hiring a manager with a CMCA should ensure that the manager’s coursework included the California-specific training.

Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA)

CMCA Overview
Minimum Management Experience 0-5 years
Hours of Coursework 0-22.5 hours
Length of Certification 2 years
Prerequisite Certification None

Successfully complete a 22.5 hour course on the essentials of association managementIn order to obtain a CMCA, a manager has to satisfy the education requirements and pass the CMCA test with a 67% score or higher. Managers must recertify every two years in order to maintain their CMCA designation. Satisfying the education requirements can be done in one of three ways:

  1. Complete and pass one prerequisite course on community association management.
  2. Have at least five years of experience as a community association manager (assistant managers do not qualify).
  3. Hold an active CCAM certification.

The coursework for the CMCA consists of one class:

The Essentials of Community Association Management– Discusses the roles of HOA participants (members, boards, managers, etc.), ethics, meetings, finances, rule enforcement, risk management, maintenance, and human resources.

The CAMICB website(link is external) provides additional information about their certification and requirements.

Community Associations Institute (CAI)

The Community Associations Institute (CAI) is an affiliate of CAMICB and offers more advanced certification designations based on the CMCA. CAI is different from its affiliate in that it works with all parties that provide services and products to homeowners associations (i.e. boards of directors, businesses, managers, etc.) instead of exclusively dealing with managers.

CAI offers the Association Management Specialist (AMS) and the Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) certifications, as well as the Large-Scale Management (LSM) specialization option. Each certification requires that the manager has passed the CMCA examination. In order to maintain each designation, a manager must comply with CAI’s Professional Code of Ethics(link is external).

Association Management Specialist (AMS)

AMS Overview
Minimum Management Experience 2 years
Hours of Coursework 25-32 hours
Length of Certification 3 years
Prerequisite Certification CMCA

The AMS is the second highest designation available from CAI, and requires at least two years professional experience as an HOA manager and 25-32 hours of coursework. A manager may choose two of six available courses.The AMS does not require testing in order to become certified. The AMS replaces the CMCA designation and must be recertified every three years.

The coursework for the AMS requires a manager to complete two of the following classes:

Facilities Management – Discusses best maintenance practices for HOAs, providing tools for proactive measurements, emergency situations, reserve study usage, contractor bids, and contract oversight.

Association Communications – Offers strategies for communicating with a board of directors and homeowners including newsletters, reports, and general customer service.

Community Leadership – Teaches motivation techniques to make board meetings more efficient.

Community Governance – Analyzes the fiduciary duty of board members and instructs on best practices for using attorneys, amending governing documents, and enforcing rules.

Risk Management – Provides tools for managing HOA insurance including losses, claims, and proposals for coverage.

Financial Management – Covers budgets, reserves, accounting methods, and financial statements.

Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM)

PCAM Overview
Minimum Management Experience 5 years
Hours of Coursework 85.5 hours
Length of Certification 3 years
Prerequisite Certification CMCA

The PCAM certification is the most advanced certification available through CAI, requiring at least 5 years of professional management experience, successful completion of six courses (85.5 hours of coursework), and completion of the PCAM Case Study. The Case Study requires a manager to examine an actual community association and submit a written paper that combines the knowledge gained from the required coursework and information collected from the association. The PCAM replaces both the CMCA and AMS designations, and a manager must reapply for PCAM designation every three years.

The PCAM coursework requires a manager to complete all of the following courses and projects:

PCAM Case Study – Written paper applying coursework knowledge to the examination of an actual community association.

Facilities Management – Discusses best maintenance practices for HOAs, providing tools for proactive measurements, emergency situations, reserve study usage, contractor bids, and contract oversight.

Association Communications – Offers strategies for communicating with a board of directors and homeowners including newsletters, reports, and general customer service.

Community Leadership – Teaches motivation techniques to make board meetings more efficient.

Community Governance – Analyzes the fiduciary duty of board members and instructs on best practices for using attorneys, amending governing documents, and enforcing rules.

Risk Management – Provides tools for managing HOA insurance including losses, claims, and proposals for coverage.

Financial Management – Covers budgets, reserves, accounting methods, and financial statements.

Large-Scale Manager (LMS)

LMS Overview
Minimum Management Experience 10 years
Hours of Coursework 16 hours
Length of Certification 3 years
Prerequisite Certification PCAM

The LSM certification is only available to PCAM managers and requires at least 10 years professional management experience, management of a large-scale community, and successful completion of the required education. The education can either consist of 16 hours of coursework or attendance at one of CAI’s Large-Scale Management workshops.

A large-scale association is defined is defined by CAI as…

  • A single, contiguous community association with an on-site, full time manager;
  • A minimum of 1,000 units or a minimum of 1,000 acres; and
  • A minimum annual operating budget of 2 million dollars.

The LMS coursework consists of one class:

Managing the Large-Scale Association is the approved course for the LMS certification. It covers the relationships between large-scale associations and municipalities, and master associations and sub-associations. The course also explores the differences between open, commercial, and residential properties.

Since the LMS is a specialized certification, the designation would be included alongside PCAM in a manager’s title. For instance, if Susan Smith became a certified LSM manager, her title would read: Susan Smith, PCAM, LSM.

The CAI website(link is external) provides additional information about their certifications and requirements.

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