The ABC’s of Community Manager Training, Certification and Continuing Education

CMCA, AMS, PCAM, LSM, CAI, PMPD, CAMICB – seems like alphabet soup!  What do these strings of letters mean and how meaningful are they in the community association industry?  For professionals working in the industry, it is wise to know. Community association management is a complicated industry in which the rules are constantly changing and evolving. Things are certainly far different now than they were when I started as a newbie community manager 25 years ago. I had a desk, a chair and a phone (which rang once a day, if at all) and no clue. The CMCA designation didn’t even exist and the caliber of community managers varied greatly.  Everybody’s got to start somewhere and what makes for a successful career in this industry is knowing how and where to get the proper training to do the job well. How do managers learn what they need to know and then keep abreast of developments in the industry? Before we get to those answers, a bit of history might be helpful.

The Community Association Institute (CAI) launched the Professional Management Development Program (PMPD) in 1980 which offers four levels of courses designed to provide a base of industry knowledge and then to build upon it as managers gain maturity and experience over time. The next development in the evolution of community manager training came with the Community Association Manager International Certification Board (CAMICB), established by CAI in 1995 as the professional accreditation body for community managers worldwide. CAMICB’s first important action was to implement the Certified Manager of Community Association (CMCA) designation in 1996, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated the fundamental knowledge required to manage community associations.

The road to CMCA certification begins with the M-100, part of the PMPD series of classes.  Successful completion of that course or five years’ experience as a community association manager will qualify an applicant to sit for the CMCA exam.  The CMCA re-designation cycle occurs every two years during which 16 hours of continuing education must be earned.

One half of the continuing education courses may be obtained through approved courses, such as those offered by WMCCAI. Teaching a course related to community association management can qualify for credit, as can publishing an article in a regional or national communication association publication – like Quorum, for example. One hour of credit equals one hour attended.

Beyond the CMCA, CAI offers the AMS and PCAM professional designations. The AMS or Association Manager requires two years’ professional experience and the completion of two PMPD M-200 level courses. Re-designation occurs every three years and requires one PMPD course M-200 level or above as well as eight hours of industry related education. The PCAM or Professional Community Association Manager designation is the highest awarded, requiring five years of direct association management experience and completion of all six M-200 level courses, the last of which needs to be within the last five years. Re-designation occurs every three years and requires twelve hours of continuing education.

WMCCAI offers a wide range of classes and seminars throughout the year that will fulfill recertification continuing education requirements for all levels of experience.   Many of these sessions are conveniently held at the Chapter Office, while others are at various sites throughout the DMV. Gone are the days of community association management with no professional standards.  Thanks to the efforts of CAI, those standards now exist to provide professionals in our industry with the necessary training and credentials to do their jobs well and garner the respect that they deserve.

Looking toward 2020, the WMCCAI’s Education Committee has focused on increasing the number of classes geared toward the more experienced managers and is pleased to announce expanded educational offerings for the 2020 Conference & Expo on the Friday afternoon before the main event scheduled for Saturday, February 22nd.  WMCCAI is working to structure a comprehensive educational program for its membership and is most excited about these new developments to ensure a quality targeted learning experience for all. The 2020 Call for Presentations opened June 20th. More information on that process and on upcoming educational sessions can be found on our website at

By Suzanne White, CMCA, AMS

Suzanne spent 25 years as a community manager for CMC-Associa, mostly onsite at large scale properties in the Northern Virginia area.  She joined WMCCAI as Education Manager in February of this year and is pleased to have an opportunity to put her experience in the industry to good use in shaping the Chapter’s education program to meet the needs of the membership.

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