Since 1991, the California Association of Community Managers, Inc. (CACM) has held strong to its mission: to heighten the professionalism and success of California community association managers by promoting higher standards of practice and ethical behavior. Today, the association has nearly 3,000 members statewide, a $3.2 million annual budget and 12 dedicated staff members.

Education has been a top priority for CACM since its inception, and over the years its educational offerings have become one of the association’s greatest strengths. At the time of CACM’s formation, there were no established core competencies or standards of practice within the California common interest development (CID) industry. The positive impact to the housing industry in California has been significant as one in four consumers live in a homeowners association.  CACM paved the way for professional community management standards by creating programs, events, conferences and courses centered on industry education.

CACM also established the Certified Community Association Manager (CCAM) designation within a year of its formation, and over the years the designation has grown into a mark of professional achievement that was recognized by the state of California in 2002. As the industry evolved, CACM recognized a need for more advanced coursework and a higher standard of certification. This sparked a five-year process of research and development as CACM worked to meet this need.

Developing the Next Level of Education

The process to develop a new educational standard for the industry began in 2006, when CACM representatives met with member company CEOs to conduct a needs assessment for higher industry education. From these initial meetings, the association discovered a definitive interest in a “masters” level of certification.

Next, CACM appointed a volunteer task force, which met periodically from 2006-2008 to identify training objectives and advanced subject matter topics. CACM also conducted a member survey; the respondents confirmed there was a desire for a master level certification, which CACM would soon name the Master of Community Association Management (MCAM).

However, the member survey also showed that not all managers were ready to pursue this level of achievement. This finding spawned the creation of the Specialty Certificate Program, which serves as an interim step to help managers gain confidence and professionalism before pursuing the MCAM. CACM continued with an in-depth industry scan to determine which areas of specialty were in high demand, and four key management specializations emerged: high rise, large scale, portfolio and active adult community management.

Once the direction of both the Specialty Certificate and the MCAM programs was determined, final recommendations were made to CACM’s Board of Directors in May 2008; the long-term goals of the master’s program were added to the Board’s Ends Policy shortly thereafter. In 2009 and beyond, CACM worked with subject matter experts to write curriculum and fine-tune the structure and design of the coursework. Program parameters, processes and a calendar for curriculum completion were also established, as well as a marketing plan to promote and publish the new offerings. Throughout all of the planning, CACM was also mindful of pricing, as it was important for the program to be affordable and value-driven.