What qualifications do I need to become a CCA?
Anyone who wishes to become a CCA must meet 2 criteria. They initially must pass both the Prairie and International CCA exams. Once completed, they must meet the educational and work experience requirements outlined by the CCA program, then have their qualifications reviewed by the Prairie and International Board.
If a person has a non-agriculture degree, or no formal education, they require 4 years (48 months) of crop advising experience. If the candidate has a diploma from an agriculture school, they require 3 years (36 months) of crop advising experience. If the person has a formal degree in agriculture, they need to have 2 years (24 months) of crop advising experience. One-month work experience is counted as one month toward eligibility of CCA experience. Once they meet their requirements and have passed each exam, they can apply to receive their CCA status.
What is crop advising experience?
Crop advising experience is the act of providing information to current and prospective clients. This can include, but is not limited to, advising farmers in soils, fertility, weed management and control, insect control, disease control, crop production, rotation planning. Crop advising may also be presenting information at local field days, various farm meetings or directly with a producer in a one on one setting.
To be eligible for crop advising experience, the advising must be provided to a farm that you do not have a direct interest in (e.g. a family farm).
The act of blending fertilizer, loading and unloading chemical in a chemical storage shed, invoicing, and record keeping, though important day to day activities of many people interested in attaining their CCA designation, do not qualify for advising. The act of soil sampling is not crop advising - though interpreting the test results and providing recommendations is considered to be advising.
Does farming count as work experience?
Yes, applicants may submit farming work experience. However, regardless of the applicant's duration of farming, a maximum of one year will be granted for farming experience.
What constitutes as farm experience?
Certified Crop Adviser applicants are allowed to use up to one-year maximum as farm experience. The one-year maximum will be used if the applicant can demonstrate that they had a personal interest in the farm operation. This includes but is not limited to - choosing a fertility program, choosing crops and varieties to sow, timing of seeding, selecting the proper timing and products for pest control.
The one-year maximum may not be granted, if for example, the applicant's farm experience is limited to operating the farm equipment or simply being raised in a rural setting.
Does this experience have to be earned after the exams are completed?
No, a person could have been working in the agriculture industry for 10 years, for example, and then decide to attain their CCA designation. They just need to document their past experience in order to qualify for the work experience aspect of the program.
What if I do not have these qualifications, can I still write the exam?
A person can challenge the CCA exams at any time. Many candidates who are enrolled in an agriculture program elect to take the exam right after they graduate, as the information they learned during the course is still fresh in their minds.
While they do not have the work experience to earn their CCA designation, they can write the CCA exams. If they are successful, their test scores will remain on file at the American Society of Agronomy while they are working to gain the necessary experience required in order to become a CCA - they do not need to rewrite the exams after attaining the required amount of work experience.
How do I go about registering for the CCA exam?
In order to be eligible to write the next CCA exam, you must register through our online registration page.
What type of material does the International exam deal with? How about the Prairie exam?
The International exam deals with more general agronomic knowledge that could be transferred wherever the candidate would be working. It is an exam that all CCA's in North America need to complete in order to earn their designation.
The Prairie exam is a more specific test that quizzes the examinee on agronomic information relating to the Prairie region. It is a more specialized exam that only candidates who will be working in the Prairie region need to complete.
How much does it cost to register to write the CCA exams?
The Prairie exam costs $150.00 (USF) and the International exam costs $245.00 (USF).
What are the CCA study manuals?
There are several options for preparing for either CCA exam. Please go to the How To Join page for more information.
What are the Performance Objectives?
The Performance Objectives are a complete list of questions that a candidate should be able to answer prior to attempting the CCA exam. There are a set of Performance Objectives for the Prairie exam and the International exam, as well. They are similar to the Prairie and International study guides in that they outline the important knowledge that an examinee needs to know, however, unlike the study guides, they do not provide the answers to each question.
Each year, one continuing education category of the Performance Objectives (i.e. nutrient management, integrated pest management, crop management, soil & water management, professional development) is updated. The new versions are available on-line and from the CAAR office in the fall. There is no cost associated with the Performance Objectives and anyone can request a copy of either manual.
Can the previous year's study guides be used when preparing for the CCA exam?
This is a decision that MUST be left up to the individual. However, the Prairie and International Exam committees do change some of the information contained in the study guides each year. For this reason, it is important to remind anyone who is interested in writing the CCA exam, that they are making a substantial time and money investment, and the best option would be to acquire the most current version of the study manuals to ensure that they are privy to the most up-to-date material.
When and where are the exams written?
As of February 2020, the CCA exams moved to an online testing format rather than a paper version; this was a decision of the Int'l CCA Board. Examinees will be able to take the test in their own location and have several exam days from which to choose. Remote proctors will monitor exam writers via their computer web cameras. This is for the regular CCA exams and the specialty exams.
Is this an open book exam?
No, the CCA exam is a closed book test. No reference materials are permitted when writing the exam.
Can I write only one exam per year?
No, an individual can choose to write a second time. If you don't pass the exam, there is a 15-day waiting period before you can schedule a retake attempt on any continuous exam.
How is my result determined?
The total number of correct answers as compared to a cut score determines whether you pass the exam. The cut score reflects the difficulty of the exam as determined by subject matter experts in agronomy using statistical methodology consistent with psychometric practices and standards used for credentialing exams (see below for more detail). We will only provide pass/fail results on our exams.
How are passing results determined?
The actual passing score is determined by a criterion-referenced procedure called the Modified Angoff Technique. In brief, a selected group of subject matter experts in the agronomy field review the exam questions and evaluate them according to how successful a group of minimally competent candidates would be in answering each question on the exam, which then determines a minimum passing score for a particular exam.
When will my score be available?
With the move to continuous testing, you will know instantly of your exam results. If you don't pass the exam, there is a 15-day waiting period before you can schedule a retake attempt on any continuous exam.
What do I need to do to maintain my designation?
There are 4 main Performance Objective categories for CCA's to earn CEU credits. They are:
- Soil & Water Management (SW)
- Nutrient Management (NM)
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
- Crop Management (CM)
Once a person becomes CCA certified, they will be required to maintain a minimum of 40 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits every 2 years with a minimum of 5 per category. CCA's can
also earn a maximum of 5 CEU credits in the Professional Development cateogry per 2-year cycle; any number over the maximum 5 will not count. They are many events, workshops, magazine articles, etc.
available to certified CCA's that they can attend to or read in order to attain their required number of CEU credits. If a CCA is short of the required number of CEU's by the end of their 2-year cylce, their designation will be revoked.
For example, to meet the minimum requirements, a CCA must earn 5 CEU credits in the NM, SW, IPM and CM category. Once completed, a CCA would have 20 CEU credits. They could then earn a maximum of 5 CEU's in the PD category for a total of 25 credits. The remaining 15 CEU's must be earned in one of the 4 primary CEU categories prior to the end of the 2-year cycle.
What other points should the applicant use for completing the form?
Spelling and neatness counts! Proper spelling and grammar help to get your message across to the Standards and Ethics committee. The committee has a number of applications to process every year, and your attention to this is appreciated.
Be thorough. You may know that your "field walks" should count as crop advising experience, but the committee does not. Include some detail when describing "field walks". For example,
An acceptable detailed account of work history:
- field walks for 50+ customers, including pre-seed, in-crop and post-harvest pest scouting of area crops.
- provide solutions to producers for pest management.
- soil test and provide fertility recommendations for our customer base.
- plan and lead annual field tours of local issues and agronomy topics for local producers.
An unacceptable detailed account of work history:
- advise farmers on crop production.
It is easier to describe in detail your experience, than to make the committee guess.
Who can I use to be my reference?
To complete the application form the applicant must have attached two properly completed references. Though not necessary, it is acceptable to include more than two references. The first must be
from a supervisor who is familiar with the applicant's work experience in crop production.
The second letter must be from a client who has experiences working with the applicant on their farm operation. In either case, each of the reference letters must be signed and witnessed.
In the case of being self-employed, a letter from a supervisor is not possible. In this case a second client reference is acceptable.
These are the only two possible combinations of reference letters.
Letters of reference that are not acceptable for either supervisor or client reference are those coming from immediate or extended family. For example, Uncle John and Cousin Mary are not acceptable as either an employer or client references. They may think very highly of you and your work, however, this can be perceived as a conflict of interest.
Be sure the two reference letters are signed and witnessed or notarized.
Do my references need to fill in the comment section (question 7)?
No, questions 1 through 6 are absolutely necessary to complete the form, as is the signatures, witnesses and phone numbers at the bottom of the reference. However, reference comments are taken very seriously, and may be the deciding factor when considering an applicant. It is strongly encouraged that the client and supervisor reference provide comments for the committee's consideration.
For further information about how exams are scored, please visit the Certified Crop Adviser FAQ page.