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Winning Tactics for Becoming a Certified Records Manager (CRM)

Tactics to Become a Certified Records Manager

Do you want to become a Certified Records Manager (CRM)? For those of us in Records and Information Management (RIM), becoming a Certified Records Manager (CRM) is a significant milestone.  It takes intense focus, dedication, fortitude, endurance, and knowledge to become a CRM.

The CRM credential provides the basis of the essential skill set and aptitude for the RIM professional. It is compromised of everything from management best practices and all the components of recordkeeping – creation, maintenance, records storage to disposition – through the use of recordkeeping technologies. It not only helps your personal career development, but it can help you positively influence your own organization’s information governance program (IG).

Here we break down what the experience of becoming a CRM is like, and what steps you can take to be better prepared to pass the CRM exam(s) successfully.

Tackling Becoming a Certified Records Manager

1. Preparation

The CRM is not a standard certification; it consists of six comprehensive exams.  Five of those exams are multiple-choice, and once those exams are passed, the sixth exam is a written exam.  The exam is owned and managed by the Institute of Certified Records Managers (ICRM).

Since the mid-1970s, the ICRM has ensured their exams validate that a person has the skills it takes to become a CRM.  It requires you to possess both the necessary experience in the field and education to become a candidate. After you become a candidate, you can take the exams.  However, due to the evolvement of the materials covered within the tests, you may consider studying in parallel with the task of fulfilling the experience requirement.

Once you become a candidate, the countdown starts.  The ICRM’s website has an Exam Preparation Resources page lists the books one needs to read and study for the exams.  Additionally, associations such as ARMA International provide study packs that include all the necessary books along with sample questions on the ICRM website.  There are also annual workshops held around the United States and Canada that prepare candidates for the exams.  It is recommended that you attend a variety of workshops as they dive deeply into how to prepare for the six exams.  Each year, content about the certification is reviewed by the ICRM and presented by CRM’s in the field.

Lastly, it is highly recommended to find a mentor as they can be critical to the success of a candidate.

2. Exam Outlines

Five of the six exams or “parts” are explained in the exam outlines, as shown below for 2019. Exam outlines may change per year, so it’s crucial to leverage your level of experience along with your education efforts. For more information on the requirements for a candidate to pass the parts, be sure to check out the annotated outlines that are available on the ICRM website.

Part 1 – Management Principles and the Records and Information (RIM) Program

Click here for Part 1 Annotated Outline

  1. Principles of Management
  2. Human Resources/Staffing
  3. Methodologies
  4. Financial Considerations
  5. Planning
  6. Additional RIM Program Components
  7. Directing and Monitoring a RIM Program
  8. Ethical Responsibilities
  9. Global Concerns of a RIM Program

Part 2Records and Information Creation and Use

Click here for Part 2 Annotated Outline

  1. Information Framework
  2. Risk Assessments and Audits
  3. Compliance
  4. Information Security and Privacy
  5. Information Creation

Part 3 – Record Storage, Retrieval, Conversion, and Facilities

Click here for Part 3 Annotated Outline

  1. Storage
  2. Retrieval
  3. Conversion
  4. Facilities

Part 4 – Records Appraisal, Retention, Protection and Disposition

Click here for Part 4 Annotated Outline

  1. Records Inventory
  2. Records Appraisal
  3. Retention Schedule Creation
  4. Retention Schedule Implementation
  5. Retention Schedule Administration
  6. Vital Records Program
  7. Business Continuity
  8. Archives

Part 5 – Technology

Click here for Part 5 Annotated Outline

  1. System Life Cycle
  2. Architecture and Infrastructure
  3. Life-Cycle Management
  4. Imaging Technologies
  5. Programs and Applications

3. Certified Records Analyst (CRA) Certification

In previous years, the ICRM created the Certified Records Analyst (CRA) certification that can be advantageous for candidates that have passed parts two-four to earn immediate accreditation. The outlines and exams to become a CRA are the core foundations of records management that can help you with career advancement for RIM and information governance positions. Additionally, becoming a CRA can be an essential consideration for planning with a focus on completing parts two, three, and four and then working your way towards the completion of part one. Once you become a CRA, the five-year candidate term will end.  The term end outlines that you can take pieces one, five, and eventually six anytime you wish. Further, some professionals have decided to stay CRA’s and postpone their pursuit of the CRM.

The ICRM promotes the idea that to be a successful manager, you should possess basic management training and be able to talk tech.  Part one is focused heavily on the development of a management skill set, and part five weighs in on technology. Further, a manager has to have good writing comprehension and writing skills.  This is where part six comes into play with the requirement of two written case studies. After part six is completed and passed, you will earn the CRM certification.

3. Testing

Although information governance professionals are strategic in nature and detail-oriented, it is not too familiar to find an individual who enjoys taking exams.  Fortunately, parts one-five of the exams are multiple choice. Tests are completed at a Pearson Vue testing center to qualifying candidates. It is imperative that the testing fees, completion times, passing requirements, and locations of the testing centers are understood. The ICRM website offers an overview of testing fees and times to complete the exam. The testing center provides a pass or fail statement, except for part six which is graded by CRM volunteers. Upon passing part six, the designation of CRM can be used.

4. Continuing Education

Once you become certified, there are continuing education requirements.  It is essential to understand the continuing education requirements and plan to meet those requirements.  Losing your certification can be a stressful process and may result in having to retake the exams.  Continuing education can be earned by attending conferences, speaking, writing, and volunteering.  It is best to confirm what activities are approved for continuing education qualifies.  At the time of writing, there are 100 hours of continuing education hours required over five years.  Lastly, there is a code of ethics the ICRM publishes that all certified individuals must adhere to.

5. Understanding the Value 

So why be a certified records manager? A CRM oversees the management of information in all formats, mediums, locations, and industries.  Becoming a CRM prepares you to face the challenges of the past, present, and future with preparation and confidence.  Further, because the path towards becoming a CRM is somewhat complicated, it can significantly benefit your career advancement along the way. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for a CRM to oversee a significant records program for an institution.

By exemplifying to your organization that you are applying the basics, have a strong understanding of the content, and can use your skillset, you will be able to address a myriad of situations.  Additionally, you’ll possess a strong network of industry peers that will be invaluable throughout your career in RIM and information governance.  Ultimately, organizations will continue to have information challenges, and CRM’s like you are here to help them solve those challenges.

About the Author

Andrew Ysasi, MS, CRM, FIP, CIPM, CIPP, CISM, PMP, IGP is the Vice President, Advocacy of Vital Records Control, and President of IG Guru®, an IG news organization to ensure relevant IG news is shared with the IG community.   

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