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Carrie Gerstenberger Shares How She Earned Her CCS

By CSI HQ posted 06-09-2021 10:29 AM


Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Owner  professionals who earn their Certified Construction Specifier (CCSTM) certification are skilled product researchers who know how to investigate and identify cost-effective, efficient solutions, then communicate those solutions through the specifications. Achieving your CCS means:

  • Developing an in-depth understanding of agreements, conditions of the contract, Division 01, and their relationships to specifications
  • Having advanced skills in specification development, enabling you to use spec-writing software more effectively
  • Understanding how to research and source products

Here, recently successful CCS candidate Carrie Gerstenberger, WELL AP, CSI, CDT®, CCS, discusses her career in construction and shares her perspective on what it took to reach this goal.

What prompted you to earn your CCS?

I wanted to earn my CCS in order to become a more knowledgeable and dedicated specifications writer. I believe that training is needed to write specifications accurately and effectively, and as such was inclined to spend time learning. Understanding the principles of specifications allows me to develop a more coherent Project Manual and set of office masters. 

How did you prepare for the exam?
I spent about five months studying for the test and began the process immediately after earning my CDT certification. I joined the Portland Chapter CCS study series, which was incredibly helpful, to structure my time and better understand what to focus on for the test. Beyond that, my homemade flash cards were entirely useful during my daily commute. 

What in particular about the exam process stands out for you?
I felt challenged by the lack of study resources provided by CSI, however, the class series was the backbone of my regiment. The CCS requires dedication to reading and retaining paired with time for learning. The exam was not a quick-study for me and did require a more drawn out study period.

Were there any surprising, or unexpected methods or preparation that helped you achieve success?
I found creating notecards immediately after the classes on the topics covered was extremely useful. Taking notes during the slides, then rewriting those notes was entirely helpful to information retention.

How did your professional and personal community support you?
The CCS exam is well respected in the industry. After earning my certification I feel proud to share my experience and knowledge. Professionally, this exam will help show my accomplishment as a specifier.

How do you feel this will impact your future in the industry and inform the work you do?
I learned more than expected due to the study process. Being one of less than 20 people within 100 miles to earn this certification makes me stand out professionally. My role depends on knowledge and deep understanding of technical data, the CCS exam helped me refine those skills and solidify my knowledge base. 

Favorite recent book or binge show?
I’m reading “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig, a book about the 'what-ifs' in life. What if you’d made another decision, what would that parallel life look and feel like? Who would you be? I love exploring curiosity and this book takes you on a journey through choices and decisions through self-reflection and growth. A must read!

Anything else you would like to share?
Some specifiers, and designers alike, didn’t end up in the career via a straight path. I’ve been a middle school teacher, a massage therapist, a commercial interior design and arrived, elated, as a specifier. Learning the background of how someone got to where they are can peak more interest in this industry and create a more full picture of the present.

Get more information about the CCS certification.

1 comment



Thank you for sharing.  Being a CCS will broaden your career.