Nuts and Bolts of Achieving Your Economic Development Certification

I think every economic developer should be certified, work at it, get it, because it is a mark that you’re a professional in the field. – Steve Jenkins

So for those who need directions, here is the road map to navigate the CEcD process. In order to be eligible to take the test, you must have completed four years of full time work in economic development. While you get the necessary work experience, you can take the required classes. There are two ways to take these classes: through IEDC or the University of Oklahoma (OU) Economic Development Institute (EDI).

If you choose the IEDC classes, you must complete the four core classes and at least two electives before sitting for the exam. The core classes are

  • Basic Economic Development,
  • Business Retention & Expansion,
  • Economic Development Credit Analysis, and
  • Real Estate Development & Reuse.

There are many different electives that you can choose from, ranging from Economic Development Marketing & Strategy to Entrepreneurial and Small Business Development Strategies to Workforce Development. These classes are two or three days long depending on the topic and are held at various locations.

Here is the cost breakdown for pursuing the certification through IEDC:

Course Registration (5 courses at $450 + 1 course credit at $550)        = $2,805

Travel & Lodging (6 courses + exam at $800)                                           = $5,610

Exam Application                                                                                         = $495

Total                                                                                                              = $8,900


Should you choose to go the Oklahoma University route instead to complete your exam prerequisites, the program requirements include 117 course credits, which you can take either in person or in online classes. You also must complete an additional 45 credits through attending one OU Economic Development Institute session, which is a five-day interactive class. OU EDI also offers a review course that prepares you for the exam. It is recommended that even people who do the IEDC classes should take this review course.

Here’s an estimate of what it will cost to prepare for the certification through OU EDI if you take advantage of the IEDC member early bird rates:

1 Week-Long Institute                                                                                     = $1,650

Travel & Lodging for Institute                                                                        = $750

4 Online Classes                                                                                              = $2,380

4 Manuals, including Shipping Costs                                                            = $250

CEcD Review Course                                                                                       = $625

Exam Application                                                                                            = $495

Total                                                                                                                  = $5,400


Lastly, one of the newest requirements is attending “A Primer to the CEcD Exam Process: What You Need to Know”. This informational meeting gives you the exact details of the exam and a few sample questions. You also observe a mock interview, which is part two of the exam. This two hour info session is actually very informative and valuable. I sat in on it very early in my process to become certified, which gave me a great idea of what to expect and prepare for. If you’re a planner like me, you should definitely plan on attending ASAP.

There you have it – that’s the checklist to prepare you for the CEcD exam.

Finding the Right Path: My Decision to Become Certified

In the last post To Be(come Certified) or Not To Be(come Certified) – That is the Question, I discussed the pros and cons of pursing an economic development certification. Now I want to share with you my own personal reasons for striving to become a Certified Economic Developer.

I stumbled into the economic development field much earlier than the average economic developer. At 20 years old and a junior in college, I was given my first opportunity, becoming an economic development intern at the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce. Like most people in the field, I didn’t plan on becoming an economic developer or even know that it existed! I was interested in entering politics and business was my fallback. Honestly, I started the internship because it was close to my school and I thought that working at a Chamber would be a good step for my career. Within the first couple of months, I knew that I had found that field that I was meant to be in. I became passionate about small business, city planning, business recruitment, incentive deals, and, most importantly, relationship-building with the business community. It was at this job that realized that I needed to pursue a certification because I wanted to learn everything that I possibly could about the field that quickly captured my heart.

The internship led to a part-time job within the same organization during my senior year of college. The part-time job led to a full-time job in the same organization after graduation. And the full-time job led to me finding my dream job at Impact DataSource doing economic development consulting.

The decision to pursue the certification has been inspired by the encouragement of mentors and clients, the love and support of my family, and a desire to strive for what I know I am capable of.

I want to become certified so that I can become more knowledgeable in all aspects of economic development. I want to be a greater resource for clients. I want to add value to my own career and to the organization that I work for. Oh, and I also want to be able to put “CEcD” in my title 😉

To Be(come Certified) or Not To Be(come Certified) – That is the Question for Economic Developers

“[The] certification is a point of pride for, I think, all of the people who have taken it and successfully completed the steps toward certification.” – Jeffrey Finkle, President & CEO of the International Economic Development Council


The most vital question of those who decide to attain their Economic Development Certification is: “Is this long, challenging certification process something that I truly wish to pursue?” While most economic developers ask themselves this question, very few decide to strive for this designation. In fact, in the International Economic Development Council, the largest economic development membership organization in the world, only 25% of their 5,000 members have their certification. Why is it that so few actually become certified?

While it is not a requirement to be certified in order to practice economic development, there are benefits to furthering your knowledge of the field in this way. First, being certified gives you a stamp of professionalism. It shows that you have gained the necessary knowledge to successfully practice economic development. Second, you become more marketable, which can help both you and your organization. Many economic development job openings state a preference for a certified economic developer, but even if it doesn’t request this, the certification places you ahead of your peers who lack the achievement. Having this designation also sets your organization apart because having a certified economic developer employed implies a greater knowledge of the field and, potentially, could attract more business to your company through added trust in your abilities. Finally, according to IEDC, economic developers who are certified tend to make more money.

With all of these benefits of achieving a certification, why is it that so many choose to not pursue it? One reason could be the low pass rate. On average, only 33% of economic developers who take the exam pass. Another reason could be that many enter the field later in life and don’t desire more school. Others could feel like they’re doing fine in the field and the opportunity cost for the certification just isn’t beneficial due to time, money, or where they are in their career already. But it does make one wonder why other fields require a certification (such as the CPA and Bar exams) to achieve a stamp of professionalism in order to perform their job and why economic development does not follow suit. But stay tuned, that is a question for another day.