Why certifications basically mean nothing.
I myself am quite confident that I am a very good mold inspector, but the only thing I can be completely certain of is that I don’t have as many certifications as most people in the mold industry. My background is heavily science based and my expertise in mold investigation comes primarily from on the job training. In my opinion this is the best possible combination because it is important to understand the biology of mold growth, sampling methodology, methods to prevent cross contamination, how to write a report that can hold up in court, how to interpret results, and most importantly how to speak with clients that are scared, frustrated, and many times feeling sick.
I have a Bachelors of science in Biology/Chemistry as well as a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and a Masters degree in Forensic Science. I have worked as an analytical chemist, in a crime lab, and finally as a mold inspector for several years before opening my own company. I received my certification from the Mold Inspection, Consultation, and remediation Organization (MICRO).
When I was first looking to get certified I was researching to find what is the best training course and what is required of mold inspectors in California. What I found was that there are essentially no requirements. There are 20+ companies I found offering certification for various aspects of mold and they all say they are the best and most reputable. This was confusing to me so I went in search of finding which certification was most recognized or recommended, and most importantly, why? What I found was that it seems that IICRC is recognized because they wrote the standards for mold remediation that everyone in the industry follows. And the ACAC is the most known accreditation industry. The problem I have with this whole thing is that everyone is saying that you need to be accredited by one of these companies but who says so. The government and the environmental protection agency doesn’t. The training I received didn’t really teach me anything I didn’t already know from working in the field and from my own research. In fact, I have a client who has been dealing with sever sickness due to mold and he has done so much research he could be one of the leading professionals in the mold world if he chose to. Now when I go to do testing for him, I learn so much about how to treat mold problems that I didn’t know before. This info is not taught in training courses, it is learned from research, time, and trial and error.
If the government stated you are not allowed to be a mold inspector without this certification, I would get that certification and feel fine about it. But the fact is that I am feeling scammed. Certifications are very expensive between $700-1000 and though I am all for continuing education, they are pushing these courses as if you need them and they are recognized by everyone in the industry. So is that why I need them? Because my competition says they are better than me if they have the paper saying they completed this course from this particular company and I didn’t. Should I feel the same because they don’t have the education and experience I have? I am sure that these other inspectors are very good at what they do and I don’t need them to have a paper saying it. That is unless the government or EPA says we need it and since they don’t I can’t understand who decided that I need to pay these companies 1000’s of dollars to say I can do my job. I believe it is the companies themselves that push their own agenda to make money.
That all being said, I do think continuing education is important but educating yourself and getting experience working for someone who already has the experience is an even better way to qualify yourself for a job in the mold industry.
Additionally, there currently isn’t enough research and there are several different opinions about how certain procedures should be done. I have my own methodology when it comes to testing but isn’t it weird that I can get 5 different answers to a question by 5 different mold professionals.
My point is, I don’t like how the mold industry has no concrete guidelines of what credentials are necessary to have as a mold inspector. This feels like the diamond industry or a hallmark holiday. Some big companies saw that people were making money and they wanted to convince everyone that they need to spend money and buy their “product”.
My advice to you is this:
1.Speak with your mold inspector and ask lots of questions.
2. At the end of the day, if he is knowledgeable and you like the way he answers your questions he might be a good fit.
3. Ask about his education. You might care more about formal education less than “certifications” or vice versa. You get to choose who you think is right for the job because there is no right answer.
4. Read my blogs. They can save you time, money, and sanity.
5. If you get a sense that your inspector is in it more to make money than to help people that may be a bad sign. I understand that we all have to run a business, but the health of our clients should come first. You can usually get a sense whether you are dealing with a salesman or with an empathizing human being.
It is ultimately up to you who you hire but if you ask me, put more weight on formal education and experience than on certifications. I realize might be bias because of what my experience is but we are all a little bias aren’t we?