Following are a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding the PCS certification:
What do I get for the certification?
First and foremost, the PCS individual gains professional credibility from the leading coatings industry organization, and professional recognition from industry peers. Also, many coatings organizations use PCS certification as either a prerequisite for employment or as a contract requirement.
Upon initial certification, SSPC provides an official press release announcing certification, posts notice in the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL), and posts an annoucement on social media.
On-going benefits to certification include: a certificate and wallet card designating their certification; and copies of the program logo to use for business cards, company letterhead, etc.
What types of information from my application may be verified by SSPC and how?
SSPC reserves the right to verify any or all information provided on the application, such as: professional references, work and educational experience, training courses completed.
What is the definition of "substantial experience" in the protective coatings industry?
A candidate who maintains a position that is at least seventy-five percent protective coatings related work or a candidate who is employed at least seventy-five percent of the calendar year in a protective coatings related job is substantially employed.
Are there any alternatives to actual work experience?
No. Protective Coatings Specialists are expected to have coating industry experience.
I have passed SSPC's C1 and C2 courses, but I do not meet the minimum experience requirement. Why can't I be certified?
The Protective Coatings Specialist Certification program does not just recognize coatings knowledge, but rather, the application of that knowledge through practical experience. All applicants must meet all the requirements of the program.
Is the comprehensive certification examination required?
Yes. A closed book, proctored exam is required.
Are exam results confidential?
Yes, all examination results will be held in confidence. Candidates will be advised of their pass/fail score but will not be advised of their actual grade. Graded exams are neither returned nor available for review by the applicant. An applicant may ask for an analysis of the weak subject areas identified by the exam. This analysis will be provided by SSPC within 120 days of the written request.
What happens if I fail an exam?
A candidate who fails an exam must wait six months, then is eligible to retake the exam a second time. Candidates who do not pass on the second attempt are required to take and pass SSPC C1 and C2 courses (even if the courses have already been successfully completed) before taking the exam a third time. Candidates must pay the examination fee each time they take the exam.
How does SSPC's certification compare to NACE International's inspector's certification? Is there "grandfathering" or reciprocity between the two?
NACE has two programs that occasionally are compared with the PCS program. The first is the NACE Coatings Inspector Program (CIP). This program is not equivalent to the SSPC Protective Coatings Specialist Program. It deals with one particular aspect of coatings work - inspection - in much more detail than SSPC. However, SSPC's program deals with a broad range of topics with which the experienced coatings consultant, inspector, manager, specifier, project manager, etc. should be familiar.
The other NACE program that is compared to SSPC's PCS program is the NACE Protective Coatings Specialist Certification. This program is science intensive, since a prerequisite is an engineering degree, or passing the NACE Corrosion Specialist exam. SSPC's program extends to the coatings practitioner (e.g., project manager, facility manager, technical consultant, etc.). SSPC's PCS program tests general knowledge that is gained on the job, not scientific acumen.
There is no grandfathering or reciprocity between NACE and SSPC certifications. SSPC does, however, exempt NACE certified inspectors from taking the C1 course, Fundamentals of Protective Coatings for Industrial Structures, to meet part of the formal training requirement. SSPC also accepts NACE Session 1 training in lieu of C1.
If I have 15 years experience, do I have to take the courses?
Candidates who can document (and SSPC can verify) 15 years of substantial experience in protective coatings (see question #3), will qualify for exemption from the formal training requirement. In this case, SSPC highly recommends that candidates take C1, Fundamentals of Protective Coatings for Industrial Structures, and C2 Specifying and Managing Protective Coatings Projects, as preparation for the exam. To assist candidates, C1 is now offered as a distance learning course via the Internet.
I can't make it to any of the exams on the published schedule, what are my options? Or, will there be an exam scheduled in my area?
Candidates can schedule an appointment to take the exam at SSPC headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA. (An additional fee of $25/hr/candidate will be charged), or travel to one of the scheduled locations posted. Candidates can also arrange for SSPC to proctor the exam at the candidate's work site for a fee of $25/hr/candidate plus travel expenses. Candidates should contact SSPC to make these arrangements.
Can I buy a copy of the course manuals?
Course manuals are not for sale. Manuals are only available to those who register and take the courses.
What is the deadline for applications, where are the actual exams?
In order to guarantee that SSPC will have time to process your application, SSPC must receive the complete application (fees, application, and reference forms) at least two weeks prior to the date of the exam. Applications received closer than two weeks to the date of the exam will still be processed, but SSPC cannot guarantee that the processing will be complete before the date of the exam. Once an application is reviewed, SSPC will notify the candidate of the application status. If the application is accepted, the notification will include the date, time, and location of the exam for which the candidate is scheduled.