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By Kevin S. Seibert, CFP®, CEBS, CRC®, Managing Director, InFRE

The Certified Retirement Counselor®(CRC®) certification examination is designed to ensure that all CRC® Certificants possess the necessary knowledge and skills to competently fulfill their responsibilities as retirement counseling professionals.   The validity of the CRC® exam is dependent upon the Certified Retirement Counselor®(CRC®) Practice Analysis from which the CRC® Test Specifications  are created.

InFRE conducts the Practice Analysis once every five years to ensure that the CRC® program stays relevant and assesses up-to-date knowledge and skills required to assist consumers with retirement planning decisions.  Starting in mid April, we have begun the process of updating the 2008 Practice Analysis.

After a draft of the updated Practice Analysis is prepared based on input from more than 30 retirement industry subject matter experts, all current CRC® Certificants will also have an opportunity to complete a survey and share their views regarding suggested changes to the Practice Analysis.  It is a very thorough and detailed process that will not be completed until December.

Practice Analysis Update Preparation

The 2013 Practice Analysis update project consultant is Professional Examination Services (ProExam), a company that provides comprehensive and trusted credentialing services in professional certification and licensure.  ProExam works across a broad range of professions, industries and institutions.

Under the direction of ProExam, InFRE has assembled various groups of subject matter experts to assist with the completion of the updated Practice Analysis.  They include a steering committee, thought leaders, the Practice Analysis Task Force (PATF) and independent reviewers.  It is particularly important that these volunteers represent all  CRC® stakeholders and are reflective of the diversity of practice.  The primary responsibility lies with the nine PATF members.  With the help of ProExam and the other groups of volunteers, the PATF is reviewing the 2008 practice analysis and associated test specifications and are making initial recommendations for updates and changes based on current trends and gaps that may not have been addressed in the last study.   The focus of the updated Practice Analysis is on identifying:

  • Changes in the practice of retirement education since the completion of the previous practice analysis study;
  • Reflections concerning future directions in practice;
  • Areas missing from the delineation of domains, tasks, and knowledge; and
  • Any knowledge essential to the delivery of services that was not identified in the previous practice analysis study.

Development of the 2013 Practice Analysis

ProExam and the PATF will spend eight months updating and validating the retirement counselor competencies (domains of practice, tasks and knowledge needed) identified in the 2008 InFRE Practice Analysis Survey of Certified Retirement Counselors®.  They will explore the similarities and differences between more- and less-recently certified CRC®s working with a variety of client populations.

ProExam staff will then develop an enhanced web-based survey to gather feedback from all CRC® Certificants on the updated draft Practice Analysis.  Examples of survey questions include the following:

  • For the domains, the rating scales may include the percentage of work time spent in each domain and the importance of each domain to practice; for example,
    • On average, what percentage of your work time was engaged in this domain in your work as a retirement counselor during the past 12 months?
    • How important are the activities in this domain to your work as a retirement counselor?
      •  Not important
      •  Minimally important
      •  Moderately important
      •  Highly important
  • For the tasks, the rating scales may include the frequency of performance of each task and the importance of each task to practice; for example,
    • On average, how frequently did you perform this task in your work as a retirement counselor during the past 12 months?
      • Not at all
      • Occasionally (less than once a month)
      • Frequently (at least once each month
      • Very frequently (at least once each week)
    • How important is this task to your work as a retirement counselor?
      • Not important
      • Minimally important
      • Moderately important
      • Highly important
  • For the knowledge statements, the rating scales may include cognitive level or point of acquisition; for example,
    • What is the primary way in which you use the knowledge in your work as a retirement counselor?
      • I do not use the knowledge
      • I recognize and/or recall the knowledge
      • I apply and/or integrate the knowledge
      • I use the knowledge to evaluate and/or create
    • At what point should a retirement counselor acquire the knowledge?
      • Never—knowledge not required
      • During prior to certification as a retirement counselor
      • During after certification as a retirement counselor

The survey will include an open-ended question for respondents to identify other tasks and knowledge not included in the delineation.  In addition, the survey will include a demographic and background questionnaire.  The demographic and professional background questionnaire will facilitate:

  • Assessment of the representativeness of the respondents, including practice setting, organization size, experience level, educational level, demographic representation; and
  • Analysis of the quantitative survey data by key respondent variables such as setting, and a combination of experience and educational level.

Results of the survey will be used by the PATF to finalize the recommended updated Practice Analysis.  The study will then be documented in a technical report, submitted to the InFRE Board of Standards and Policy Development for review and approval, and then published as an examination guideline for future CRC® Registrants to use to prepare to sit for the exam.

We will send the web-based Practice Analysis validation survey out to CRC® Certificants in September or October, so please keep an eye out for emails from InFRE asking for your help. Please plan to spend 30-40 minutes completing the survey.  It is important that we receive your input and feedback. The ongoing credibility of the CRC® certification process and the protection it provides for the public is dependent on all CRC® Certificants contributing to the quality of 2013 Practice Analysis and resulting CRC® exams.