The Certified Aviation Manager, or CAM certification, is quickly becoming the standard, albeit a high standard, for managers in the business aviation community. Set forth by the National Business Aviation Association, the CAM certification identifies and tests a comprehensive body of knowledge including Leadership, Human Resources, Operations, Technical and Facilities Management, and Business Management. If you are unfamiliar with the CAM, I would encourage you to visit the CAM section on the NBAA website.
Like any application, most of it is straightforward. After all, in business aviation, we do love our paperwork! After submission, it typically takes a few months to hear back with a determination if you can sit for the exam or not. While I imagine you don’t need help filling out your name or address, this article will hopefully shed some light on the CAM application point system.
A word of caution: be ready to study
Certified Aviation Manager dovetails with your existing aviation experience. Whether you are a pilot, maintenance technician, or dispatcher, your existing knowledge will give you a foothold in the material. What you have done previously will only provide a starting point, however. Anticipate an enormous amount of studying. Virtually all applicants who take it “cold,” or without studying, fail the exam. The CAM program is designed to push you beyond your comfort zone. You may know about one or even two areas, but to master the five domains mentioned earlier, you are going to have to hit the books. You can only prove that you possess the knowledge (pass the CAM exam) if you first show you have the experience (complete the application.) Enter the 100 point threshold.
Many questions I receive are in reference to the application point system. To some degree, this is self-explanatory. However, people are consistently curious about cresting the 100 point threshold. The CAM designation is highly sought after, and it is purposefully difficult to earn. The application process, and specifically the points system, weights your individual professional experience so that people can’t “earn” a CAM certification by simply being a good test taker. In many ways, the application is as important as the exam. It is the first line of defense to verify that potential CAMs have the experience necessary for the CAM accreditation. The points system is flexible and fair; it provides latitude for an infinite number of paths in business aviation. Whether you are a pilot, mechanic, have a degree, don’t have a degree, have direct reports, or if you’re the bottom of the food chain, you can receive credit for your unique background.
Seek out points opportunities inside your company
If you’re in a business aviation job, you get points for each year that you have worked in this capacity. An effective way to increase this part of your score is to seek out either supervisory or non-supervisory roles. NBAA stipulates “program management in business aviation” as being a non-supervisory role carrying eight (8) points per year. Some examples they provide are standards, safety, lead technician, lead scheduler, lead flight attendant, or training. I would point out, however, that these are simply a few examples. The header “program management” leaves the door open relatively wide to your particular business aviation role. The CAM governing board is ultimately responsible for determining your point score, so it may be worthwhile to consult them before seeking out additional duties within your flight department. Managing a new, innovative program not listed in the examples may certainly qualify for the type of experience NBAA is looking for.
“People management” carries yet a higher score. Director, Chief Pilot, Chief of Maintenance, and dispatch supervisor all warrant 10 points annually towards your total point score. Interestingly, CFO (Chief Financial Officer) is even listed as an example for a people manager in business aviation. If you have been around business aviation, this is no surprise. Often, Directors of Aviation report to the CFO, or the CFO may even manage the flight department directly. I highlight this role because it is not traditionally an aviation job. This fact should encourage you to think creatively about what roles qualify. Explore any role that manages people, whether or not it is listed as an example. If you think it may be eligible, it’s worth asking.
If you want to reach that 100 point threshold faster, volunteer for opportunities within your flight department. Whether you are managing people or a program, either will boost your CAM application score.
Look for points at school
If you want to boost your score, consider finishing that degree you’ve been putting off. Finishing a degree will provide the biggest increase of any single task on the CAM application. To put it into perspective, aviation trade school will provide 15 points whereas an ATP certificate will only provide 10. An associate degree is worth 25 points, a bachelor’s degree will provide 35 points, and a master’s degree is worth an impactful 45 points. Outside of your work history, this section provides the biggest bang for your buck.
Other points opportunities
Much like the education section, consider wrapping up that certification you’ve been working towards. Or were working towards a few years back before you got busy. Are you an A&P who has been trying to get your private pilot’s license? Schedule that checkride! Perhaps you’re close to your IA or your NCATT. Go for it. For pilots on track to earn the ATP certification, earning your dispatcher’s certificate concurrently may be worthwhile. While not identical, the Dispatcher Written Exam (ADX) is very similar to the Airline Transport Pilot Written Exam (ATP). You could plausibly take those written exams on the same day. Going after your dispatcher’s certification would require another Oral and Practical exam, however, so you would need to consider that additional work. For a hungry pilot though, that is an option to receive an additional ten (10) points. Do you have an FCC license? If not, this is perhaps the easiest way to earn two (2) points. This simply requires online registration, application, and the associated fee. Go to the FCC website to get your FCC Restricted Radio Operators Permit.
Finally, NBAA gives you opportunities to increase your score with continuing education courses and PDP courses. A maximum of 15 points are allowed by completing certificate programs or approved continuing education programs. Similarly, the Professional Development (PDP) Program offers courses pertinent to the business aspect of business aviation and can constitute up to 30 points towards your score. These programs are vetted by NBAA, and they are often offered in concert with NBAA events. For instance, next time you attend the annual NBAA-BACE conference, you could complete a 4 hour long PDP course on taxes. PDP is also the program largely utilized for CAM renewal by existing CAMs. In addition to being available at NBAA events, other PDP courses are available at various locations throughout the country and year. Some courses are available online.
This option is undoubtedly the least popular, but if you have exercised the previous tactics already, waiting longer may be your only option. Though I’m offering and encouraging some strategy toward your CAM application, there are no shortcuts. I do advocate being thoughtful and purposeful about your work, education, training, and certification. You are building the necessary real-world experience to meet the threshold set forth by NBAA. The points score is merely a reflection of your knowledge and experience. Your business aviation history is a function of two things: responsibility times time.
Your points score = R X T
To become a seasoned business aviation professional eligible, you need responsibility and time. Fundamentally, all the tactics I’ve mentioned are the same. If you are short on experience, you need more responsibility. If you are short on responsibility, you will need more time. Waiting longer to simply encounter, and best, the challenges set forth by business aviation may be necessary. Whatever path you take, keep moving forward, and you can reach 100 points on your CAM application. Find the application here and get started. Prepare to study and GoEightOh!