AIRS Certification Program/FAQs
AIRS Certification Program is a professional credentialing program for individuals working within the I&R sector of human services.
The mission of the AIRS Certification Program is, in accordance with international credentialing practices, to improve the quality of the I&R service received by the public, recognize the professional of individual I&R practitioners, and provide an enhanced quality assurance measurement to organizations that provide I&R.
Why should I become AIRS Certified?
AIRS Certification provides a wealth of benefits to yourself, your organization and the communities you serve.
What Certifications are available?
CIRS — Certification for I&R Specialists (This is designed for practitioners who work directly with clients whether on the phone or in-person and provide mediated I&R -- that is establishing rapport, conducting an assessment, providing an informed choice of referrals, engaging in follow-up and being capable of providing advocacy or crisis intervention if required)
CIRS-A/D — Certification for I&R Specialists in Aging/Disabilities (before March 15th 2015, this was known as the CIRS-Aging) (This is designed for practitioners who work directly with clients and caregivers within the aging and/or disabilities area and perform the same basic range of skills and tasks as a comprehensive I&R Specialist but who also have a special depth of knowledge related to their core client group)
CRS — Certification for Resource Specialists (This is designed for practitioners who maintain databases of resources for the communities they serve and have expertise in the gathering, organizing, indexing and dissemination of information about programs/services and the organizations that provide them)
The CIRS and CRS designations have separate Canadian examinations in partnership with InformCanada).
An individual can hold more than one certification providing they are actively engaged in each separate job function.
What is AIRS Certification based on?
The AIRS Certification Program is based on established standards for the field of information and referral. The program identifies specific competencies and related performance criteria, which describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes and work-related behaviors needed by I&R practitioners to successfully execute their duties.
Who can become AIRS Certified?
Candidates may apply to take the AIRS Certification examination once they are eligible. Eligibility is based on I&R and equivalent experience combined with educational background. I&R practitioners are eligible for initial certification only for the jobs they actually perform and/or directly supervise (i.e. you can only take the examination if you are currently engaged in either CIRS, CIRS-A/D or CRS work).
A candidate for AIRS Certification does not have to be an individual member of AIRS or an employee of an organizational member of AIRS. However, AIRS members can apply for Certification and Recertification at a reduced rate as a membership benefit.
To take the exam, you require:
- At least 1 year of employment in I&R for applicants with a Bachelors or higher degree
- 2 years of employment in I&R for applicants with an Associates/Community College degree
- 3 years of employment in I&R for applicants with a High School diploma or GED.
- 5 years of I&R employment with no educational qualifications
The application requires a transcript. If you are having difficulty obtaining a transcript of your education, then you might find the following site useful: www.studentclearinghouse.org.
Part-time staff and volunteers are required to have at least 1,000 hours of service to be equivalent to one year of employment (i.e., an individual with a Bachelor’s degree would require 1,000 hours of volunteer or part-time hours while an individual with no academic qualifications would require 5,000 hours of volunteer or part-time experience).
Acceptable equivalent I&R experience involves frontline (i.e. client-focused) work in the field of human services that includes an I&R element such as positions in social work, discharge planning, consumer credit counseling, community health nursing, independent living skills instruction and school counseling; or employment in a homeless or domestic abuse shelter, food pantry, group home or other similar settings. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the job description that covers their previous experience accurately reflects the essential elements of the Job Task Analysis for their particular credential.
Who is AIRS Certified?
The AIRS Certification Program maintains a list of current and previous certification holders. AIRS will respond to any direct inquiry as to whether a particular individual is or is not currently certified and the nature of the certification held. Other information (for example, current contact email) is considered confidential, unless an individual provides written permission to AIRS for its release. An online list of certificate holders sorted by state/province, city, organization and certification expiration date is also made available on the AIRS website. However, individuals may request that their name be excluded from this public list.
Where can I take the examination?
Certification exams are offered year round at sites across the United States and Canada and also at the AIRS Annual Training Conference. Check out upcoming dates and locations. Organizations can host their own examinations providing they meet the requirements. Another option is accessing a remote proctor via webcam/Internet, in which case an exam can be taken at virtually any quiet location, including your own home.
Can my organization host an AIRS Examination?
Yes, providing your organization can fulfill the requirements.
How much does AIRS Certification cost?
The basic cost of a U.S. Certification application is:
-- $95 for AIRS members (additional membership discounts may apply -- see application form for details)
-- $250 for non-members
An examination re-take for candidates who do not pass (which must be taken within 12 months of the last attempt) is:
-- $45 for AIRS members
-- $80 for non-members
AIRS Recertification is:
-- $60 for AIRS members (additional membership discounts may apply -- see application form for details)
-- $200 for non-members
If your organization is an AIRS member, all active staff and volunteers are covered by that membership.
If you are Canadian, there is a separate Canadian cost structure and application process that is detailed within the package provided by InformCanada.
How do I apply?
The Certification/Recertification Application Form (an Interactive PDF) is for all applicants whether they are new, retaking the exam or recertifying. This application can be used for both the United States and Canadian certifications. Completed applications, supporting documentation and payment must arrive at least 30 days prior to the test date.
Is there a waiver involved?
Yes. The application form includes a Disclaimer that must be signed by all candidates confirming their understanding that Certification is a voluntary process and releasing AIRS, its officers, members and other persons involved from liability should they fail to achieve Certification.
When can I apply?
Applications can be made throughout the year. However, all certification exam applications, supporting documentation and appropriate exam fees must be mailed to the AIRS National Office in Fairfax, Virginia, and must arrive 30 days prior to the exam. DO NOT send your application for Certification with your AIRS conference registration. If an application and payment are mailed to an address other than the AIRS National Office in Fairfax, Virginia, the application will not be processed and the applicant will be unable to sit the exam. Recertification does not require the same 30-day notice that applies to initial certification. However, applications should be delivered before the expiration of the current certification.
What do I need to study?
To a great extent, an experienced I&R professional should be able to perform well without additional reading as the exam questions are mainly scenario-based. However, we recommend that all candidates review the AIRS Standards and the key sections of the AIRS I&R Training. Additional training options can be found on the following page on the AIRS website: Information on Study Materials. Note that AIRS offers online training courses. These are helpful for candidates but not compulsory.
What is the format of the exams?
The exams are online only and each exam comprises 100 four-part multiple choice questions. Candidates have two hours and 10 minutes to complete the exam.
What is the general guidance for taking the exam?
Note that there are dozens of questions that register 100% correct answers -- e.g. 303 candidates answer it and all 303 answer it correctly. The questions are not designed to "trick" candidates. However, candidates sometimes feel the questions have layers of meaning and read too deeply into the nuances of the question. More often than not, it is best to simply go with your first instincts. Similarly, there may be questions where more than one answer may sometimes be correct in certain circumstances. Once again, do not "over-think", choose the answer that is most right in most situations and try to avoid adding to the scenario (e.g. "Answer B is probably correct but sometimes if x or y are involved or if we knew more details about z, it can be answer C"). Most of the questions are scenario-based and even if you have not encountered that scenario, your overall understanding of I&R should indicate the best approach. Finally, there might be some questions where the answer choices all have some merit but in these cases, there is one answer which would generally considered as the "best" option of those available.
Are there provisions if English is not my first language?
The exam is only available in English. However, an English language dictionary is made available by the proctor during examinations if a candidate wishes to check the meaning of a specific word.
What if I have special needs?
AIRS complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other applicable legislation by offering candidates with documented disabilities the opportunity to request necessary aids and services that do not fundamentally alter the assessment process. Please contact the AIRS office to request assistance. Applications for accommodations must be submitted at least 45 days prior to your scheduled examination date. For persons with visual disabilities, the online test works with nearly all JAWS-type screen readers, although we will arrange a confirmation before the actual test.
Will I learn my examination mark?
We are sorry but we will not share individual marks. This is a normal practice in certification programs. There is only Pass and Fail. If you do not pass, you will receive a coaching report of how you performed in the areas of the exam.
How will I find out my results?
You will receive your results by email within a minimum of 10 working days.
Will I be asked for feedback about the process?
Candidates for Certification will receive a request to complete an online evaluation survey within 10 days of completing their examination. Completed submissions are anonymous and provide essential feedback for the ongoing review and improvement of the Certification Program and as an instrument of change and improvement.
What happens if I pass?
You will receive a Certificate and a lapel pin from AIRS to recognize your achievement, and you may use CIRS, CIRS-A/D or CRS after your name. Your agency may also wish to issue a press release to your local newspaper (in which case here is a template that you can customize). Your agency may even wish to provide you with additional recognition!
What happens if I do not pass?
You will be provided with a breakdown of your scores in the various subject elements within the exam. You can then re-take the examination for a reduced fee of $40 within 12 months of your original test (there is no need to resubmit educational back-up when applying for a re-take exam).
Is there a complaints process?
AIRS understands that occasionally things go wrong. Sometimes these might be the fault of AIRS and other times, they might reflect events out of our control. If any individual has an adverse experience, then please contact AIRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not satisfied with the response provided, you may escalate the complaint to our Chief Operating Officer via email@example.com. Ultimately, if there is a perceived impact on an examination result, then an appeals process can be invoked. Note that an appeal can only be made on a matter of administrative error or oversight of the process. The merits or otherwise of the Certification process itself or of individual examination questions are not open for appeal. A three-person volunteer Appeals Committee appointed by the Chair of Certification Commission handles all appeals. Their decision is final.
How long does AIRS Certification last?
Your AIRS Certification lasts for 2 years from the time you pass the examination. Every two years, you must apply for recertification. You do not need to retake the examination to be recertified but you must submit an application form that documents at least 10 hours of I&R training/professional development over that two-year period.
What does Recertification involve?
You must apply for Recertification every two years and submit a form that details 10 documented hours of I&R training/professional development. These do not have to be Continuing Education Units (CEUs -- although CEUs are fine), as a wide range of training is acceptable (for example, online training, conference workshops, webinars, in-house training, structured visits to other service providers, etc.). The key is that you must document the date/time/title of the event, the name/position of the instructor and the learning objectives of the training activity.
What if I fail to renew my Certification?
If you do not recertify, then you lose your AIRS Certification. You will no longer be published in the listings of AIRS Certification holders and we will respond to inquiries saying that you do not hold AIRS Certification. If you wish to regain Certification, you will have to apply to take and once again, pass the examination. There are certain circumstances in which flexibility can be extended -- for example, if someone has a serious illness/injury and is off work for a year, or has taken extended parental leave -- providing the AIRS office has been given this information at the earliest possible date, including a letter from your direct manager confirming the approved absence. We appreciate that every year, there will be some individuals who forget to renew and we apologize in advance for any frustration this creates. However, we need to be equitable to everyone.
As a CIRS-A holder, how do I recertify as a CIRS-A/D?
Before your CIRS-A expires, you will need to recertify as a CIRS A/D. Here are the CIRS A/D transition details.
How are the examinations created?
There is a psychometric process that begins with the creation of a Job Task Analysis and ends with the placement of exams in the field and their on-going monitoring. AIRS follows the requirements outlined by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). If you would like a more detailed story, review the process for the CIRS, CIRS-A/D and CRS credentials.
Who operates the Certification Program?
The AIRS Certification Program is administered by the AIRS Certification Commission which has complete autonomy from the AIRS Board in decision-making and administration. The governance structure of the AIRS Certification Commission has been established to operate the program according to accepted national guidelines for credentialing bodies and to protect against any undue influence that could compromise the integrity of the credentialing program. The Certification Commission has a fixed membership, including non-Board members, and is subject to a Conflict of Interest/Confidentiality agreement.
How are the exam questions created?
The examination questions are written by volunteer review teams of subject matter experts (SMEs) operating with the oversight of a psychometrician. The review teams are drawn from within each particular specialization and are representative of a diversity of I&R providers both in terms of geographic coverage, agency size and other demographic factors. The entire exam is reviewed every four years with the addition of new questions. All exam questions are regularly reviewed by subject matter experts (i.e. your peers within I&R). Before a question makes it to an AIRS exam, it has gone through three separate groups of 8-10 subject matter experts (each group having at least two members whose first language is not English) and a further review by a psychometrician. Furthermore, every year the performance history of questions is assessed and any question where less than 60% of candidates answer correctly, is reviewed by subject matter experts and changed if it is thought that the wording is misleading. AIRS follows the requirements outlined by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). If you would like a more detailed story, review the process for the CIRS, CIRS-A/D and CRS credentials.
What is involved in being a proctor for an AIRS examination?
All Certification examinations are under the authority of a proctor who is an individual willing to take responsibility for the administration of the event. The proctor must not have an interest in the outcome of any examination and must not be employed by the same organization as any examination participant. It is the responsibility of the organization hosting the examination to select a proctor and secure their approval by AIRS. The proctor must sign a Certification Program Conflict of Interest/Confidentiality Agreement on the first occasion the individual assumes the responsibilities of proctor. For more, check out the proctor application form.
If you become involved with the AIRS Certification Program, are there restrictions imposed?
All AIRS staff, AIRS Certification Commission members and question review team volunteers must sign a Conflict of Interest/Confidentiality Agreement concerning any involvement they have with the AIRS Certification Program. Unless they are already certified, this Agreement prevents those individuals from obtaining certification for the following time limits: a proctor is excluded from taking Certification for one year after their last participation as a proctor; a Certification Commission member is excluded from taking Certification for three years after leaving the Commission; and a member of a volunteer question review team is excluded from taking Certification for five years after their last participation in the certification process. Anyone already holding Certification may recertify in the usual manner.
Who do I contact for more information?
Alliance of Information & Referral Systems
11240 Waples Mill Rd., Suite 200
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: 703-218-AIRS, ext.215
- Last reviewed/amended: May 2016