October 6, 2015

The Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) Exam

A CSA is a Certified Senior Advisor certified by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA). CSAs work with senior adults in all fields of business and have the knowledge and experience to empathize, understand and advise based on issue that are of importance and concern to older adults.

The senior population in the United States is expanding rapidly. According to the SCSA, the baby boomer population is maturing, and the senior market grows at a rate of 10,000 people daily. Furthermore, the senior population controls 77 percent of U.S. wealth. Because of this significantly emerging market, an increased need is being realized for advisors who can talk to seniors about subjects that are paramount in their lives. Healthcare, Social Security, pensions, housing, finances, insurance and other topics are of particular concern to senior citizens as they grow older. Many inexperienced professionals cannot begin to understand the various issues that help dictate the ways in which senior citizens make rational decisions and what factors they consider before committing to purchases, setting up a will or making plans for the future.
CSAs come from all fields and industries. Many accountants, CPAs and financial planners choose to become a CSA so they can better serve their older clients. Numerous healthcare professionals (like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, home health care professionals and others) become certified as a CSA in order to communicate on a more appropriate level with clients and patients. Social workers, senior housing specialists, clergy members, attorneys, business executives, funeral directors and others become CSAs to work with their senior customers and clients in better, more efficient ways.

Some CSAs use the certification to draw seniors to their businesses. Senior citizens recognize the value of working with someone who has increased knowledge about the aging process and the concerns of the elderly. CSAs can work with seniors in ways that typical business professionals are unable to due to enhanced knowledge about aging issues, government assistance, financial challenges and obstacles faced by many seniors and health issues related to getting older.

The ethics and integrity of a CSA is rarely in question. All CSA candidates must pass a stringent background check that investigates for any criminal history or less than honest behavior in one’s past. Additionally, each CSA signs the “CSA Code of Responsibility” which attests to their honesty, competence, fairness and trustworthiness. The 36-page document also requires the CSA to make an oath to uphold the professional standards and guidelines set forth for all CSA professionals.

All CSAs hold some other professional certification or designation as part of their profession. CSAs must excel beyond their average counterparts to be recognized as a CSA. Their skills, knowledge, experience and abilities are exceptional in order to be considered as a CSA candidate.

Skills, knowledge and experience are also tested prior to a CSA’s official certification. Each CSA must successfully pass an examination that evaluates his or her knowledge about the senior population, the concerns and issues of the aged demographic, government involvement with the elderly and ways to communicate better with seniors. The examination is a difficult examination that requires extensive preparation.

Benefits of CSA Certification

The designation as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) provides recognition to professionals who have enhanced their knowledge and skills so that their interactions with senior citizens can be more effective, efficient and valuable. CSAs are professionals who deal regularly with the older population in their profession, which may include healthcare, clergy, financial planning and accounting, funeral planning and law, among many other lines of business.

Benefits of CSA CertificationWith the ever-changing demographic, the senior population is expanding rapidly. According to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA), the baby boomer population is growing. Approximately 10,000 people turn 65 years old everyday in the United States. Additionally, senior citizens are reported to control 77 percent of the country’s wealth. The older population are more experienced and expect more trustworthy professionals with whom to do business. As a CSA, you become poised to work hand-in-hand with this growing demographic due to your knowledge, expertise and compassion for the mature citizen’s concerns and goals.

Your CSA designation may draw older clients and customers to your business’s doorstep. More mature clients are looking for someone who understands them and can appreciate their particular situations. By becoming a CSA, you are prepared to work with them and create the best possible situations for them. Working with retirement age individuals is much different than servicing clients who have just begun their lives. The CSA designation indicates to others you maintain the overall goals of the organization, which is honesty, integrity and compassion.
By becoming educated in the goals, concerns and problems that seniors face, you can help identify the needs and concerns of your senior clients and customers more effectively. You can help them to select the options that are best for them. As a senor client, customer or patient realizes this, he or she will gain more trust and faith in you as a professional, which enhances your relationship with him or her, and can increase your business, as well.

You understand how the values and goals of a senior citizen affect their choices, which helps you as a business professional. An older individual has different needs from a new car, insurance policy, estate plan or tax plan than younger clients or customers do. As a CSA, you can comprehend these differences and respond to them better than if you hadn’t received your education and certification.

Communication between you and your senior customers, patients or clients is improved by the knowledge and skills you developed as a CSA designee. By learning the subtle nuances of ways that many seniors choose to communicate, you can help them more efficiently. They value honest, straight-forward communication, and you have learned to give that to them through your education. The CSA designation gives you the confidence to speak to seniors on their level.

The CSA designation may allow you to act as a resource for your older clients. Often, seniors don’t know to whom to turn when they have questions about various topics such as long-term care, insurance, estate planning and many more important issues. Because you are part of the CSA network, you can help direct them to the appropriate resources.

Essentially, your CSA designation allows professionals to do their jobs better. It can attract (and retain) customers, patients and clients for their businesses. However, the CSA designation doesn’t make professionals any better at their jobs, but their enhanced education, skills and compassion do.

CSA Eligibility Requirements

There are several guidelines that Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) candidates must meet in order to gain their certifications. A background check, education and experience and passing the final examination are just a few of the requirements. Other requirements for CSA candidates are listed here:

  • Candidates must submit a completed “Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA) Information Profile” and “Disclosure Questionnaire.” The information profile requires candidates to fill in information about their educations, work and volunteer experiences and basic contact information. Candidates must sign the documents as a testament to the accuracy of the information.
  • Applicants for the CSA designation must undergo a background check that investigates for past criminal activity and actions that show lack of integrity and honesty. Only applicants with clear background checks will be found eligible for the CSA designation.
  • Candidates must submit a completed and signed “CSA Code of Professional Responsibility,” along with agreeing to the terms of the SCSA Membership Rules. Also, a candidate must fill in “The CSA’s Role, Rules and Responsibilities” module for submission.
  • Applicants must prepare for and pass the CSA examination, which contains 150 questions and has a time limit of 3 hours to take.
  • Applicants who take the CSA webinar or classroom course are required to take the examination within 90 days.
  • Applicants who take the self-study CSA course must take the examination within 180 days of purchasing the course.
  • Each candidate must acquire the required amount of education and experience to become a CSA designee. Applicants can meet eligibility requirements by meeting one of three criteria:
    • Acquire required education and experience levels: Requires the completion and passing of the SCSA education course or its equivalent. An equivalent education experience would include any program that covers similar objectives and core content. Documentation of this educational program is required to determine equivalency. This requirement also mandates that a CSA candidate must have worked for at least one year or volunteered for 50 hours of services related to seniors. This work/volunteer time must have occurred within the past 3 years prior to application.
    • Acquire working or volunteer time with seniors: 2 years of paid working experience with seniors or 100 hours of volunteering with seniors. Experience must have been acquired within the past three years prior to application.
    • Acquire education that deals with seniors and/or senior issues: Candidate must have completed a degree or certificate program in a field that works with senior members of society. The coursework must have been done at an accredited university or college. Acceptable programs may include nursing, psychology, ministry, sociology, nursing home administration, health sciences or social work.
    • Candidates must meet all requirements in order to acquire the designation as a CSA. However, not all requirements need to be met prior to taking the examination. There is a 2-year time period before all requirements must be met.
    • Candidates who fail to meet all requirements within the 2 year timeframe after passing the examination will be required to take the examination, again.

CSA Exam Expectations

CSA Exam ExpectationsIn order to become a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), a candidate must meet some stringent requirements and pass the CSA examination. It’s important that candidates know what to expect from the CSA examination in order to pass it to earn the designation of being a CSA. The test has been evaluated and reworked to create an assessment tool that appropriately determines if a candidate has the knowledge necessary to become a CSA.

The CSA examination consists of 150 questions that are presented to the test taker in a multiple-choice format. Candidates receive 3 hours to complete the examination. Students may go back to previous questions to review them or to fill in answers throughout the examination. It is a closed-book examination, and on-site testing will be proctored by an official.

Five core areas of knowledge are covered by the examination. Core areas include:

  • Health Aspects of Aging (Physical and Mental): 25 percent of the examination
  • Social Aspects of Aging: 25 percent of the examination
  • Understanding and Communicating with Seniors: 20 percent of the examination
  • Financial and Legal Aspects of Aging: 20 percent of the examination
  • Government Assistance for Seniors: 10 percent of the examination

The questions are not divided by category on the examination and do not appear in any particular order. These core areas concentrate the purpose and principles behind the CSA designation. Evaluation of this knowledge determines one’s potential to act professionally as a CSA.
On the day of the examination, candidates must arrive on time (or a few minutes early) and present their verification of authorization to take the examination to the testing official. Additionally, all candidates must present a valid photo identification. The photo ID must be an official identification such as a driver’s license, government-issued ID or passport. The name on the identification must match the name on the test authorization.

The examination is given two different ways. For candidates taking classes at an on-site location, their examination will be a paper test given on-site. Other candidates will take a computer-administered examination at a Pearson VUE testing center. The tests contain the same material, scoring methods and are identical in nature.

At the conclusion of the examination, students who took the computer-administered examination will receive their results as they check out of the testing center. The score will indicate a pass or fail along with the score information.

Candidates who take their paper tests on site will receive a letter via e-mail letting them know their test scores within 7 to 10 days of the examination date. If the candidates do not have an email address, a letter will be sent to the candidate with score information. Scores are not available to candidates by phone or fax.

Candidates who fail the examination receive a diagnostic breakdown of the strengths and weakness of their test taking abilities by the content area, along with the official score results. Failing candidates have the option to take the test, again.

Passing candidates are notified by their SCSA Educational Representative and will receive a New Member Kit in the email if they have met all other eligibility requirements. The New Member Kit will receive a CSA certificate, CSA Disclosure Statement, a press release and camera-ready logo art. New CSA designees may begin using their new credentials immediately.

CSA credentials must be renewed annually.

CSA Exam Preparation

The CSA examination is usually the final step one takes in order to become a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA). CSA designees are experts in dealing with seniors on their level and are able to effectively address issues and concerns important to the older population. Direct experience and enhanced education make CSAs more qualified to work with advanced clients, customers and patients.

The CSA examination is a 150-question test that includes multiple-choice format questions, exclusively. Test takers have up to 3 hours to complete the examination. The test has underwent rigorous development with test development experts to ensure it is a credible, valid examination. The examination fully evaluates one’s knowledge and skill set in order to determine if a candidate has what it takes to become a CSA and uphold the CSA values and standards.

Study courses are offered by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA) and include three versions. The first version is an on-site classroom review that takes test takers through the entire outline of the examination within a 3 1/2-day timeframe. Students are encouraged to take the examination at the end of the class sessions, and opportunities are provided for such. The second type of study program offered through SCSA is the webinar version. Through an online class review, students gain the knowledge they need to take the examination and pass it. There are some minor system requirements in order to utilize the online version, and it is available to students for up to 6 months from the purchase date. The third (and final) version offered by the SCSA is the self-study program. Students may purchase the workbook, textbook and other materials so that they may study at home (without a computer) on their own time.

The SCSA encourages students who purchase the on-site classroom review or the online version to prepare to dedicate at least 30 to 35 hours beyond course time to studying for the examination. The self-study program may require even more study time outside of the suggested study-guide.

A list of other available resources is provided by the CSA Candidate Handbook. In addition to the CSA Exam Outline, the handbook recommends a list of 7 books and 4 websites that have useful information that pertains to the content of the examination. Additionally, the foundation textbook used for the study courses is available for purchase without having to enroll in the courses. There are many other non-endorsed study tools and guides available online for the CSA examination.

Students are encouraged to pay particular attention to the exam content outline which requires students to know information based on these subjects (among others):

  1. Social Aspects of Aging (25 percent of the examination): Aging demographic, aging and society, ways people age, elder crime and abuse and home and community-based services
  2. Health Aspects of Aging (25 percent of the examination): Life expectancy vs. life span, nutrition and fitness, chronic illness, mental disorders, dementia and grief and loss
  3. Financial and Legal Aspects of Aging (20 percent of the examination): Financial goals, estate planning, financial challenges (risk management, savings, taxes, pitfalls), long term care and funeral planning
  4. Understanding and Communicating with Seniors (20 percent of the examination): Differences/commonalities among seniors, myths of aging, attitudes, sense of purpose, life changes and age-appropriate communication
  5. Government Assistance for Seniors (10 percent of the examination): Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits and Social Security