The year was 2004…
The Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1918. Shrek 2 was the highest grossing movie of the year. Usher had Billboard’s top two songs. Gasoline soared to $1.74 a gallon…. And, the most important milestone of them all: The Society of Animal Welfare Administrators seated the first group of candidates for the Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) exam at the Conference in San Diego!
Having been among that first group of candidates, I walked into an austere hotel conference room with great trepidation and a bit of concern that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. The setting was surreal. Tables were bare—I suppose cheat sheets could have been stashed in tablecloths. Nervously, I found a seat between two good friends and colleagues, hoping against hope that some of THEIR smart would osmose its way into my brain.
That first exam was a beast, and I’m still a bit stunned to have passed it on the first try. Admittedly, my preparation was half-hearted. If I had it to do it over, I would study MUCH harder. I vividly recall making my way to the hotel bar (before noon!) to drown my sorrows and calm my nerves. One by one other candidates joined me there, as they either completed the test or gave up.
Fast forward 17 years where, with the help of several industry experts, we have developed an all new exam. The questions have been beta-tested and, at long last, the ALL-NEW CAWA exam is open for business! Today’s candidates will have it a bit easier. You can schedule the exam online and take it 24/7 from the relative comfort of your own desk or kitchen table under the watchful eye (webcam) of a proctor.
The CAWA credential represents a major career achievement to be sure. Today there are just over 200 of us who actively hold the credential with great pride And we’re counting on so many more of our colleagues to join us. I should warn you that achieving CAWA isn’t the end of anything, though. It’s a bright spot in a lifetime of continuous learning and continuous improvement
Being an animal welfare professional means being a generalist. We have to learn and retain tons of information on multiple topics. Even VPs and CEOs need to have a basic understanding of hands-on veterinary care, feeding and cleaning protocols, and field services work. And, we also need to know about government relations, fundraising, and loads of other administrative functions. Preparation is key. Knowing what you know (or don’t know) will help you in your quest for CAWA.
Never stop learning and striving to achieve the best for yourself, your teams, and the people and animals you serve every day. I’ve been in this work for a very long time and there are very few days when I don’t learn something new.
CAWA is one step in a journey—a step I hope you’ll take soon!