Certified Occupancy Specialist (COS) is the most sought-after professional credential in the affordable housing industry. Many property management companies, governmental agencies, and other employers involved in affordable housing prefer and, often require, that applicants for specific positions hold a valid COS or acquire the designation soon after they are hired.
Why COS? Because the designation signifies that the holder has completed the required coursework and passed the exam demonstrating that they know the complicated rules and regulations associated with determining eligibility to live in HUD-funded affordable rental housing and calculating the amount of rent that each tenant must pay. Failing to properly determine eligibility and tenant rent can be extremely costly to an owner or management agent, and, in extreme cases, can lead to disbarment from future participation in HUD programs.
So how do you become a Certified Occupancy Specialist? First you must attend the COS training, which is offered exclusively by the National Center for Housing Management. The training is conducted either online or in-person at locations across America. After the training you must take and pass the COS exam.
If you take the course online, you will attend the class on four consecutive days, with four hours of live instruction each day. The class can be taken on a desktop computer or tablet from the convenience of your home, office or other location. All you need is a reliable Internet connection. During the session you will be able to interact with the instructor and other class participants through Q&A sessions, quizzes, exercises, and homework that will help you carry your knowledge over to the next day and beyond. After you complete the training you have one week to take the online exam. Results are sent by email, usually within three business days of the conclusion of the test period.
The in-person version of COS is similar: the class content is the same, the test is the same, but you’ll be in a classroom setting with the instructor and other students in one of several cities where NCHM offers the training each month. The in-person instruction lasts for two and a half days, and on the final day, participants take a paper version of the exam. Results are also sent by email and are usually available within one week of the conclusion of the class.
Whether you’ve just begun your career in the affordable housing industry or you’re a seasoned professional looking to expand and perfect your knowledge, COS is the proven path to success.
That’s because since NCHM created COS in 1981 more than 125,000 housing professionals have attained the designation making it the premier HUD training and the gold standard credential in the affordable housing industry.
If you’re brand new to the industry or if you just want to refresh your basic math skills, NCHM also offers an on-demand COS-Prep course. This online class is approximately 90 minutes in length and will help you better understand the ins and outs of the HUD Handbook 4350.3, the basic calculations that are involved in determining income and rent, and what to expect during the COS course and exam. While optional, it is suggested that those considering taking COS-Prep do so within a week or two before the actual COS class. COS Prep is an extremely affordable way to get ready for the COS experience.
Becoming a COS can be an invaluable springboard to a long and successful career in affordable housing – a career that brings with it stability and knowledge that you are making a difference in your community.