The International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) program is the leading industry designation for demonstrating comprehensive mastery of the field. Having “CEcD” after your name puts you in a distinguished group of approximately 1,100 economic developers around the world, and shows you have the breadth and depth of knowledge to perform at the highest levels of the profession.

It’s a big step. If you’re planning to pursue your CEcD designation, you may be excited about a new challenge, yet daunted by the time commitment, financial investment, and pass rate statistics. As someone who stood in your shoes three years ago, I can tell you—you’re not alone in feeling this mix of emotions.

As I complete my first recertification this year, I’m reminded of a few tips that helped me along the way. While techniques vary based on personal preferences, I hope the following insights can assist you in crafting your own approach to preparing for the exam.

  1. Plan Ahead. First, ensure you will meet IEDC’s criteria by the time you sit for the exam. I recommend choosing an exam date that gives you at least six to eight months to prepare (unless you’re gifted at cramming). Create an action plan that’s tied to a calendar so that you cover all the material in a realistic amount of time. For me, this meant studying a few hours every night (including some weekends). Give yourself a two-week cushion in case you get behind. Finally, if possible, make plans to give yourself a full day of uninterrupted studying the day before the exam.
  2. Pick Others’ Brains. Networking with other CEcDs is a great way to develop professionally, learn what type of material might be on the exam, uncover tips to prepare, and find a mentor. IEDC offers a formal mentor matchmaking program for members. For more information, visit
  3. Prepare. Some have called this program the “CPA” or “MBA” of the economic development field. There’s no way around it…you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time studying to give yourself the best chance of passing. Taking detailed notes during training courses, reading every manual (the answers are all in there), and enrolling in a practice course are all smart moves. Creating flash cards is also a great way to absorb and review the material.
  4. Practice. Remember, this is a timed test. It’s not only how much you know, but how quickly you can convey it. Many people who know the material are unable to pass because they haven’t practiced enough or don’t manage their time effectively during the exam. Create practice tests (with essay questions especially) and gradually increase your time constraints.
  5. Pat Yourself on the Back. Take a moment to commend yourself for making this important decision for your career. And as you make your way through the process, reflect regularly on the progress you’ve made. If you’re anything like me, doing this will help you stay positive, maintain perspective, and motivate you to keep moving forward. Regardless of whether it takes you one time or ten to pass the exam, remember that each experience is an investment in your future and will only serve to benefit your career in the long run.

More questions? Check out IEDC’s FAQs here.