Masters of Code: Robert Decker achieves the gold standard of code certification
It’s considered the Ph.D. of building safety codes certification. The Master Code Professional (MCP™) is the highest level of designation the International Code Council offers and is the “gold standard” for demonstrating proficiency in the code profession. The Code Council has certified thousands of individuals, but only a small select number have attained this high level of achievement: just over 800 MCP professionals worldwide. Their achievements are a benefit to the code enforcement profession as well as their communities.
To obtain this level of certification requires and demonstrates a commitment to the profession, diverse knowledge of codes and a high level of self-initiative. Robert Decker, Building Official, Memphis/Shelby County Construction Code Enforcement, is the latest to join the elite group of Master Code Professionals. In this exclusive feature for the Building Safety Journal, we asked Robert to share his experience on obtaining the MCP designation, highlights of his professional career, and any insights or advice he has concerning the industry.
Memphis/Shelby County Construction Code Enforcement
International Code Council member for seven years
BSJ: What led you to pursue and obtain MCP certification?
Decker: Between my job now and the past 20 years prior to the Memphis Fire Marshal’s office, I’ve always felt strongly about knowing my job. The MCP is the ultimate representation of a code person “knowing their job.” It’s a commitment that only those who understand the work we do can appreciate.
BSJ: How did you study and prepare for the many exams you took as a part of your MCP designation?
Decker: I read through the entire code (or most of it) each test and purchased the ICC online classes and continued to go over the text until I started to get a good understanding of the application of each code. I used Google and Youtube videos and images to clarify terms I was unfamiliar with to help my understanding.
BSJ: What does achieving the prestigious MCP status mean to you?
Decker: It has been a goal of mine for several years and when I was approved to receive this certificate meant the world to me. You work and work achieving certification after certification feeling like the MCP is just unreachable and then there it is. I can’t adequately describe the feeling of accomplishment I had when I received my certificate.
BSJ: How would you describe the value or benefits that have come with the recognition of your MCP status?
Decker: The value is priceless in my job. When I prepare for various exams, I also use the opportunity to become more familiar with another area of discipline here at our office. It makes me a better building official because I’m more familiar with all of the codes we enforce and I can better reason out my decisions for contractors, owners and design professionals.
BSJ: What advice would you offer to those who are considering pursuing an MCP designation?
Decker: It’s worth it! Just realize its not an overnight accomplishment. It’s the equivalency of a college degree in codes. If it was easy, you wouldn’t get the same gratification of completing it and its value wouldn’t be the value it is now. Just take a code, learn it and take every test offered from the code. They all count and they are all important. You’ll be glad you did in the end.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Decker: Twenty-seven years.
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Decker: Codes are much more complicated and almost require engineering knowledge to completely understand. The creation of the international codes was a big change as well. You can know that your knowledge could be useful across the U.S. Other than local amendments, the I-codes are pretty much the same everywhere and networking with other code professionals becomes so much more important in gaining useful ideas and insights that I can use every day.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Decker: The industry continues to grow and more and more states require some sort of credentials to perform code work which makes the MCP so valuable. It’s exciting to me because I enjoy the work and the acknowledgment I receive for the challenging job we do. It’s only going to get more technical in the future and having credentials is going to be necessary for anyone who wants to be successful in this job.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Decker: Learn every day. This industry is so complicated and there is so much available knowledge out there. You could learn something new every day from your first day until your retirement day. Prove you learned it by gaining all the certifications you can. Be able to “know it and show it.” Know your job and prove you know it with certifications. Strive for the ultimate certification in this industry — the MCP.
BSJ: Building safety is the focal point of our mission here at the Code Council. What is the importance of building safety to you? How has ICC helped you in your career and commitment to public safety?
Decker: It’s all about safety in this industry. Having come from the fire department, nothing is more important to me. In this office, our primary goal is to make buildings as safe as possible for our citizens. ICC is our most important resource in this quest. The copious research and testing represented in the codes guide us in our endeavor to work with designers and other industry professionals designing and building the safest possible buildings.
BSJ: Obtaining all those ICC certifications is quite an accomplishment. What are you going to do now that you have achieved this goal?
Decker: I took a break from my constant studying and have used my gained confidence from gaining the MCP in performing my job. I am going to continue my studies of various codes to assure the knowledge remains current as well as seeking other useful certification projects to keep myself abreast of current trends and challenges in the code world. This is part of my life and other than God and my family, it is the most important aspect of my life. We help save lives. It isn’t the headlines life-saving like seen in the emergency responder’s world. You’ll never know you saved a life if your job is done right. However, being complacent and not doing your best could lead to knowing you possibly caused hurt by your negligence. The work we do is very important and the work is rewarding knowing it matters and I love the work.
BSJ: Thank you, Robert, and congratulations. You have definitely been an encouragement to us all in your pursuit of excellence.
To earn the Code Council’s elite MCP designation, a candidate must first pass 10 core Code Council exams plus a number of elective Code Council exams. Typical Master Code Professionals hold 17 or more Code Council certifications. The Master Code Professional designation requires certified individuals to complete an additional 60 hours of Continuing Education Units every three years to maintain active status.
“The Master Code Professional certification is the pinnacle of all Code Council certifications, representing a level of effort, knowledge, and dedication that elevates not only the individual achieving it but the code official profession as a whole,” said Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO.
Master Code Professionals are typically responsible for all technical and management aspects of code enforcement with duties that range from the management of a code enforcement department to the supervision of inspectors and plan reviewers.
“Congratulations to Robert on achieving this important and significant accomplishment,” said Michelle Porter, director of the Code Council’s Assessment Center. “I challenge and encourage all code professionals to strive for this level of achievement, and look forward to congratulating more Master Code Professionals in the future.”
To learn more on how you can join this elite group and let us help you open the door to increased professional challenges and career advancement, click here.