Masters of Code: Terri Russell 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 900 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. Terri Russell, plans examiner for the city of Longview, is the latest to join the elite group of Master Code Professionals. In this exclusive feature for the Building Safety Journal, we asked Terri to share her experience on obtaining the MCP designation, highlights of her professional career and any insights or advice she has concerning the industry.
Department of Development Services
Longview, Texas, United States
International Code Council member for 16 years
BSJ: What led you to pursue and obtain MCP certification?
Russell: I wanted to pursue an elevated level of professionalism for the work that I do. I enjoy researching the codebooks to obtain code compliance and to meet the intent of the code.
BSJ: How did you study and prepare for the many exams you took as a part of your MCP designation?
Russell: I set aside time each week or daily if allowed to focus on preparing for the exams needed to obtain the MCP designation. You have to set aside the time to focus on preparing not only for taking the test, obtaining the certifications and to further your knowledge in your field of expertise.
BSJ: What does achieving the prestigious MCP status mean to you?
Russell: It means more than just another certification. It means that I set a higher goal and achieved that goal. With this being said, it also means that I have a better understanding and appreciation for the tools that I use on a daily basis to ensure to the best of my ability that the plans that I review are code compliant and that the people that occupy those spaces or buildings will be in a safe environment and structure.
BSJ: How would you describe the value or benefits that have come with the recognition of your MCP status?
Russell: I believe that the value of obtaining the MCP designation is invaluable. I feel that by receiving the status in the construction field among approximately 800–900 people worldwide, that speaks volumes in itself. I feel that I belong to an elite group of people that have dedicated themselves to the profession and expertise of understanding and utilizing code compliance.
BSJ: What advice would you offer to those who are considering pursuing an MCP designation?
Russell: My advice would be to set aside time consistently to prepare for taking the exams, set the goal, believe in yourself and stay true to the profession.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Russell: 22 years.
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Russell: How the codes have evolved over the years. When I started out in this industry, we were under the SBCCI codes. Then, later on, came the International Codes. While most codes have updates every code cycle there have been a couple of those codes (energy and existing building) that have completely changed over time. It’s interesting to see the new code editions when things that have been gray or unclear in the past show clarity in the newer editions of the codes. The other change that I would like to mention is that when I started out years ago there were only a handful of women in the industry. I would go to training or continuing education classes and literally would be the only woman there. As time has passed, now when I go to training or construction functions there are more and more women each year that are involved and that is just nice to see in this particular field.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Russell: As far as the future of the construction industry, I love to see the new products and innovation of techniques for construction. It is always nice to see a new technique or product that resolves issues of the past.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Russell: This is an industry that is always changing. If you want a challenge in your daily life, this would be a good industry to pursue. I started out as a permit technician 22 years ago. I enjoyed the work and decided I wanted to try being a building inspector for our municipality. I did that for several years which I thoroughly enjoyed, then decided I wanted to try plan review which I have been doing ever since. So no matter what level you are in the industry, if it’s something that you love and believe in, push yourself to the next level.
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?
Russell: Building safety is the most important factor of all. Through ICC webinars, study guides, testing, etc., you have a better understanding of the codes and the intent. I also value the fact that if there is ever a gray area or an aspect of the code that you might not completely understand, ICC provides code interpretations to members. This has been a valuable tool over the years not only to help resolve issues but for me to have a better understanding of what the intent of the code is.
BSJ: Obtaining all those ICC certifications is quite an accomplishment. What are you going to do now that you have achieved this goal?
Russell: Well, I’m not going to stop now. I recently have studied and passed a few fire exams, including Fire Plans Examiner. I have to admit that I would like a better understanding of the Commercial Energy Code. This is the one code that changes every code cycle that just when you think you have it, it changes on you. But in reality, change is good. I think at the moment I will continue what I do but who knows what’s on the horizon… when you get to this level anything is possible.
BSJ: Thank you, Terri, 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 Terri on achieving this important and significant accomplishment,” said Autumn Saylor, program services manager of the Code Council’s Assessment Center. “I challenge and encourage all code professionals to strive for this level of achievement, and I look forward to congratulating more Master Code Professionals in the future.”
To learn more about how you can join this elite group and let us help you open the door to increased professional challenges and career advancement, click here.