A look at the benefits of education programs offered by international, national, regional and state florist associations and organizations.
By Nita Robertson, AIFD, CFD
Education is a great pathway to advance in any career, and it is important for personal enrichment and creative expression. In the floral industry, for example, to be successful, a floral designer must be knowledgeable about elements and principles of design, the science of cut flowers and plants, the latest ideas and trends and so much more.
“Knowledge is power” is a famous quote attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, statesman, lawyer and scientist during the Renaissance period. The phrase emphasizes that having knowledge and information is a source of empowerment and can lead to greater control and success in every aspect of life.
So, have you ever wondered what all those letters following people’s surnames mean and stand for? Those post-nominal letters—a.k.a. post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles and designatory letters—indicate accreditations, certifications, designations, honors, educational degree achievement or membership from (and/or in) various organizations.
In the floral industry, there are many post-nominals that enable professional floral designers and businesspeople to communicate their education, accomplishments and expertise to their customers and peers. Accreditations and certifications can be obtained through national and international florist organizations like the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) or the Society of American Florists (SAF), and many state and regional florist associations also offer certification programs and education, as well.
Although achieving accreditations and certifications is voluntary, it indicates a measure of floral design skill and ability and/or business knowledge and expertise gained through education, training and/or work experience, and it symbolizes one’s commitment to ongoing learning, improvement and elevating levels of professionalism throughout the industry. This is important because—unlike in many European and other countries—there are no apprenticeship, licensure or certification requirements to become a florist in 49 of the 50 United States (Louisiana is the exception).
Whatever path one chooses, education in floral design and the business of floristry is important for several reasons. Becoming accredited or certified in these segments of the industry offers a range of benefits, both for one’s professional development and for one’s potential clients and/or future employers. For floral designers, formal education and training helps individuals acquire the professional skills and knowledge necessary for working with flowers and plants, including techniques for arranging flowers, and understanding the care and maintenance of various types of flowers and plants. Learning about the art of floral design can help individuals develop their artistic skills, enabling them to create beautiful, unique and professionally crafted compositions.
For those interested in pursuing a career in floristry, formal education and training can be crucial for building a successful career and/or business, including valuable insights into the business side of the industry, including marketing (critically important!); sourcing and pricing for profit; customer engagement and experience; and all aspects of management, from financial to employee—to name just a few areas.
Earning accreditations and certifications is also an incredible way for one to grow as a designer and really challenge oneself. It also provides one access to a community of other florists and professionals in the industry with which to network, share, learn and create lifelong relationships—which, in turn, exposes myriad opportunities including potential jobs, business opportunities and so much more. Becoming a member of organizations and associations that support the professional flower industry and encourage lifelong learning can be a crucial step to creating and maintaining a sustainable floral business.
Becoming accredited or certified can also provide immense personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, and it tells clients and employers that one has undergone formal training and met specific standards, which can instill confidence in that person’s abilities. Accredited and certified florists are more likely to stay up-to-date with industry trends and innovations in products and techniques, making them more knowledgeable, credible and valuable to clients—and able to command higher prices and fees for their products and services! Customers can be more assured that they will receive the highest quality, craftsmanship and creativity in the products they receive as well as the most skilled and professional services available.
NOTE: It is important for one to promote his or her accreditations and certifications and to educate one’s customers about them so that they understand what the achievement means to them.
Moreover, education resulting in accreditation and certification can prepare one for a range of careers in the floral industry and lead to specialized opportunities, including invitations to participate in industry shows, seminars, demonstrations and workshops; floral design competitions; teaching positions—and so much more. The world can become one’s oyster.
“No, you don’t need to be certified to work as a floral designer or to open a floral business,” explains Leanne Kesler, AIFD, CFD, CFEJ, AAF, PFCI, FDI, co-owner and education director of Floral Design Institute in Portland, Ore. “However, certification has many benefits. First, becoming certified forces you to stretch yourself. You have to study, train and test. Your knowledge will grow and your design skills will improve. In addition, there is a great deal of pride in attaining certification from internationally recognized organizations. Then, there is the value of becoming a certified member of a like-minded group of floral design professionals with whom you may work and can rely on for advice and guidance as you grow in your career. This is your career network.”
Accreditation, Certification and Awards from National and International Florist Associations and Organizations
AIFD and CFD (American Institute of Floral Designers)
The American Institute of Floral Designers offers two designations to candidates who have demonstrated advanced professional ability of floral artistry: AIFD (Accredited in Floral Design) and CFD (Certified Floral Designer).
To be an Accredited Member of AIFD and to use the AIFD designation after one’s name, one must achieve an exceptional score during the Professional Floral Design Evaluation (PFDE). Accredited members must earn 30 continuing education credits every five years to maintain their accreditation.
There are several ways to obtain CFD certification. One path is through AIFD-approved education partners, state florist associations or SAIFD (Student AIFD) chapters. Once coursework is completed, with teacher approval, one would then take the online test to complete CFD certification.
AIFD also offers a “Certified Floral Evaluator/Judge” (CFEJ) certification exclusively for Accredited Members of AIFD.
AAF (American Academy of Floriculture)
Florists who are members of the Society of American Florists (SAF) may apply to be awarded the AAF designation. The American Academy of Floriculture recognizes members who have committed both time and energy to the floral industry and to their communities.
PFCI (Professional Floral Communicators—International)
Professional Floral Communicators—International is a network of professional floral educators certified by the Society of American Florists (SAF). Each member of PFCI has proved, through education and experience, their ability to speak authoritatively about the principles and elements of floral design, the proper care and handling of flowers, and effective business management techniques.
CAFA (Canadian Academy of Floral Art)
The Canadian Academy of Floral Art was formed in 1992 to promote floral design as an art form, to display and elevate excellent floral design in Canada and around the world, and to recognize and promote the exceptional artistic talents of not only Canadian floral designers but also floral designers from around the world (there are CAFA members in United States, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom). Accreditation involves a two-step process: 1) taking a written test and providing photos of one’s floral design work, and 2) an onsite design evaluation comprising the creation of five designs, all of which are “surprise packages.”
EMC (European Master Certification)
An education and certification program, the European Master Certification program is a three-part journey into floral design craftsmanship, knowledge and professional certification. The program is led by Tomas De Bruyne and Christi Lopez, EMC, AIFD, CFD.
The EMC Core Program, which comprises three courses—Foundation, Practicum and Advanced—takes six to 12 months to complete, if one pursues the three parts one after the other; however, that is not required. EMC offers payment plans for every step in the program, so one can pay as one progresses through the program.
Floral Design Certification from State and Regional Florist Associations
AMF (Arkansas Master Florist)
Offered by Arkansas Florists Association
AzMF (Arizona Master Florist)
Offered by Arizona State Florists Association
CF (Certified Florist)
Offered by Great Lakes Floral Association (GLFA) and Wisconsin & Upper Michigan Florists Association (WUMFA)
CCF (California Certified Florist)
Offered by California State Floral Association
FSMD (Florida State Master Designer)
Offered by FSFA International, The Florida State Florists’ Association
ICPF (Illinois Certified Professional Florist)
Offered by Illinois State Florists’ Association
MMFD (Maine Master Floral Designer)
MPCF (Maine Professional Certified Florist)
Offered by Maine State Florists & Growers Association
NCCPF (North Carolina Certified Professional Florist)
Offered by North Carolina State Florists Association
SDCF (South Dakota Certified Florist)
Offered by South Dakota Florists Association
TMF (Texas Master Florist/Texas Master Certified Florist)
Offered by Texas State Florists’ Association