Certification Handbook

Congratulations on taking this important career step to earn your ACS Certified Cheese Professional!

Applications for the 2018 exam, scheduled for Wednesday, July 25th, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will be accepted from January 4, 2018 to March 30, 2018.

Benefits of the ACS Certification

  • Formal recognition of professional achievement at a national level
  • Demonstrates cheese-related knowledge and skill to staff, peers, managers and the public
  • Exemplifies proven knowledge of various domains in the cheese industry
  • Shows commitment to the highest levels of professionalism and care
  • Opens career options for cheese professionals
  • Elevates self-esteem and pride in one’s work
  • Improves credibility with employers and the general public

Definition of a Certified Cheese Professional

A Certified Cheese Professional(tm) (CCP) is a person who has successfully passed the ACS Certification exam, demonstrated the knowledge and competencies necessary to work effectively within all domains of the cheese industry, and is dedicated to continuing their professional development.

The ACS CCP Certification is a mark of excellence and achievement that reflects a commitment to the best possible care for cheese and service to those that love it. The ACS certification exam evaluates candidates’ knowledge and skills required to perform specific job activities related to working with cheese from the time it leaves the creamery to the time it is received by the consumer.

The ACS certification exam is based on job task competencies and content knowledge areas that can be found in the Exam Prep Tips section of this Guide. The exam has 150 multiple choice questions and candidates have 3 hours to complete it. Exams are delivered via paper using Scantron technology and an independent testing company (ExamSoft) oversees the electronic grading of the ACS exam.

The ACS CCP exam questions were written and reviewed by subject matter experts to reflect the current practices in the cheese industry. Each year the questions are analyzed statistically to identify any improvement opportunities. The Certification Committee reviews questions with statistically questionable outcomes to determine whether they should be modified or deleted from the pool. Once these issues are resolved, the final scores are calculated.

Certification Committee

The Certification Committee is responsible for the governance of the ACS Certification Program and all policies and standards related to the certification. The Certification Committee does not discriminate against any person on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, medical condition, physical disability, or marital status.

The ACS began the process of developing the Certification program in 2003. The ACS thanks the committee members for their service to the cheese industry. Their willingness to serve on the exam development committee is a testament to their dedication to their profession. Stakeholders at all levels of the production and distribution chain—including cheesemakers, retailers, distributors, and educators—will benefit from the existence of this exam and its quantifiable, widely understood value.

ACS Certification Program Development

The first step in developing an exam based on a professional development program is to complete a job analysis and identify the skills and knowledge required to complete the job. The ACS surveyed its membership in 2010 and completed the jobs analysis based on the survey.

The purpose of the job analysis survey was to identify the job skills, knowledge, and competencies required across all aspects of the cheese industry. This exam was developed to demonstrate a cheese professional’s knowledge and skills across these domains.

Additional resources available to certification candidates include the Body of Knowledge.

Education Network Database

A listing of cheese education program providers is available in the Education Network Database. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by the ACS; programs listed do not necessarily offer certification preparation.


  • I hereby submit this Application to the American Cheese Society (ACS)
    in accordance with and subject to its rules, bylaws, and procedures.
  • I understand that the information gathered in the certification process may be used by ACS for statistical purposes in evaluation of the certification program.
  • I further understand that ACS will use reasonable efforts to keep the information in its possession confidential, but that names of candidates who are awarded certification will be made public, and will be listed on a public database of ACS Certified Cheese Professionals unless you specifically instruct us not to use your name.
  • I understand that ACS reserves the right to verify any or all of the information associated with or required by this application, and that providing false or misleading information, omitting required information, or otherwise violating the rules governing certification may constitute grounds for the rejection of this application, revocation of certification, or other appropriate disciplinary action.
  • I further understand that the ACS Certification is issued by ACS of Denver, CO and is good for a period of 3 years. I understand that I maintain my certification in good standing by complying with any and all mark usage regulations, and all other recertification requirements as incorporated in ACS bylaws and instituted by the ACS Officers and/or Board of Trustees.
  • I understand that I can be disqualified from taking or completing the examination, if ACS determines through either proctor observation or statistical analysis that I have engaged in collaborative, disruptive, or other inappropriate behavior during administration of the examination.
  • I agree that I shall only use ACS trademarks and other intellectual property in accordance with policies developed by ACS and agree to cease using such intellectual property upon expiration, suspension, resignation, or termination of my certification.
  • I understand and agree that ACS makes no claims or warranties regarding my competence, and I agree not to misrepresent my certification status or meaning in any manner that suggests otherwise. I hereby irrevocably assign to ACS all right, title, and interest in and to this application.
  • I agree to release and hold harmless individually and collectively the officers, directors, members, employees, and agents of ACS and the American Cheese Society (ACS) for any decision, action, or omission in connection with this application or the examination; for the failure of ACS to grant certification; or for the revocation of certification.
  • I hereby authorize ACS to make inquiries regarding my fitness for certification and authorize any persons or entities contacted by ACS to respond to such inquiries and provide copies of any relevant and non-confidential information to ACS.
  • I understand that I may appeal any decision by ACS or its proctors. I understand that failing the exam is not grounds for an appeal. I have read the application and the ACS Certification for Cheese Professionals Handbook. The information I submit on this application is complete and correct. I believe that I am in compliance with all eligibility requirements set forth by ACS for the Certification examination.

Once you have read these terms, check the appropriate box on the application form to indicate your understanding and acceptance of these terms. Applications without this box checked will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.


Payment of application fee must be completed when you submit your electronic application.

Effective August 1, 2011, the fees structure is as follows. Application fee MUST be received with your completed Application.

ACS Members:
Application Processing Fee: $35.00
Examination Fee: $500.00
TOTAL FEE: $535.00

Application Processing Fee: $35.00
Examination Fee: $650.00
TOTAL FEE: $685.00

Applications will not be reviewed without accompanying payment. Member fees are available only to individual members in good standing of ACS. If you wish to apply for ACS membership please allow sufficient time for processing. Payment can be made by VISA, MasterCard, Discover, American Express or Debit card. No other form of payment will be accepted.

  • The application and exam fees are non-refundable.


1. High school or GED basic education,


2. Four thousand (4,000) hours documentable paid or unpaid work experience in the cheese profession during the past six years.


1. High school or GED basic education,


2. Two thousand (2,000) hours documented paid or unpaid work experience in the cheese
profession during the past six years,


3. Two thousand (2,000) hours of any combination of work experience and formal education, continuing education, or professional development.

See ACS Certification Eligibility Criteria for more detail including acceptable and
unacceptable examples of eligibility requirements.

Calculating Hours of Experience

4,000 hours = 40 hours/week x 50 weeks x 2 years = 2 years full time work equivalent,
accumulated over the past six calendar years, or from 2012 to the present. If your job did not relate directly to cheese 100% of the time, then prorate your hours to reflect the time you actually worked with cheese.


Reservations of multiple spots are subject to an earlier application deadline than individual applications. In general, the following guidelines apply to reservations:

  • Reservations require the payment of the $35 application fee at the time of reservation.
  • No back-up candidates/alternates are allowed. In case a candidate is not qualified to sit for the exam, that reserved spot is made available to general applicants as part of the total available spots. However, given the advance application deadline for group reservations, it may be possible for a company to encourage individual applicants to submit their applications separately.
  • Companies submitting group reservations must submit all applications and payment simultaneously.
  • All applications must be received electronically.

Application Deadline

All applications for reserved group seats for the exam in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania must be received no later than February 28, 2018. Applications must be electronically submitted simultaneously.

Applications for individuals are due by end of business day on March 30, 2018.  No applications will be accepted for the 2018 exam in Pittsburgh after this date.


2017 Examination Fee

The examination fee must be received by May 15, 2017.


Requests to defer taking the 2017 exam in Denver must be received, in writing or via phone call, by June 1, 2017 Confirmation of postponement will be sent via email. People deferring may take the next available exam without having to re-apply; no additional application payment is required. Requests for deferrals after June 1st will incur a $125 fee.

Application and Registration Deadline for Individuals

  • Individual applications must be received by March 31, 2017.
  • If you are confirmed as eligible to sit for the 2017 exam in Denver on July 26th, 2017, you must complete your exam payment by end of day, May 15th, 2017.
  • Acceptances are valid for two years past the soonest exam date (ex, if you are accepted in time for the 2017 exam you may delay taking the exam until the first exam date in 2019). Beyond that time, the entire application process must be repeated.


Applications for the 2018 exam in Pittsburgh, PA. scheduled for Wednesday, July 25th, 2018 will be accepted from January 4, 2018 to March 30, 2018.



Have you…

  • Confirmed that you meet the eligibility requirements
  • Read the Agreement, Waiver & Release
  • Completed the Application Form
  • Submitted Payment


Your application will be reviewed by ACS Staff and by the Certification Committee
within thirty days of receipt of a completed application and application processing fee.

Acceptance/Denial of Application

  • If you meet the eligibility criteria, we will send you an email notifying you of your
    acceptance. The confirmation letter will contain registration and payment instructions.
  • If there is any question regarding your eligibility, we will contact you to further
    clarify your application and you will need to respond within 14 days.
  • If, upon review of your application, the ACS determines that you fail to meet the eligibility requirements at the time of application, we will notify you by email.

Eligibility Denial Appeal Process

  • If you are denied eligibility to sit for the exam you may appeal the decision to the ACS Certification Appeals Committee (a sub-committee of the Certification Committee).
  • You must submit your appeal in writing to the Appeals Committee within 30 days of receipt of the non-eligibility correspondence from ACS.
  • The Appeals Committee will convene within 30 days of receipt of the appeals request.
  • We will email a notice of the Appeals Committee’s final decision to you within 10 days of the decision.

Wait List

When enough candidates have registered for an exam to fill the available capacity, exam registration will close to new applicants. If a candidate desires to take the current year exam, a wait list is available on a first-come-first-served basis. The wait list relies on those candidates who chose to defer taking the exam, and fills the vacancy.

  • Any person wishing to defer taking the exam must notify ACS at least 60 days before the date of the exam.
  • ACS staff notifies the next person on the wait list.
  • If the wait list candidate wants to take the exam, they must accept the offer to sit for the exam within 3 days of notification and pay for the exam fee within 7 days after accepting the offer to sit for the exam.


The ACS Certification Exam is based in the skills and knowledge used by Cheese Professionals across the spectrum of the industry on a regular basis. It is therefore expected that exam candidates have a reasonably strong grounding in practical experience; pure study (“book learning”) alone is unlikely to ensure success. However, exam candidates may have been away from a test-taking environment for some time, therefore, it is recommended that candidates:

  • Begin preparing for the exam as soon as possible. Waiting until the last minute
    and cramming is discouraged.
  • Review the content areas that are understood and used on a daily basis.
  • Plan in-depth study and preparation for those areas that are less familiar.
  • Notice the percentage of questions per content/knowledge area. Those areas with a high percentage of questions are a significant portion of the exam, and therefore, require more time of study.

Task Areas:

  • Procure Cheese (10%)
  • Receive Cheese and Manage Inventory (27%)
  • Educate and Communicate about Cheese (28%)
  • Sell Cheese (15%)
  • Adhere to Proper Sanitation Procedures (20%)

The Task Area exam questions are linked with the following Knowledge Areas:

Knowledge Areas:

  • Raw Material for Cheesemaking
  • Cheese Making Processes
  • Cheese Ripening (Affinage)
  • Cheese Storage & Transportation
  • Moving Cheese Out the Door (Marketing/Merchandising)
  • Cheese Types & Categories
  • Cheese Assessment & Evaluation
  • Cheese Service
  • Regulation & Regulators


  • Those who pass the exam will be mailed a notification letter, ACS CCP certificate, pin and patch, but not the actual exam score.
  • Those failing to pass the exam will be mailed a Diagnostic Report that highlights topic areas from the exam in which the scores were low. Those who fail the exam are encouraged to review the report and develop a study plan to improve knowledge in the areas of weakness identified.
  • Candidates who fail the exam should understand that further study and preparation, and possibly experience, is necessary before retaking and ultimately passing the exam.

Retaking the ACS Exam

Unsuccessful exam candidates may retake the exam at the next scheduled exam date, subject to the following conditions:

  • Re-apply for the exam, by submitting updated information to ACS to include in your original application. ACS must receive your updated information by March 31, 2017 in order for you to take the exam. The exam fee will need to be paid, however, the application fee is waived.
  • Exam may be taken up to three times (initial test plus two retakes) without having to present evidence of additional professional education or experience.
  • Following a third failure, candidate may only register for the exam by presenting documentation of additional coursework (credit or certificate college course) in the content area of deficiency as shown by the Diagnostic Report.


  • Individuals who successfully pass the exam may use the title “Certified Cheese Professional” (CCP) in official correspondence and in all forms of address.
  • The title and designation may be printed on letterhead and business cards.
  • Use of the title “Certified Cheese Professional” by persons who have not passed the ACS exam is prohibited.
  • Businesses may claim “Certified Professionals On Staff” if at least one member of active staff holds the certification in good and current standing.
  • Note: CCP is also a designation used by the IACP for Certified Culinary Professionals; CCP is a common abbreviation used by numerous certification programs. For clarity’s sake, we recommend that you use the full designation: Certified Cheese Professional, or ACS CCP.


The ACS Certification is valid for three years and is renewable for additional three-year periods through a formal recertification process.

Every meaningful certification program requires periodic recertification to ensure that certified persons maintain their knowledge and skill in the field.