I had a dream—a dream to become a master.

It all started in 2013 during a meeting of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). I heard AAMA staff talk about its FenestrationMasters program, in which an individual with at least six years of experience in the industry could go through the extensive coursework. Participants have one year to complete the online modules, and at the end they take a test (three hours, 150 questions) to become a FenestrationMaster. The individual can then proudly display this designation to the world.

So off I went on my masterful quest. Never mind the magazine I produce that is published nine times per year or the staff of six that I supervise. Or the traveling I do throughout the year. Sure, I could fit it in. Clearly, this wasn’t a well-thought-out goal, but if you know me, you know that once I’m in, I’m all in. Before I tell you the ultimate outcome, let me share my top 10 dos and don’ts if you proceed on this path.

  1. Do not feel super-smart in Level 1. Do not go around boasting that you know all about low-E coatings and the different glass types. It will get harder.
  2. Do not think they won’t ask you about all the different AAMA standards by number—and what each means. They will—over and over again. And the fact that you can take the lengthy list of AAMA standards in with you doesn’t help. You don’t have time to look at them.
  3. Do not feel cocky that you know all about NAFS just because you sat in AAMA meeting after AAMA meeting when NAFS was developed and you thought you knew it all. You don’t. And they will ask you about NAFS. Over and over.
  4. Don’t feel smug that you know the basics of all the building codes and you can identify the ASCE-7 wind zone map. The questions won’t be that basic. After all, this is FenestrationMasters.
  5. Do not feel super-smart because you know all about sill heights—yes, they will ask you this, but the questions won’t all be this easy.
  6. Do not feel superior because you know all about Energy Star in residential, and LEED and daylighting in commercial, as this is not much of the test. If it were, I would have aced it.
  7. Don’t glaze over the parts that have to do with panning or receptors. You will be asked about this.
  8. When you are going through the anchorage module, don’t have sharp objects around. You may want to stab yourself in the eye with one. I opted to write the following in the margin of my notebook instead: “Kill me now.”
  9. If your expertise is residential, pay closer attention to the portions on curtainwall, storefronts and all the commercial sections in general. If your expertise is commercial, put this in reverse order.
  10. For the love of all that is good and holy, DO NOT take some of the modules, wait eight months, cram in the final two and then take the test with minimal studying.

Don’t do all that, because if you do, you will fail.

That’s what happened to me this past Wednesday.

I now must wait 30 days before I retest. I can take the test three times. If I fail, the process starts all over—that is, if you want it to.

All that being said, FenestrationMasters and FenestrationAssociate are awesome programs which I highly encourage you to take part in. It is especially helpful (FenestrationAssociate) for newcomers to the industry. In fact, Trey Barrineau, the new DWM editor, signed on for the Fenestration Associate program, as this will be a great way for him to immerse himself in the world of doors and windows. He signed up in January but has yet to get started. (Once you get your login the one-year clock starts ticking.)

Trey, take it from me—get started before the crazy trade show season kicks in. Do not procrastinate!

To learn more, to go www.aamanet.org.


  1. Hi Tara – I know you can do it! I agree with you to not be too cocky going into it…you’ve learned that the hard way. The courses are based upon AAMA standards, not prior experiences with product design, projects, etc. Folks who have done the best on the exam have immersed themselves in the coursework – setting aside dedicated time to both take the coursework and then study.

    It’s hard to do that when you have a full work and travel load, but many Certified FenestrationMasters have relayed to me not just the benefit of that new certification credential but also their gratitude for learning so much from just one program.

    Give it another shot – I know you’ll hit it out of the park!

  2. Thanks Angela. I know I can too and it’s all about preparation. I definitely have admiration for all the folks who know all this. And I am so happy that I have help on DWM now so there should be time in my schedule now to study properly. It really did help me and again I can’t wait to see Trey go through the Associate experience as I know that it will help him learn the industry!

  3. Follow your dream Tara…
    Becoming an AAMA Fenestration Master sounds very difficult, but I’m glad you shared the program and testing regime with us here. I would think becoming a Fenestration Master would be an important hiring criteria for employers in manufacturing, distribution and for dealers and architects whho specify and recommend the correct door or window for a project.
    Simply taking the test seems like it would provide invaluable information about the guidelines and ratings available for professionals to understand window and door quality and the government regulations that monitor the usage of doors and windows in different environments.
    Thank you for letting us know this program exists.

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