From the very beginning Frank Balfour stressed education. In August 1936, the Association published the first Right of Way Procedure Manual. Then in September 1936, the first education course on land title was offered. As an Association, the Board of Directors adopted the Professional Development Program. This was the beginning of the Senior Right of Way Agent (SR/WA) program. This designation was created as an effort to motivate right of way professionals and promote their skills.
The first SR/WA designations were awarded rather than earned. Most of the first to be awarded the SR/WA designation were senior agents or supervisors. At the beginning of the program, those who were not awarded the designation had to pass a four-part exam on negotiations, engineering, appraisal and law. At first the SR/WA designation was not strongly recognized. Those supervisors who’d been awarded the designation without doing much to deserve it did not value the designation highly.
In 1976, Vern Cummings asked if he would qualify as a candidate for the SR/WA, as his background at that time was in property management and utility relocation. A detailed letter outlining his work was submitted to the chapter Professional Development Committee (PDC) who in turn sent it to Headquarters. To his surprise, it was approved. He then took the required exams and obtained his SR/WA. However, management still did not give much credit to the designation.
Shortly thereafter, some companies and agencies began to give SR/WA recipients a salary increase as the SR/WA designation became more widely recognized as a symbol of excellence. In July 1980, the IRWA instituted a mandatory recertification program. Shortly thereafter they added specialty areas to enhance the designation. The educational requirements for declaring a specialty were structured to ensure that certain courses were mastered. This process was the precursor to the present Right of Way Certification Program, which was launched in 1996. With these changes, the SR/WA program obtained even more recognition and more agencies and companies extended additional pay to those with the SR/WA designation.
In late 2010, the IRWA launched the Right of Way Professional Career Path Program. This new Career Path program was developed to recognize and reward right of way professionals as they progress through the various stages of their careers. These stages are acknowledged as the following certifications levels: Right of Way Agent, Associate Right of Way Professional, Right of Way Professional, and the SR/WA designation, which remains the highest designation for right of way professionals.
The IRWA changed the SR/WA capstone exam in 2012. The exam is now more challenging.