Certification - FAQ
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CDFA Certification Process: 
Frequently Asked Questions

The information below is intended to clarify common concerns. The information contained herein is subject to revision.

Time to Recertify?

The Facts:

  • Certification wasn’t "easy” – don’t let it expire.
  • Recertification is required each year in order to maintain your designation.
  • It’s now even easier—renew online with your dues renewal.

The Rewards:

  • Recertification demonstrates your commitment to the design profession and continued mastery of administration in the A/E/C field.
  • CDFA certification is desired by many firms in making hiring decisions.
  • And, as one SDA member stated, "…each time I recertify, I have that same sense of personal achievement and satisfaction that I received when I first became certified.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Could you give me details on how re-certification works in its entirety?
  2. What types of programs meet the continuing education requirements?
  3. Do you have to meet a minimum number of points for each PEG?
  4. How often do I have to renew?
  5. The New Certification Exam for Certified Design Firm Administrator (CDFA)
  6. Why CDFA certification?
  7. How does becoming certified benefit me?
  8. How does becoming certified benefit my employer/firm?
  9. Who can become certified?
  10. How does one become certified?
  11. Once I become certified, if I leave my company or industry, may I use the CDFA designation?
  12. I’m an SDA/C. Can I be grandfathered in as a CDFA?
  13. What is required to accomplish my CDFA?
  14. What must I do to become CDFA certified?
  15. Why do I have to have a certain number of years of experience? If I can pass the test, what difference does the amount of experience make?
  16. How long does my CDFA designation last?
  17. How much does it cost to become CDFA certified?
  18. What happens if I don’t pass the examination?
  19. What if I am interested in taking the examination?

 

Could you give me details on how re-certification works in its entirety?

Effective January 1, 2008, a new continuing education requirement will be in place for all currently certified SDA members. In order to maintain your certification designation, a member must affirm completion of the required continuing education hours every year.

When you complete your SDA membership renewal application form there will be a box on the form to check if you are currently a certified member. The annual recertification cost is $25. By checking the box you affirm that you have met the continuing education requirements of 18 learning units for the calendar year period.

Each year a number of re-certifying individuals will be audited by the SDA Certification Committee. An audit consists of a request by the SDA Certification Committee of the member to submit a list of the courses taken, name of the provider, dates attended, and course hours including a photocopy of the certificate of attendance. This audit may be conducted up to two years after the year in question.

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What types of programs meet the continuing education requirements?

Any educational program that is certified by one of the affiliate organizations of SDA (such as AIA, ACEC, AGC, SMPS just to name a few) will be accepted, as well as educational seminars and programs offered by any learning institution like Careertrak or Fred Pryor or universities. Other professional organizations specializing in one of the PEG areas, are also acceptable (e.g. accounting societies such as NASBA, AICPA, IMA, or business societies such as American Management Association [AMA]). Also, vendors who are AIA CES providers and provide approved programs are acceptable. You will need to keep back-up documentation in the event your submission is audited.

Effective January 1, 2016 CEUs may be obtained from authorship of a whitepaper/industry-related article, following publication (1 CEU hour/1 publication). Recognition/application of credit expires at the end of the calendar year and shall not exceed four (4) credits per calendar year.

Also, a ratio of 1.5 to 1.0 continuing education units will be available to presenters.  The presentation shall be based on one of the five SDA professional emphasis groups.  The sign in/attendance sheet must be submitted to obtain Presenter credit and identified as 'Presenter Credit'. Recognition/application of credit expires at the end of the calendar year and shall not exceed four (4) credits per calendar year.

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Do you have to meet a minimum number of points for each PEG?

A PEG is a Professional Emphasis Group which there is no minimum requirement for each PEG, but rather 18 learning units are required each year. One hour = one learning unit (based on a 50-minute hour).  It is encouraged that the majority of your learning units be obtained in a combination of the five PEG areas.

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How often do I have to renew?

Beginning with the 2009 dues renewal year, certified members will renew every year with your membership renewal. Upon retirement from the profession, you may keep your CDFA designation. Upon departure from the profession, you may keep the designation only if you continue to fulfill the continuing education requirement and pay the annual renewal fee.

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New Certification Exam for Certified Design Firm Administrator (CDFA)

As the design services industry becomes more diverse and competitive, the need for accomplished administrators has never been greater. Whether you have worked your way up through the ranks of design firm administration or crossed over from another industry, you know that every administrator in the A/E/C industry must demonstrate a high level of expertise. For most, the quest to be proficient in their jobs, while building credentials for the future, is a lifelong journey.

For more than 40 years, the Society for Design Administration (SDA) has provided a variety of avenues to assist administrators and managers with their professional growth. In addition, SDA offers the opportunity for individuals to add to their credentials by becoming a Certified Design Firm Administrator (CDFA). The CDFA certification program allows a qualified design firm administrator to demonstrate, through an examination process, a mastery of core areas of knowledge identified as essential to the effective performance of design firm administration. These areas are Office Administration/IT, Finances, Human Resources, Marketing and Project Management. Regardless of the stage you are in your career, becoming certified adds a valuable dimension to your professional development. This achievement can help instill greater confidence in your own abilities and identifies you as an experienced design firm administrator who understands the unique issues inherent in a design firm.

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Why CDFA certification?

SDA’s voluntary Certified Design Firm Administrator (CDFA) program was developed in order to provide design firm administrators with an opportunity to demonstrate a command of the core areas of knowledge identified as essential to the effective performance of a design firm administrator. CDFAs are recognized as administrators who have met a work experience requirement, displayed a commitment to continuing education in the areas of Office Administration/IT, Human Resources, Finance, Marketing and Project Management, and passed a comprehensive examination based on these areas of study.
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How does becoming certified benefit me?

Certification acknowledges outstanding achievement and offers a reward of personal satisfaction. The awarding of the CDFA title serves as a tangible measure of competence and as a testimony to others of a commitment to this profession.

Certification ensures recognition of your expertise and assists you in your development and self-improvement by identifying a knowledge base and establishing professional standards. In addition, certification helps junior-level professionals gain top-level management approval, while enabling senior practitioners to remain current in the field and improve their performance and proficiency

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How does becoming certified benefit my employer/firm?

Certification serves as an aid to recruitment, provides a way to encourage and improve job performance for its employees, and acknowledges the training and development of those who are certified.

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Who can become certified?

Since the dynamics of the test have been changed to make it solely knowledge-based, the CDFA program is open to anyone who desires to take the test. The cost of the test will also include a one-year membership in SDA at the member-at-large rate.

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How does one become certified?

Upon making the decision to become certified, an individual will submit an Application for Certification to SDA Headquarters along with the appropriate fees. Upon the candidate’s acceptance, the applicant can purchase the exam study guide to prepare for a closed book, five section exam. This exam will be comprised of approximately 100 multiple choice questions based on the materials in the study guides.

The test will be given at a designated time and place during each SDA EDSymposium and at regional conferences and a minimum of 75 percent must be achieved in order to pass. If you do not pass, you will be allowed ONE (1) retesting for the initial fee. At this moment, the process for retesting will allow for the test to be taken in the applicant’s city with a designated proctor in attendance. Our future goal is to have online access to the testing which will give us a broader reach and allow for several testing periods during the year.

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Once I become certified, if I leave my company or industry, may I use the CDFA designation?

Yes. You will have to follow the same renewal procedure and your fee may be different if you leave the A/E industry.

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I’m an SDA/C. Can I be grandfathered in as a CDFA?

Yes, any member who currently holds the SDA/C designation will retain it indefinitely. Those who wish to obtain the CDFA designation will be required to fullfill the continuing education requirements effective January 1, 2008.

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What is required to accomplish my CDFA?

There are four (4) parts to the CDFA certification: 1) years of experience, 2) educational prerequisites, 3) passing a 100-question exam, and 4) endorsing the SDA Code of Ethics.

The education and experience components are as follows:

  • High School Diploma or Equivalent plus 3 years of experience in the design industry
  • Associate Degree plus 2 years of experience in the design industry
  • Bachelors/Masters Degree plus one year experience in the design industry

It is designed to be a fair and rigorous assessment process. This program strategy is the most suitable and best measurement to ensure that successful candidates have the requisite knowledge and skills.

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Why do I have to have a certain number of years of experience? If I can pass the test, what difference does the amount of experience make?

A certification program validates mastery of a set of competencies. An administrator has to have the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills to be conversant in a broad body of knowledge. Some of these skills are achieved only through work experience in the design industry.

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What must I do to become CDFA certified?

To become certified, SDA members and/or nonmembers must meet the eligibility requirements and pass the certification examination given by the Society for Design Administration. Design firm administrators in Canada and other countries are eligible to become certified, and must realize that major portions of the examination are based on U.S. federal law.

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How long does my CDFA designation last?

You will be designated a CDFA upon meeting all the required criteria as explained in the application. After that time, you will recertify each year by completing and documenting 18 hours of continuing education.

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How much does it cost to become CDFA certified?

The application fee for SDA members is $75 and for nonmembers it is $150. The examination fee for SDA members is $250 and for nonmembers it is $420. The examination fee includes an electronic version of the CDFA Study Guide.

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What happens if I don’t pass the examination?

If you do not pass the examination, you will be allowed to retake it one time within six months from the date of the initial exam in your city with a designated proctor without incurring any additional fees. After the initial retest, any additional retests will cost an additional sitting fee (or $200).

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What if I am interested in taking the examination?

Contact SDA Headquarters at 800-711-8199
or downloand the Application here.  

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