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|Certification - Frequently Asked Questions|
CDFA Certification Process:
The information below is intended to clarify common concerns. The information contained herein is subject to revision.
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Click here to access our recording "Steps to Becoming a Certified Design Firm Administrator."
Frequently Asked Questions
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, Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, and Project Management. Regardless of what stage you are in with your career, becoming certified adds a valuable dimension to your professional development. This achievement can instill greater confidence in your own abilities and identifies you as an experienced design firm administrator, or manager, who understands the unique issues inherent in a design firm.
SDA’s voluntary Certified Design Firm Administrator (CDFA) program was developed 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 and managers who have met a work experience requirements, displayed a commitment to continuing education in the Professional Emphasis Group (PEG) areas of Office Administration/IT, Human Resources, Finance, Marketing and Project Management, and passed a comprehensive examination based on these areas of study.
The CDFA program is open to anyone who desires to take the test. The cost of the test also includes a one-year membership in SDA at the member-at-large rate.
Upon making the decision to pursue certification, an individual will submit an Application for Certification to SDA Headquarters along with the appropriate fees. Upon acceptance and payment of the fees, the applicant will be provided with an electronic version of the exam resource guide to prepare for the closed book, five-section exam. The exam is composed of 100 multiple-choice questions, primarily based on the materials in the provided Resource Guide.
The test will be given at a designated time and place during each SDA EDSymposium. Proctored exams may be taken during designated testing session timeframes proceeding the annual EDSymposium and EDConnect conferences. 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. Currently, the process for retesting allows for the test to be taken in the applicant’s city with a designated proctor in attendance.
Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements and pass the certification examination given by the Society for Design Administration to become CDFA certified. Design firm administrators in Canada and other countries are eligible to become certified, but must realize that major portions of the examination are based on U.S. federal law.
The application fee for SDA members is $75 and $150 for nonmembers. The examination fee for SDA members is $250 and $420 for non-members. The examination fee includes an electronic version of the CDFA Resource Guide. The application and exam fee totals are $325 for members and $570 for non-members.
There are four (4) elements to the CDFA certification: 1) years of experience, 2) educational prerequisites, 3) passing a 100 - question exam, and 4) accepting the SDA Code of Ethics.
The certification process is designed to be a fair and rigorous assessment. This program strategy is the most suitable to ensure that successful candidates have the requisite knowledge and skills.
Contact SDA Headquarters at 513-268-5302.
The 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.
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 and remitting the annual CDFA renewal fee.
You will be allowed to retake the examination one time within six months from the date of the initial exam in your city, with a designated proctor, without incurring any additional fees. If you do not pass the examination a second time, and you enroll to retake the exam within a 3 month period of your first retest date, you may retest at the Retest Administration rate of $25. If you do not enroll and pay the Retest Administration fee within three months of your initial retest date, any additional retests will be charged the exam fee (currently $250).
Yes, but you will pay a higher renewal fee and must complete an annual audit of your continuing education requirements.
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 in your career development by identifying a knowledge base and establishing professional standards for excellence and on-going self-improvement. 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.
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.
Certified members will renew with their membership renewal. If you retire from the industry as an SDA Emeritus, you may keep your CDFA designation. Upon departure from the profession to work in another industry, you may keep the designation only if you continue to fulfill the continuing education requirement and pay the annual renewal fee.
Effective January 1, 2008, to maintain certification designation, a member must affirm completion of the required continuing education hours every year.
When you complete your SDA membership renewal application check the box on the form if you are currently a certified member. The annual recertification cost is $25, which can be submitted with your membership dues. By checking the box you affirm that you have met the continuing education requirements of 18 learning units for the previous calendar year.
Each year 15% of re-certifying individuals, selected at random, 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. Continuing education hours may be submitted for approval and tracking throughout the year by uploading proof of attendance on the Professional Development tab on your member profile on the SDA National website which will update your continuing education transcript and facilitate the audit process.
Yes. You must completed at lest one learning unit in each of the five Professional Emphasis Groups (PEG).
Product only educational opportunities, including "Lunch n' Learns" may be used for up to six (6) continuing education hours each year. Providers must meet the requirements listed below.
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, 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 AIA-approved programs are acceptable. You will need to keep back-up documentation to prove your attendance in the event your credentials are audited. This includes documentation such as sign-in sheets, certificates of attendance, etc. Proof of payment/registration details, etc., will not be sufficient proof.
Pre-recorded webinars from providers listed above are accepted for credit provided the following requirements are met: 1) For SDA provided webinars, the attendee must pass a short quiz at the end of the webinar (if available, as some programs were provided prior to the quiz being developed); or 2) The attendee must provide a one-paragraph synopsis of the webinar's content and describe how the attendee will utilize this new information and post to the member Professional Development tab on their profile for review and approval of credit. This paragraph must not simply re-phrase the webinar description.
Continuing Education Units (CEUs) may be obtained from authorship of a whitepaper/industry-related article, following publication. One (1) CEU hour/one publication. Recognition/application of credit expires at the end of the calendar year and shall not exceed four (4) credits per calendar year.
Continuing Education Units (CEUs) hours for Presenter. A ration 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 (PEG). 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.