What’s new in FM professional certifications?

Neil D. Friedman

CPA Exam Revamped. If you have an accounting degree, reconsider the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination. First administered in 1896, the CPA exam has traditionally been a paper-and-pencil test. For most of the last century, it was given only twice each year (May and November) in large halls or auditoriums at few locations (often one per state). All four exam sections had to be taken in one sitting, with a minimum score obtained on every section if the candidate was to receive credit for passing any section.

Beginning in April 2004, the CPA exam became a computer-based test. It is now available at over 300 Prometric testing centers nationwide, five days per week, in two out of every three months. The overall exam has been shortened from 16 to 14 hours. Candidates may select which sections they will take at one session, although all elements must be passed within an 18-month period. This allows for much greater flexibility in scheduling exam preparations. The revised exam sections include:

* Auditing

* Financial Accounting & Reporting

* Regulation (including tax, business law, and ethics)

* Business Environment & Concepts

Written essay questions have been replaced by objective questions on extended business cases or “simulations.” These are intended to present candidates with real-world accounting situations. Take an online tutorial on the new, computer-based CPA exam and try your hand at sample questions: www.cpa-exam.org.

Bear in mind that the CPA credential, unlike the CDFM or CGFM, is a state-issued license and that many (but not all) jurisdictions require 150 total semester hours before taking the exam and/or some specific practical experience before receiving certification.

Air Force CDFMs. As of April 2004, 537 Air Force members and employees have received CDFM certification. That’s more than the Army, the Navy, or DFAS! It is in the neighborhood of five percent of the Air Force FM workforce (military and civilian, including AFAA). Over the past three years, the Air Force has sent about 1,500 candidates to the week-long Enhanced Defense Financial Management Training Course (EDFMTC), which serves as preparation for the CDFM exams. After consultation with ASMC staff, my best estimate is that about one-third of Air Force candidates have decided not to pursue certification or have given up doing so; about one third are still in pursuit of certification; and the remaining one-third have been certified as CDFMs.

Air Force Program Under Study. An integrated process team (IPT) is reviewing the Air Force’s internal, three-level FM professional development certification program. Factors that make the program ripe for review include three years of experience under the program; the advent of ASMC’s CDFM certification program; and the Air Force’s FM transformation initiatives. The review team may recommend retaining the program as-is; retaining it with changes; or deleting (or replacing) the program. I am the team moderator. Other team members include Col Randy Newcome (AMC); Lt Col Michael Young (AFSPC); CMSgt Larry Gonzales (SAF/FM); Mr Steve Herrera (AAC); and Ms Glenda Scheiner (ASC). The team expects to issue its report this fall.

CDFM Self-Study Option. Can’t attend a week-long EDFMTC class? Consider preparing for the CDFM exams through self-study with the excellent (and thick) EDFMTC textbook. ASMC sells the textbook for $50 at its website: www.asmconline.org. You may be able to borrow a copy from a prior EDFMTC student, but make sure it’s the current revision (October 2003, at this writing).

If you attempt self-study, you will miss the value of the experienced live instructors: the reinforcement of learning by their oral and visual presentations and the opportunity to ask questions to clarify difficult material. Nevertheless, if taking the “live” course is impractical, in my opinion you may find self-study with the text a useful option if (1) you are comfortable learning substantial academic material from textbooks; (2) you have some prior introduction to the Defense Department’s PPBE system; and (3) you have some prior introduction to Federal appropriations law.

Why CGFM Certification? If your future career is likely to include governmental positions outside of the Department of Defense, consider the Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) program sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA). Over the past decade, the CGFM program has achieved substantial recognition across the Federal financial community and in state and local government agencies, as well.

Similar to the CGFM program, the CGFM requires passing three, two-hour computer-based examinations at Prometric testing centers. Unlike the CDFM program, the CGFM requires a bachelor’s degree and tests on state and local accounting rules as well as Federal appropriations principles. The three exams include:

* Governmental Environment

* Governmental Accounting, Financial Reporting, and Budgeting

* Governmental Financial Management and Control

DFAS sites host the week-long CGFM preparatory course (actually a series of one- and two-day courses), from time-to-time. In addition, AGA has begun a program of offering for sale study guides and online versions of prep courses. See the AGA website at www.agacgfm.org.

Optional Fourth CDFM Exam? ASMC has entered into discussions with Defense Acquisition University (DAU) toward developing an optional fourth examination module for the CDFM exam. The new module would cover basic acquisition subjects. The proposed optional module, if passed, would convey Level 1 APDP Certification.

Hidden CDFM Benefit. Although not widely known, for the past three years CDFM holders have been treated to an exclusive Tuesday night reception at the ASMC national PD1. The reception is nicely catered and offers a chance to chat with ASMC’s Executive Director, Lt Gen James McCall (USA, Ret).

Serving You. Just as you serv7 the Air Force warfighter, at the Workforce Management Directorate we are dedicated to serving you. Please phone or email me (DSN 224-5376, neil.friedman@pentagon.af.mil) anytime you wish to discuss FM professional certifications.

COPYRIGHT 2004 U.S. Air Force, Financial Management and Comptroller

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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