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Becoming a certified government financial manager (CGFM) demonstrates you are proficient in government accounting, auditing, financial reporting, internal controls, and budgeting. A CGFM certification can help you pursue a government finance career at the state, local, or federal levels.
AGA is the certifying body of the CGFM. The AGA was founded in 1950 by a group of federal government accountants. Originally, AGA stood for the Association of Government Accountants. It has since been rebranded solely as AGA.
There are over 90,000 government units to choose from, which creates many opportunities for CGFM holders. Potential careers include tax manager, budget analyst, and comptroller.
CGFM holders can be found nationwide in over 90 AGA chapters. Discover the costs and benefits of obtaining a CGFM designation in this article.
Why Get the CGFM Certification?
Salary: According to Payscale, the average salary for a CGFM holder is $90,000 as of February 2023. Payscale also reports that the average salary of a budget analyst with a CGFM is $89,000. In comparison, the average salary of a budget analyst without a CGFM is $65,000.
Cost: The cost of a CGFM has two parts: the application fee and examination fees. The application fee for non-AGA members is $109 while the examination fees are $405 for a total cost of $500.
Recognition: CGFM is a respected credential that has been around for decades. An individual's knowledge and experience of government finance are reflected in this designation. All levels of the federal, state, and local governments acknowledge this designation.
How Do You Qualify for the CGFM Credential?
You must follow established guidelines to qualify for a CGFM credential. The AGA's website offers step-by-step instructions on how to apply. You need a bachelor's degree, two years of government financial experience, and you must pass three exams.
If you're currently working in a government finance position but do not have two years of experience, you can still apply to sit for the exams. But,you will get the CGFM designation once you meet the two-year experience requirement.
You need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university to qualify for the CGFM credential. If you have a degree from outside the U.S., then you must provide a specialized report stating the degree is equivalent to a U.S. degree
You must first send official transcripts to sit for the exam. You can upload your transcripts online or mail them to AGA within six months of the initial application.
If you're interested in pursuing a CGFM, but have not yet picked a major, you can consider a degree in government accounting, accounting, business, or finance. But, any accredited bachelor's degree meets the educational requirements.
You need two years of relevant professional work experience in government financial management to obtain a CGFM. Your supervisor or another verifier can fill out a form to demonstrate that you meet this requirement. The work verification form also asks the following yes or no questions:
- Was this employer a government agency?
- Was 100% of the work devoted to government financial management?
- Was it a full-time position?
What Do the CGFM Exams Cover?
You must pass three exams to receive a CGFM designation. The exams are governmental environment, governmental accounting, and governmental financial management. Each exam has a time limit of 2 hours and 15 minutes and includes 115 multiple-choice questions.
2 hours, 15 minutes
Governmental Accounting, Financial Reporting and Budgeting
2 hours, 15 minutes
Governmental Financial Management and Control
2 hours, 15 minutes
You can take the three exams in any order. The exams are computerized and administered throughout the year at Pearson VUE centers or online at your own computer. Live proctors monitor exams via webcam. You can choose a testing center from over 200 locations in the U.S., Canada, and internationally.
Scoring the Exams
Exams are graded on a scale of 200-700. You Need a score of 500 or higher to pass. Since the multiple-choice tests are computerized, you receive the scores immediately after completing the test. Test takers who do not pass the exam can see detailed score reports of each content area.
You can use score reports to determine which areas require additional studying. AGA recommends printing these reports before retaking the exam as only the most recent report is accessible on the online system.
How Do You Register for the CGFM Exams?
You must first submit an application and official transcripts to the AGA to sit for the CGFM exams. You do not need an AGA membership to sit for the exams or receive a CGFM designation. AGA conducts the tests year round, and you can make appointments online..
If you fail an exam, you can retake it in 30 days. Subsequent fails of the same test require a waiting period of 60 days. You can take the other two exams while waiting for the retake period.
Paying for the Exams
Each of the three exams is $135, requiring a total of $405. If any retakes are required, they are an additional $135 apiece. Local AGA chapters may offer partial support through a scholarship fund for members, but they do not offer discounts on the CGFM test.
You can cancel or reschedule exams online, but you forfeit exam fees if you do not cancel within the allotted time period.
How Can You Prepare for the CGFM Exams?
You can prepare for the CGFM at your own pace. Start studying early for exams so you're well prepared. The tips below can help you make the most of your studying time.
Review the exam content
All three levels of the CGFM examination have multiple sections and subsections for candidates to study. You can review the materials beforehand to identify which subjects are most unfamiliar with and focus on those areas.
Study for the exam
After you review which areas of the exam you want to focus on, the next step is to study. AGA offers multiple study methods, including online books and a list of resources test makers use.
Take practice exams
Taking practice exams gives you the best opportunity to experience the type of questions and time constraints in the actual exam. AGA offers three online practice tests, one for each level of the exam. Each practice test corresponds to an actual CGFM exam.
Join AGA chapters
AGA chapters can be found around the U.S. and offer additional help with the CGFM exam to members. Depending on the chapter, study groups, on-site courses, you may have access to other exam resources. You can also use the AGA to network as an additional benefit.
Test your system
Pearson VUE offers a checklist for people taking the CGFM exam. They recommend running a systems check, choosing a testing space, and getting your ID ready the day before the test. The system test will check the computer and connection to ensure no issues arise the day of the test.
Practice Exams and Study Resources
You can use the following resources to prepare and study for the CGFM's three examinations.
Study guides: AGA provides three study guides to prepare for the exams. The study guides come in both a print version and online as a six-month subscription. Individual guides can be purchased for $50.
AGA resource list: The AGA offers a comprehensive list of resources that offers a solid base for studying and test preparation. Exam writers use the same list of resources to create the exams. You can identify sections of the exam you are unfamiliar with and focus on these areas.
Virtual courses: A knowledgeable instructor offers live virtual courses for participants. AGA offers courses yearly. You must sign up for classes at least one week before the class begins. The courses range from $325-725, depending on the exam level.
What Is Needed to Maintain the CGFM Certification?
Maintaining a CGFM certification requires both an annual fee and continuing professional education (CPE) courses. The annual fee is $40 for AGA members and $85 for nonmembers. Annual payments are due by March 31.
CGFM holders must complete 80 hours of CPE courses every two years. The courses must be related to government financial management or related technical subjects. Of these 80 hours, 4 hours must be dedicated to ethics.
Should You Get Other Certifications? CGFM vs. CPA
A CGFM certification is unique in that it shows proficiency in government accounting. Individuals interested in general accounting can also consider getting a CPA. A CPA demonstrates proficiency in auditing, tax, and financial analysis. The AICPA, NASBA, and Prometric are the national regulatory bodies of the CPA exam.
Obtaining a CPA differs from obtaining a CGFM. A CPA requires 150 college credits with 30 credits in accounting and 24 in business administration. CPA candidates often need to take an additional 30 credits after graduating as a typical bachelor's degree includes 120 credits.
Frequently Asked Questions About CGFMs
What does a CGFM do?
Having a CGFM shows an individual's proficiency in government accounting, auditing, financial reporting, internal controls, and budgeting.
How long does it take to get the CGFM?
A candidate's schedule and the amount of time they dedicate to obtain a CGFM determines how long it takes to get a CGFM. The AGA offers online CGFM exams throughout the year and candidates can take the exams in any order.
What are the benefits of the CGFM?
Getting a CGFM allows professionals to prove their expertise in government accounting at a fraction of the cost of a graduate degree. The CGFM is well recognized as it has been around for decades and is acknowledged by all levels of the U.S. government.
Is the CGFM certification worth it?
Those interested in a career in governmental financial management may consider a CGFM certification worth the effort. While there are three exams to take for the CGFM certification, no additional courses are necessary. The designation has the potential to increase an individual's salary and promotion opportunities.
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