Magazine article Government Finance Review

Ten Years Young and Growing: GFOA's Certified Public Finance Officer (CPFO) Program

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Ten Years Young and Growing: GFOA's Certified Public Finance Officer (CPFO) Program

Article excerpt

In 1997, the Government Finance Officers Association launched its Certified Public Finance Officer program. The program is designed to test a finance officer's knowledge in five areas essential to government finance:

* Governmental Accounting, Auditing, and Financial reporting

* Cash Management and Investments

* Debt Management

* Operating and Capital Budgeting

* Pension and Benefits, Risk Management, and Procurement

The first examination to be developed and offered covered governmental accounting, auditing, and financial reporting. The exam was offered in seven locations in 1997. Each subsequent year another examination was rolled out until all five exams were offered in various locations at least twice a year. A decade later, more than 1,500 candidates have taken one or more of the five exams. In 2006, 294 exams were given to 155 candidates in 36 locations.

In a 1997 Government Finance Review article, GFOA Executive Director and CEO Jeffrey L. Esser said,

"For the first time, a finance professional anywhere in the United States will be able to objectively demonstrate his or her knowledge of government finance. The national scope of the GFOA certification process should help the profession define the core finance knowledge and, thus, lessen reliance on subjective factors in evaluating the finance function. Such an advance can only raise the prestige of the finance office of any government.

Participation in the Certified Public Finance Officers program holds out the promise of raising participants' level of training and expanding their knowledge of finance areas beyond the daily demands in their jobs. Wide participation in the certification process will clearly add to the professionalism of government finance officials nationwide."

There are many benefits from participating in the program. The sidebar shows one example of how the CPFO program provided the training needed to lead to other professional opportunities.


Since 1997, 1,500 people have participated in the program and 339 have become CPFOs. During the past few years, participation in the program has grown significantly. Exhibit 1 reflects the number exams taken over the last three years. Exhibit 2 reports by state the number of CPFOs.

Exhibit 2: Certified Public
Finance Officers by State

Alabama, 3
Arizona, 6
Arkansas, 2
California, 45
Colorado, 27
Connecticut, 12
Delaware, 1
Florida, 60
Georgia, 7
Illinois, 24
Iowa, 4
Kansas, 7
Louisiana, 2
Maine, 2
Maryland, 6
Massachusetts, 3
Michigan, 11
Minnesota, 9
Missouri, 7
Montana, 3
Nevada, 5
New Hampshire, 1
New Mexico, 1
New York, 8
North Carolina, 13
Ohio, 17
Oklahoma, 7
Oregon, 3
Pennsylvania, 3
Rhode Island, 2
South Carolina, 2
South Dakota, 1
Tennessee, 7
Texas, 6
Utah, 2
Virginia, 9
Washington, 2
West Virginia, 1
Wisconsin, 7
Wyoming, 1



In order to become a CPFO, a candidate must pass all five exams covering the core finance functions within a seven-year time period. In addition to passing all five exams, practitioners must participate in 30 hours of continuing education annually to maintain their CPFO status.

However, an individual need not commit to taking all five examinations to benefit from participating in the program. Each examination is of such scope and quality that passing any one of the examinations constitutes a recognizable achievement.

The two primary requirements to participate in the program are an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution and primary employment with a government, or be last primarily employed in government and currently unemployed and actively seeking employment in government.

Additionally, in order to become a CPFO, a candidate is required to have worked for a government at least three years in the last 10 years. …

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