CEBS Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why was the CEBS curriculum redesigned?
In collaboration with its academic partners The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the CEBS program has been redesigned to present a focused curriculum in health and retirement benefits culminating in a credential that is attainable in under three years. It offers cutting edge learning that incorporates online technology and resources in its educational platform. Whether you are new to the industry, mid-career or have years of experience, CEBS offers credential opportunities that help you do your job better and add value to your professional resume. In embarking in this new direction, CEBS is committed to maintaining its high academic standards and its standing as the "mark of excellence" in professional credential education.
2. How is the curriculum different?
The new CEBS takes a focused and in-depth approach to the plan design, funding and administration of health and retirement plans. It takes the theory, processes and principles underlying plan management and ties them together with case-based applications. The cases represent different plan sponsor environments, problems or scenarios and are an opportunity to apply your knowledge to determine an outcome or solution.
3. How will the curriculum be delivered?
The CEBS course materials continue to be print based with a textbook and/or required readings and the study guide. New to the program is electronic access to the study guide materials and practice exam, as well as other education and industry resources. The online course materials are housed in the IFEBP Learning Management System (LMS). When you purchase the course study guide, you automatically receive online access which enables you to download material to a device of choice. You also can quickly access your instructor-led online class (if purchased) for each CEBS course.
4. I want to make sure I am getting all the correct information. Who can I talk with directly about the program changes and how it affects me personally?
The CEBS Customer Service Team can help you. Call 800 449 2327, option 3 or e-mail
How to Get Your CEBS
1. How have the study materials changed?
The study materials are essential to mastering the material tested on the national CEBS examinations. While textbooks and/or required readings continue, the study guide received a dramatic makeover offering a more engaging education experience. Many of the traditional features remain: module presentations, identified textbook and other required readings, outlined learning objectives and key concepts, and content review questions with answers and page number references. The new case-based applications entitled
Benefits in Action give learners an opportunity to explore on-the-job benefit problems/challenges and use what they have learned to work through the scenarios and develop a resolution or action plan. Throughout the case work, other assessment tools are interspersed to help the learner move through the exercise. This experience also heightens understanding of the many roles/jobs of benefit professionals.
The traditional "practice exam" has not changed. Its purpose is to gauge mastery of the course content while preparing for the national exam; however, it is now exclusively offered online.
2. What are my study options?
CEBS continues to be a self-study program offering you the flexibility to study at your own pace, when and where you want. If you're looking for support and structure, consider participating in an instructor-led online class where you can learn from the instructor, interact with your peers and take advantage of additional study tools.
3. Why take an instructor-led online class?
The online class is taught by an experienced and knowledgeable instructor who enhances the study materials with instructor notes and summaries, games, quizzes, and live review sessions. The discussion board—a place to connect with fellow students or post questions—is an ideal forum to talk about the scenarios, people, problems and solutions presented in the case studies, how they boost your understanding of the course's content and how you can relate your knowledge in to your job.
4. What are the requirements to earn the CEBS?
To earn the CEBS designation, you will need to master five courses covering group health and retirement benefit plans. Two health courses, two retirement courses and one course that bridges these two specializations and includes principles and practices that are applicable or essential to both areas. There are no electives. Each candidate is required to pass the national exam for each of the five courses.
5. Will the Group Benefits Associate (GBA), Retirement Plans Associate (RPA) and the Compensation Management Specialist (CMS) credential still be offered through the CEBS program? And, what are the requirements?
The GBA and RPA specialty designations will continue to be offered. To earn the GBA designation, you need to complete both health courses together with the bridge course. To earn the RPA credential you need to complete both retirement courses together with the bridge course. The bridge course contains material that applies to both the health and retirement areas when designing, funding and managing employee benefit plans.
You can begin your CEBS studies in either the health or retirement track and take the bridge course to earn a specialty credential. You can also choose to take the two health and two retirement courses and take the bridge course last. Upon completion, you would earn the CEBS designation as well as both specialty credentials. Choose the path that maximizes your professional credential goals.
The courses to earn the CMS designation will no longer be offered.
6. Where should I start in the CEBS program?
The CEBS program is aligned with the natural career development paths in the industry with entry through the health or retirement track. This format facilitates completion of a specialty credential (GBA or RPA) by first completing three required courses that support your career objectives.
7. What are the advantages of earning the GBA or RPA specialty designation?
Earning your GBA or RPA is a great way to validate your knowledge and enhance your professional standing in group benefits or retirement. It also allows you to customize your education path to have an immediate impact on your day-to-day job responsibilities and strengthen your value proposition within your organization.
8. How long will it take to earn a designation?
The CEBS program is designed so that you can complete the CEBS/GBA/RPA designations within a three-year time frame. Depending on personal/professional demands, you can determine how many courses you take each year and how long it will take you to finish the program.
CEBS examinations are administered year-round through computer-based testing. There is no time limit for earning the CEBS, GBA or RPA and there is no limit on the number of courses you can take in any given year.
9. Will the CEBS Program accept exam credit for coursework completed through other professional credentials or programs?
No, to earn the CEBS designation you need to master the five courses outlined in the CEBS credential requirements.
10. How will my coursework transition to the new GBA, RPA and CEBS tracks?
All students who have passed GBA 1, GBA 2, RPA 1 and RPA 2 will be given credit for these courses in the new tracks. (See Course Transition Chart Below). All other CEBS courses are no longer part of the redesigned CEBS track. In order to get your CEBS credential, you can complete courses in the 8-track program or you can choose to take courses in new track. Be advised, that courses in the 8-track program will no longer be available for testing after December 31, 2017.
For example, if you have completed GBA 1 and 2 and RPA 1 and 2, you can take the "Bridge Course" in the new curriculum to earn your CEBS credential. (Be aware, that you will earn your GBA and RPA credential concurrently if you did not already earn them under the 8-track program. See FAQ 2 in this section.)
If you have credit for GBA 1 and GBA 2, you can earn your GBA designation by completing the "Bridge" in the new curriculum.
If you have credit for RPA 1 and RPA 2, you can earn you RPA designation by completing the "Bridge Course" in the new curriculum.
If you elect to finish your GBA or RPA or both under the 8-track option, you will still need to take the "Bridge Course" if you want to complete your CEBS under the new CEBS track. (Remember – Only GBA 1 and 2 and RPA 1 and 2 transfer over to the redesigned curriculum.
11. Will my GBA or RPA designation be transferable into the new CEBS track?
Yes, if you have earned your GBA and/or RPA credential, you will continue to hold the credential(s). For example, if you only have earned your GBA credential and you have completed RPA 1, you would need to take RPA 2 and the "Bridge Course" in the new track to earn your CEBS and RPA credentials currently.
12. How long can I continue taking courses in the 8-track program?
Testing on courses in the 8-track program will end on December 31, 2017.
13. Can I retain credit for completing GBA 1, GBA 2, RPA 1 and RPA 2 in the 8-course track indefinitely?
No, to retain credit (pass grade) for any of these four courses in the new 5-course track, you will need to pass any course in the 5-course track by December 31, 2018. After that time, if you have not completed your CEBS designation or a course in the new track, credit for any courses completed in the 8-course program expire and will no longer count towards completion of a course in the CEBS 5-course program.
14. I am close to completing my CEBS designation. Should I finish with the 8-track curriculum or transition into the new CEBS track?
Depending on your current progress toward completing a specialty credential or the CEBS designation, you can finish with the current courses or transition into the new track. Testing on courses in the 8-track program ends on December 31, 2017.
Regardless of your choice, you will not be required to complete more than the six required and two electives in the 8-track curriculum to earn the CEBS credential.
15. Since the new CEBS program no longer offers the Compensation Management Specialist credential, what happens to the coursework I have completed in compensation and human resources?— Will this coursework transition into the new course curriculum?
Completions of CMS 1—Human Resources and Compensation Management, CMS 2—Compensation Concepts and Principles and CMS 3—Executive Compensation are not transferable into the new CEBS track. Although the CMS credential is no longer being offered, the CEBS program will continue to recognize individuals who currently hold the CMS credential or choose to earn it by the end of 2017.
16. If I still want to earn my CMS or CEBS designation under the 8-course track, how long will I have to complete it?
Testing on the three CMS courses and all other courses in the 8-course track will end on December 31, 2017. Study materials for these courses will be available as supplies last.
1. Does the CEBS credential have a continuing education requirement?
Yes, CEBS graduates are required to earn 30 continuing professional education (CPE) credits every two years. A variety of education activities can qualify for CEBS CPE credit. Most courses and programs offered by the IFEBP and ISCEBS earn CEBS CPE credit. Education from other organizations can qualify. For details, visit
ISCEBS | Connect With Peers
1. How do I become part of a Community of Benefit Professionals?
Pursuing the CEBS designation is an important step in your professional development path. It cements your place in the Community of Benefits Professionals, a diverse group of individuals who serve the benefits world in a wide range of job roles across all industries, employer types and sizes.
Although the profession is diverse, its principal goal is making sound decisions to safeguard participants' financial security, while maintaining plan compliance and financial solvency. Such a Community relies on its members and the ideas and best practices it creates, shares and implements to grow and thrive.
2. Can I use the CEBS, GBA, RPA and CMS after my name on business cards, stationery, resumes, etc?
Yes, you are welcome to acknowledge and promote your accomplishments. The "official guidelines" for use of these credentials are available online.
3. Is there an organization that can help make me a more valuable player?
Yes, the ISCEBS (International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists) is here for you at all stages of your career. It's committed to providing education and networking forums to CEBS students and graduates at the national and local chapter level. Connect with local professionals across Canada and the United States at one of the Society's 43 chapters and at the annual Employee Benefits Symposium. You also have access to career building experiences, job opportunities, benefits expertise, leadership and mentoring roles. The "secret handshake" is to pass a CEBS exam. Visit
www.iscebs.org to learn more about joining the Society and giving back to the industry.
Questions about your next step? Give us a call at (800) 449-2327, option 3 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.