Frequently Asked Questions   |   The Value of the CGMS Credentials   |   Eligibility
  CGMS Application Process   |   Preparing for the Exam   |   Maintaining Certification

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions about the CGMS Certified Grants Management Specialist credential. 

To begin, read a brief overview of NGMA. About NGMA: A recognized leader throughout the grants management industry, NGMA is proud to offer the CGMS credential. In addition to the credential, NGMA provides comprehensive full lifecycle grants management training (such as GMBoK training), continuing professional education, resources and an online networking community for grants industry professionals. NGMA serves all levels of government (federal, state, local, tribal), nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education and affiliated private sector organizations.

The Value of the CGMS Credential

Why should I obtain the CGMS Credential?

NGMA developed the CGMS Certified Grants Management Specialist certification program to provide an industry credential that elevates professional standards, enhances individual performance, and designates professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to the practice of grants management. Having the CGMS credential confers formal recognition of professional competency in the full lifecycle of grants management. Individuals who earn the CGMS have demonstrated knowledge of the professional domains that encompass the tasks and knowledge required of a grants management professional in various practice settings.

The CGMS certification program is intended for grants management professionals in a wide variety of professional settings including government settings, nonprofits, higher education, tribal governments, and private industries, primarily in the United States, but also in international settings.

What is the difference between a certification/credential program
and a certificate program?

certification/credential program involves a process in which individuals attain and demonstrate the level of knowledge and skill required to perform in the profession, occupation, or role. Example: Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A certification program generally focuses on experience and current skill. Following certification, individuals are generally expected to possess the knowledge, skills and experience level to perform successfully in the occupation or role identified. Certification is a voluntary process by which individuals are assessed against pre-determined standards for knowledge/skills/competencies and granted a time-limited credential.

A certificate program is a training program established or purchased to provide structured training course(s) to employees to meet an identified performance and developmental need. Certificate programs award certificates after a course of study has been completed and does not generally require previous work experience or exhibited skill level. The certificate documents completion of the training. Successful completion of an end-of-program assessment is not a requirement for obtaining the certificate.

The following table summarizes the differences between a certification/credential and a certificate:
Certification/Credential Certificate
Results from an assessment process Results from an educational process
Typically requires some amount of professional experience For both newcomers and experienced professionals alike
Awarded by a third-party, standard-setting organization Awarded by training and education programs or institutions
Indicates mastery/competency as measured against a defensible set of standards, usually by application or exam Course content set a variety of ways (faculty committee; dean/ instructor; occasionally through defensible analysis of topic area)
Typically result in a designation to use after one’s name, e.g., CPA; may result in a document to hang on the wall or keep in a wallet Usually listed on a resume detailing education; may result in a document to hang on the wall
Has ongoing requirements to maintain; individual must demonstrate knowledge of content; holder must demonstrate he/she continue to meet requirements Is the end result; individual may or may not demonstrate knowledge of course content at the end of a set period in time




What are the eligibility requirements to take the test?

To be eligible to sit for the CGMS exam, candidates must attest to having one of the following:

  1. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education or equivalent foreign degree that would allow you to qualify for a master’s or doctoral degree program at an accredited U.S. college or university AND a minimum of three (3) years of full-time* grants management experience in the last 10 years**; OR

  2. No college degree, BUT a minimum of five (5) years of full-time* grants management experience within the last 10 years**.


Full-time is defined as 32 hours per week or more. Candidates can calculate their experience to determine if they meet the requirement by calculating the percent of time spent on grants (years of experience x percent of time spent on grants).

** Grants management experience includes any and all activities covered by the Grants Management Body of Knowledge (GMBoK).

What if my experience is not 100% grants management?

If your job experience is not 100% grants management, you may apply simple math to calculate if you meet the number of years of experience needed. For example: If you have been working in a position for 7.5 years where just 40% of your time was spent on grants, you would multiply .40 by 90 months, which equals 36 months or three years. However, please remember that you may be selected for audit and asked to provide verification of the information you used to calculate your experience.

Is the CGMS only for people who work in government agencies?

No. The CGMS is for anyone who works in the field of grants management. You may be from a nonprofit, foundation or private firm that offers grant services, local, state, tribal or federal agency, or any another type of organization.


CGMS Application Process

How do I apply?

An application is available through the NGMA Candidate Management System. You will want to download a copy of the Candidate Handbook and read it thoroughly before beginning the process.

How much does it cost?

The Initial certification application/exam non-refundable fee is $500 for members and $674 for non-members (price includes a one-year NGMA membership). Refer to the CGMS eligibility requirements to ensure that you are eligible to take the exam prior to applying, as there are no refunds for false attestations.

If you do not pass the exam the first time, the fee to retake the exam is $175 for NGMA members and $250 for non-members. You may retake the exam after a 90-day waiting period up to three (3) times in a year from the date of your first exam. Retakes are initiated through NGMA and NOT the Candidate Management System (CMS). Contact [email protected] for more information on scheduling a retake exam.

For information on how to become an NGMA member, click HERE.

Preparing for the Exam

Where do I take the CGMS exam?

The computer-based CGMS exam is offered in-person at testing centers or with a live-remote proctor, accessible from the comfort of your home or office. You may review the Environmental and System Requirements for the live-remote proctor option on pages 3-4 of the Prometric ProProctor User Guide.

How do I prepare for the CGMS exam?

You may prepare for the CGMS exam in a number of ways. Participation in NGMA trainings (such as GMBoK training) is a good starting point for exam preparation but is NOT required in order to sit for the exam. A CGMS Practice Test is included with the purchase of your CGMS Exam. The Practice Test is 40 questions and is available for a one-time use. Although NGMA does not formally endorse training opportunities and training providers, it recognizes that other entities in addition to NGMA, including a number of NGMA’s Corporate Alliance partners, offer trainings that may help individuals prepare for the CGMS exam.

Can I pass the CGMS exam without taking any training courses?

While training courses are very helpful and increase your chances of passing the exam on your first try, it may be possible to pass the exam if you thoroughly study the subject areas cited in the CGMS Candidate Handbook.

Can I reschedule my CGMS exam after I schedule it?
Candidates have 365 days to schedule and take the CGMS exam after completing the application process. Once the exam is scheduled, candidates may reschedule a testing session up to five (5) business days before the testing appointment. There is a nonrefundable rescheduling fee of $35. The Cancelation and Rescheduling Policy may be found in the Candidate Handbook.


Maintaining Certification

How long is the CGMS credential valid?

Once you pass your exam, your CGMS credential is valid for three (3) years from the date you pass the credentialing exam

What is required to maintain your CGMS credential?

To maintain your CGMS credential, you must obtain a minimum of 60 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits within a three (3) year period between the date you pass the exam and the time of your renewal). The 60 CPEs used for the CGMS renewal must be CPE credits (and not another unit of continuing learning-CEU, CLE, etc.) that deal with subjects related to grants, grants management, financial management, audit control and the grant-making process. CPEs on general topics unrelated to grants management are not accepted.

What is a CPE?

A CPE is a Continuing Professional Education credit earned from organizations on the NASBA list of CPE sponsors.  

Where can I earn CPE credits?

CPE credits may be earned from a variety of sources.

From NGMA: NGMA members may receive free CPEs from monthly webinars, up to 30 free CPEs over three (3) years. Periodically, NGMA will offer additional trainings with CPE credits. View NGMA Events & Trainings.

From other organizations: NGMA accepts grants management-related CPEs earned from organization on the NASBA list of CPE sponsors.