SBA Policy Notice

The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 amended §22(i) of the Small Business Act and directed the Agency to establish an export and trade counseling certification program for Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Women's Business Center (WBC) staff  (15 U.S.C. 649 (i)). The export and trade certification program is intended to greatly expand the number of qualified small business counselors available to help small businesses to engage in international trade and to provide consistency in the quality of assistance across the SBDC and WBC networks.


Certification Requirement:


The Small Business Act requires the export and trade counselor certification program to be available to small business counselors employed by SBDCs and WBCs.  For SBDCs, SBA is further required to ensure SBDCs maintain a minimum number of export and trade certified counselors on staff (15 U.S.C. 649(i)(3)).  SBA’s General Counsel has interpreted the legislation to mean that the certification standard is based on the total number of full time equivalent (FTE) counselors in each SBDC Network.  The minimum number of certified counselors for an SBDC network is the lesser of:

a) 5 counselors; or

b) 10 percent of the total number of FTE counselors in the network.

Example:  If an SBDC has a total of thirty FTE counselors in its Network, the minimum number of counselors who must attain SBA's export and trade certification is three (3) since 10% is the lesser number.  The minimum number of certified counselors required for SBDC Networks with 50 or more FTE counselors is five (5).

Export Training and Education

SBA has collaborated with the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) to develop an export education program for small business counselors.  The program offers education in export assistance and international trade at the Introductory and Intermediate levels:   

Introductory Level:  provides education in basic concepts and key international trade assistance resources available to small businesses, and is suitable for counselors who are new to export assistance.  Coursework is offered as a three hour seminar at the Annual ASBDC Conference, and via online webinars hosted by Department of Commerce at  Counselors may take an online exam to test their competency at, and will receive a certificate to acknowledge successful completion of this level.  Note: Introductory level competency does not meet SBA’s export counselor certification requirement.

Intermediate Level:  provides education in key aspects of global trade, covers the learning objectives for competency in international trade and export assistance required to satisfy the certification requirements of the SBJA.  Coursework is a five-part seminar series and is offered at the ASBDC Annual conference as well as online via webinar at  To attain certification, counselors must take and pass the online Intermediate level certification exam at , and will receive a certificate from SBA to acknowledge competency at this level.  Successful completion of the Intermediate level test with a score of 75 or above satisfies the export counselor certification requirement.

SBDC and WBC counselors may also prepare for certification through export and trade counseling programs offered by institutions of higher education, state or federal international trade resource partners, or other qualified third-parties.   


Achieving Certification – 2 Options


There are two options for counselors to attain certification in export and trade counseling:  SBA Export Counselor Certification and CBGP Certification.

  1. SBA Export Counselor Certification: SBDC and WBC counselors must take and pass the Intermediate Level competency test to receive SBA certification in export and trade counseling. SBA administers the Intermediate Level test via an online exam available at:  Counselors will receive a notification via email when they pass the exam. SBA and TPCC will issue certificates to successful candidates on a quarterly basis, after verifying active employment with the relevant SBDC or WBC.  
  1. CGBP Certification:    An internationally-recognized independent certification for advanced proficiency in global trade assistance is currently available through a third party in the form of NASBITE International’s Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) program.  SBA has determined that counselors who attain CGBP designation meet the export counselor certification requirement.  Counselors who have already achieved CGBP certification meet the SBA export counselor certification requirement do not need to be re-certified by NASBITE or take the Intermediate level SBA certification exam. 

Note: Although SBA also offers educational programs and testing at the Introductory level, successful completion at this level does not satisfy the criteria for SBA certification of expertise in export and trade counseling.  Counselors must take and pass either the SBA Intermediate level test online or the NASBITE CGBP exam to achieve certification.  


Access to the competency test and material for each level is available as follows:


  • Introductory level (non-certification) – educational seminars, the competency test, and other resources are available online at:
  •  Intermediate level (SBA certification) – educational seminars and preparatory resources and the test are available at:  
  • Advanced level (CGBP certification) – registration and testing for CGBP is available through NASBITE International at

Reimbursement for Certification


Through the use of existing and enhanced resources already offered by the Agency and its collaborating partners at TCPP, DOC, and ASBDC, SBA has developed a convenient and accessible certification program that SBDC and WBC counselors may take, at no cost, online at

In addition, SBA may reimburse registration and test fees relating to the CGBP certification for SBDC and WBC counselors.  Reimbursement of CGBP registration and examination fees for SBDC and WBC counselors is authorized through Fiscal Year 2013, subject to the availability of funds. SBDC and WBC counselors seeking to take the CGBP certification exam must contact their program director for information about fee waivers before registering. 

Only costs associated with a candidate’s first cycle of registration and testing are eligible for reimbursement.  If a candidate fails the test, SBA will not reimburse re-testing expenses. SBA will not reimburse the cost of professional development, training or other coursework associated with preparing counselors for certification.  These costs may, however, be considered an eligible program expense of their core grant funding by the relevant OED program office. 

Reporting Requirements


Each SBDC and WBC must report the number of certified counselors to SBA quarterly or as directed by their respective OED program office (Office of Small Business Development Centers or Office of Women’s Business Ownership).  SBDCs must also identify the number of FTE counselors on staff in order to establish that the number of counselors with export and trade certification in each Network meets the minimum required under the Small Business Act.


Karen G. Mills

EXPIRES:   2/1/2013                                                                                             

SBA Form 1353.3 (4-93) MS Word Edition; previous editions obsolete
Must be accompanied by SBA Form 58


All SBA Employees, Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers
Export and Trade Counseling Certification Program
Effective Date: 
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Lending Stage: 
Control Number: 
Expiration Date: 
Friday, February 1, 2013
Types of Lender Notices: 
Fiscal Year: