Employee Stock Ownership Plan Administration (ESOP-A)

ESOP-A Syllabus

Certificate Program

Course Overview

Exam Details

Required and Supplementary Reading

Exam and Publication Errata and References

Continuing Education (CE) Credits

Certificate Program

The administration of employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) requires knowledge of unique allocation and compliance testing requirements. The ESOP Administration certificate is designed to provide education regarding the administration of ESOPs for the beginning and intermediate ESOP administrator.

The knowledge gained from the ESOP Administration certificate is extremely valuable to firms that administer ESOP plans. Whether the intent is to educate an existing ESOP administrator further or to train a new ESOP administrator, the ESOP certificate holder is a key component in successful ESOP administration.

The ESOP Administration certificate will provide administrators with an understanding of the administration of an ESOP, including the basics of determining contributions, the applicable deadlines, calculations for termination and retirement benefits, and other critically important aspects of these types of plans. Further coverage of ESOP topics is found in the ESOPs consulting module.

The ESOP Administration certificate is valuable to professionals interested in expanding their knowledge of ESOPs; providing full ESOP administration services to their clients; improving their consulting abilities with ESOP clients; and becoming a more valuable asset to their employer. The ESOP-A exam is administered online in open-book, multiple-choice format. Upon successful completion of the ESOP-A exam, ASPPA will automatically issue the ESOP certificate online. The following flowchart illustrates the relationship of the ESOP-A exam to other ESOP related educational offerings: 


Course Overview

ERISA law along with IRS, DOL and PBGC regulations provides a framework for the rules that govern qualified plan operations, including ESOPs. The nature of the ESOP is different in many respects from 401(k) or profit sharing plan administration and this certificate program explains those differences. This certificate program covers the following topics, among others, as they relate specifically to ESOPs: determine share releases, participant allocations, deduction limits, contribution limits, dividend allocations, tax deferred sales of stock under IRC §1042, distributions (including diversification distributions), the differences between C corporation and S corporation ESOPs, including IRC §409(p) (S corporation anti-abuse rules), forfeitures, stock distributions, recycling and reshuffling shares in an ESOP, income tax withholding, annual reporting and voting rights.

This course develops concepts for an administrator to better understand ESOPs and the intricacies of plan administration for ESOPs.

This course is specifically designed for administrators and candidates transitioning into intermediate ESOP areas. This program does not delve deeply into ESOP consulting. ESOP consulting is covered in the ESOPs consulting module.

This course also considers the importance of the ESOP practitioner’s compliance with ASPPA’s Code of Professional Conduct, which aims to further the ethical behavior of ASPPA members.

Exam Details

The ESOP-A exam is an open-book online exam and consists of 75 multiple choice and true/false questions. Upon completion of the exam, you will receive an immediate score and feedback report. A score of 64 or more out of 75 is a passing score (85%).

To register, a candidate must have an account with ASPPA. To set up an account click here. Once registered for the ESOP-A examination, you can access your exam from the Access Exams and Quizzes link on the right side of this page. You may complete a portion of the exam, save it, and return to the exam at another time to complete it.

Exam and Course Cost:

  • Certificate Package: $495.00/ $450 Member Rate 
  • Exam Attempts: $230.00
  • PDF Study Guide: $275.00/ $245 Member Rate
  • Print Study Guide: $300.00/ $275 Member Rate   

Estimated hours needed to study - Study time depends greatly on the experience level of the student. It is estimated that the average candidate will need 60-120 hours of study time.

Recommended Reading

It is the candidate’s responsibility to review all of ASPPA’s exam policies and procedures, which can be found on Candidate Corner.

Exam and Publication Errata & References

For updates to ASPPA’s publications and examinations please click here. Stop by regularly as new updates may have been posted. It is the candidates responsibility to check the errata before preparing for and sitting for an ASPPA examination.

Continuing Education (CE) Credits

Candidates who have successfully completed an ASPPA certificate program examination will earn 7.5 ARA CE credits. Credits will be applied to the CE cycle in which the score is issued. For more information on ARA examination CE credit click here.


7 ERPA credits for successful completion of the ESOP-A exam may be awarded.

IRS ERPA Credit Program Number: CZTXU-Q-00077-12-S

The final decision as to the number of ERPA credits rests solely with the Internal Revenue Service.