Course Corner: U.S. RPA 1 Revisions

CEBS Course Updates

As the employee benefits industry evolves, the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist® (CEBS®) designation’s curriculum is updated to reflect this reality. The U.S. RPA 1 course has been fully revised to meet the changing retirement plans landscape. This new CEBS course will help you gain valuable skills that you can put into practice on the job today as well as provide emergent, cutting-edge knowledge that will prepare you for future roles.

RPA 1 conveys essential knowledge for understanding retirement plan design. The course outlines requirements for achieving tax-qualified status, distinguishes differences between defined contribution (DC) and defined benefit (DB) structures, and provides a framework for understanding DC plan types whose use depends on the sponsor’s legal entity and the employee group’s characteristics. It provides a comprehensive understanding of 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, 457 plans and other specialized niche plans. This course goes over the appropriateness of these plans, and the latitude sponsors possess in defining eligibility and establishing plan provisions. Unique situations involving executive talent, nonprofit employees and governmental workers are addressed. The course also examines the challenges of small employers in sponsoring a retirement plan. As such, it reviews simplified employee pensions (SEPs), SIMPLE plans, safe harbor 401(k)s and solo 401(k)s. Key plan issues such as fee transparency; environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments; and inclusion of cryptocurrency investments are also addressed. The course incorporates both currently applicable law and future, to-be-phased-in requirements from the SECURE 2.0 Act.

Study Materials for RPA 1, including a new Study Guide and textbook, are available for purchase. You’ll be able to take exams for the new course beginning in the third testing window of 2024. Online Study Groups With Instructor Support for the new courses will be offered for the first time during the fall 2024 session.

Below is an outline of the new U.S. course:

RPA 1—Directing Retirement Plans Part 1

Module 1: Private Retirement Plans: Background and Context

Module 2: Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Structures

Module 3: Defined Benefit Approaches and Executive Plan Arrangements

Module 4: Overview of Defined Contribution Plan Structures and Stock Compensation Plans

Benefits in Action #1: Filing a Section 83(b) Election

Module 5: Profit-Sharing and Money Purchase Pension Plans

Module 6: Foundations of 401(k) Plans

Module 7: Defined Contribution Practice Issues

Module 8: Special Purpose Plans: 403(b)s, 457s and ESOPs

Benefits in Action #2: Retaining Key Executives

Module 9: Small Employer Retirement Plan Alternatives

Benefits in Action #3: Selecting a Small Employer Retirement Plan

Module 10: Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

Benefits in Action #4: Leaving a Job: What to Do With Your Retirement Plan

Module 11: Integrated Case Study: Retirement Planning: Achieving Personal Goals for Plan Participants and Strategic Results for Senior Management


If you have any questions about Study Materials or the new U.S. RPA 1 course, please reach out to our CEBS Customer Service team at