SPECTRUM Certification

SPECTRUM certification is a program that recognizes members of the University community who have invested time and effort in continued formal education related to sponsored project administration. Participation in the certification program is not required but it is highly encouraged as a best practice in research administration. Everyone is welcome to participate regardless of your experience level. Please contact spatraining@umn.edu for any questions on SPECTRUM certification.

For a detailed explanation of the benefits of certification, please scroll to the end of this page.

How to Participate

There are two tracks to obtain SPECTRUM Certification: pre-award and post-award. We encourage you to decide which track you are interested in to be certified, though individuals may take one or both tracks, in either order, and at any time.

Method of CompletionPre-award TrackPost-award Track
CohortAvailable with NominationAvailable with Nomination
Self Directed Class CompletionAvailableAvailable
Core CoursesPre-award Track Core CoursesPost-award Track Core Courses


In anticipation of the SPA training team's focus on MNGEMS training this fall, we will be pausing our SPECTRUM cohort program until mid to late 2024.  We will continue to collect nominations for the cohort program and will reach out to candidates to determine if there is still interest prior to starting the next cohort.

The cohort option consists of a group of approximately 15 participants who will take the required core courses over a 12-14 month period. At the end of the cohort, each member completes either a capstone project or takes the exam for certification.

Nominations will be accepted from the University community for participation in the cohort. We accept SPECTRUM cohort nominations throughout the year.  The selection process will take place for both the pre-award and post-award cohort groups in the summer. SPA/SFR will select members of the cohort based on the nominations received for each session. If there are multiple nominations, SPA/SFR will seek out input from the responsible Research Associate Dean. At the time of selection, cohort members are expected to make a firm commitment to attend all designated course offerings in their group (generally, one course per month).

A unique value of participating in a cohort is the formation of a “community” of colleagues who are available as resources to each other as their University careers move forward. For this reason, all cohort members are expected to take the required coursework with the group, even if they had previously taken one or more of the SPECTRUM courses. 

Self Directed Class Completion

This option allows for self-paced course completion. Once all required courses are completed for a track, you must pass the exam. The online test will be offered twice a year and you must receive a passing score to receive certification. You can confirm your completed classes via the MyU Reporting Center Training History Job Aid and match your record to the courses required to meet each certification. Once you have completed all courses for either the pre-award or post-award track, contact the SPA training team (spatraining@umn.edu) no later than the Monday the week prior to the exam week to be added to the roster of individuals eligible to take the next scheduled test.

The exam tests your knowledge of all course material in your chosen track. There are a bank of questions for each class, so no two tests will be the same. The exam is open book; please feel free to use any resources available to you (such as course manuals, online policies or job aids, etc.), but you may not discuss your test with others. The testing period is one week; once you launch your test, you will need to complete it within 24 hours. For those who pass the Pre-Award Certification Exam, please allow up to one week beyond the exam week to be added to the PRF as a SPECTRUM Certifier.

Exam Dates

Spring semester:

  • Pre-award test: June 24-28, 2024
  • Post-award test: June 24-28, 2024

Fall semester:

  • Pre-award test: December 9-13, 2024
  • Post-award test: December 9-13, 2024


Participants who complete all of the required coursework and pass their exam will become SPECTRUM Certified Administrators (SCA). Participants receive additional benefits including (but are not limited to):

  • Becoming part of a longer-term, cross-institution, and cross-college research administrator community
  • Pre-award Certification: Certified individuals may SPECTRUM-certify an eligible* proposal and in turn offer their faculty a four hour extension to meet SPA’s internal proposal deadline 
  • Pre-award Certification: Ensure SPA’s expedited review of a SPECTRUM-certified proposal
  • Receive a certificate of recognition
  • Be listed on the Sponsored Projects Administration website
  • Receive recognition at the Sponsored Projects Symposium
  • Have a preferred skill that could be an advantage to nominations on GMUNAC or Symposium planning committee
  • Gain access to special trainings developed just for Certified individuals
    * contracts and B&I proposals are not eligible

Current Pre- & Post-Award SPECTRUM Certified

Check out the SPECTRUM Certified List for those who currently have their SPECTRUM Certification. The list will be updated as necessary for new individuals who receive their SPECTRUM Certification.


If you have questions about the SPECTRUM certification, please contact the SPA training team: spatraining@umn.edu