What is 8(a) Certification?

Learn about the 8(a) Business Development program, the benefits of being 8(a) certified, and what is needed. Includes a downloadable checklist.

Updated on February 3rd, 2020

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8(a) certification is a diversity ownership certification issued by the Small Business Association (SBA) of America. The certification is intended for businesses that are owned and operated at least 51% by SBA-deemed socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

As well as gaining access to government-limited contracts, businesses that are 8(a) certified are automatically enrolled into the SBA Business Development program.

The 8(a) Business Development Program:

It is the goal of the U.S. federal government to award a minimum of 5% of all federal contracting dollars to disadvantaged businesses. One way this is achieved is by limiting competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the 8(a) Business Development Program.

The program provides 8(a) certified businesses with small business training, marketing, and technical assistance over a period of 9 years. The goal of the program is to develop 8(a) businesses into thriving firms that can compete in the global business environment.

8(a) Certification Benefits:

  • Make use of the the skills and advice of a SBA business opportunity specialist.
  • Compete for sole-source contracts set aside by the federal government.
  • Receive management training, business training, marketing assistance, and technical assistance.
  • Form joint ventures with established businesses.
8(a) Certification Checklist PDF Download:

Download this 8(a) certification checklist to see if you qualify.

Download Now Instant download. No email required.

Certification Checklist:

  • Not have previously participated in the 8(a) business development program.
  • Be a small business.
  • Be owned by a U.S. citizen whose personal net worth is $250,000 or less.
  • Be at least 51% owned and operated by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged.
  • Be owned by a U.S. citizen with $4 million or less in assets.
  • Have the company owner manage the day-to-day operations of the firm, and make long-term decisions.
  • Show potential for success.
  • Be able to perform successfully on government and business contracts.
  • Have all managers and employees demonstrate good character.

The 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program:

The Mentor-Protégé program forms part of the Business Development Program and is designed to encourage established businesses to provide mentorship to protégé businesses enrolled in the program.

The purpose of the relationship is to help the protégé business enhance their capabilities, meet established goals, compete for contracts, and gain technical assistance.

The 7(j) Management and Technical Assistance Program:

The 7(j) program also forms part of the Business Development Program. The program's aim is to provide technical assistance with education, marketing, contract management, accounting, compliance, development, capture, and financial analysis.

Getting Certified As An 8(a) Small Business:

To get certified as an 8(a) business you must apply on the SBA certification website. You will first need to have an active profile on SAM.gov. The information you will need to provide is dependent your business structure.

Once you have completed the certification process, you will receive a letter informing you if your application was successful. Your certification will last for a maximum of 9 years. You will be required to complete annual reviews to remain in good standing with the SBA 8(a) program.

8(a) Certification Cost:

If you apply for certification yourself, the online application and final certification is free. It is possible to hire certification consultants and service providers to do the application on your behalf for a fee.

8(a) Certification Services:

Getting 8(a) certified can mean the difference between your business going under and competing for major federal contracts. The importance of the application process cannot be understated.

If you are not 100% sure about your application, it may be beneficial to hire a certification consultant or service agent to do the application for you. 8(a) certification companies provide the following services:

  • Business consultations and document checking.
  • Document assembly and preparation.
  • Review of application prior to submittal.
  • Submittal of application online.
  • Phone and email support during the application process.

Below is a list of service providers with their packages and pricing. The service providers include:

8(a) Certification Service Providers:

Provider

Service Type

Pricing

Advance 8(a)

Review Service

$1,400.00

Advance 8(a)

Application Completion

$3,400.00

Advance 8(a)

Full Service

$4.500.00

ez8a.com

Full Service [presumed group applicants]

$4.600.00

ez8a.com

Full Service [non-presumed group applicants]

$5,900.00

FederalPCS

DIY Certification Kit

$157.00

FederalPCS

Review and Comment

$800.00

FederalPCS

Full Service

$1,900.00

FAQ's

What does it mean to be 8(a) certified?

An 8(a) certified business is a small business eligible for enrollment into the SBA's Business Development Program. Certified businesses are able to compete for contracts specifically set aside by the federal government, receive management and technical training, and make use of the advice of a business opportunity specialist.

Who is eligible for 8(a) certification?

  • Small businesses at least 51% owned and operated by U.S. citizens who are economically and socially disadvantaged.
  • Small businesses owned by someone with a personal net worth of $250,000 or less.
  • Small businesses that not already participated in the 8(a) business development program.
  • Small businesses owned by someone with $4 million or less in assets.
  • Small businesses where the owner manages day-to-day operations.
  • Small businesses that can compete successfully on government contracts.
  • Small businesses with managers and employees who demonstrate good character.
  • Small businesses who show potential for success.

What are the benefits of being 8(a) certified?

  • Be able to compete for contracts set aside by the federal government.
  • Make use of the the skills and advice of a SBA business opportunity specialist.
  • Form joint ventures with established businesses.
  • Receive management training, business training, marketing assistance, and technical assistance.

What does it cost to get 8(a) Certified?

Certification is free and can be applied for on the SBA's certification website.

What is the SBA Business Development Program?

The 8(a) Business Development Program is a program set up and run by the Small Business Association of America with the aim of assisting businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to thrive in the competitive business environment.

Who is considered socially and economically disadvantaged?

  • African-Americans.
  • Hispanic Americans.
  • Asian Pacific Americans.
  • Native Americans.
  • Subcontinent Asian Americans.

Can individuals who are not socially and economically disadvantaged be 8(a) certified?

Yes, the SBA will consider all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Can businesses in the 8(a) program form joint ventures?

Yes, businesses enrolled in the 8(a) business development program can form joint ventures with established SBA businesses.