SMSF Specialist Advisor (SSA®)

Become an SMSF Specialist Advisor (SSA®)

If you’re ready to take the next step in your SMSF career, the SMSF Specialist Advisor (SSA® program provides you with the best way to obtain the SMSF industry-leading designation.

Designed with the busy practitioner in mind, the course provides the flexibility to complete at your own pace within a 12 month time period.

Successful completion of the SMSF Specialist Advisor (SSA®) accreditation program and the course assignment enables credit into a Master of Financial Planning (AQF9 qualification) offered by Kaplan Professional and Deakin University.

Note: The SSA® designation itself does not confer authorisation to provide financial product advice about SMSFs or any other financial product. You must be authorised under an Australian financial services (AFS) licence to provide financial product about SMSFs or any other financial product. Many AFS licencees have included the requirement to hold the SSA designation as a prerequisite for providing SMSF Advice.

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9 topics + Exam

12 months to complete

47 CPD


Total cost to complete the program (including exam)

To be eligible to enter the SMSF Specialist Advisor (SSA®) accreditation program you must be a current financial Associate Member.

The Association recommends you aim to meet the following criteria prior to entering the program:

  • At least 2 years experience providing advice and/or services to the SMSF sector.
  • SMSF related work activities should account for, or be growing towards a minimum of 10% of your total workload.

If you are a Provisional Financial Adviser completing your Professional Year (PY):

  • Education for the purposes of achieving a professional designation will count toward achieving the required 100 hours of structured education and training.
  • Provisional Financial Advisers looking to specialise in SMSFs are able to complete the SMSF Specialist Advisor accreditation program.

To complete the program you are required to complete the following:

Learning Resources

Modules include a range of learning resources such as: 

  • recommended text and readings,
  • online resources, webinars,
  • relevant technical reports from the SMSF Association resource library and others.

Each module contains a short assessment that must be completed before gaining access to the next study module. All nine modules must be completed before the exam may be attempted.


The online examination is 2 hours in duration and consists of 90 multiple choice questions. No written answers are required.

The exam is conducted under supervision, and the candidate is required to nominate a suitable supervisor (meeting specified eligibility criteria) prior to being provided with access to the online exam.

Candidates are permitted a maximum of two (2) attempts to pass the online examination.

On completion of the modules and exam, prior to recognition as an SMSF Specialist, you will be required to complete a short questionnaire to confirm your eligibility to be an SMSF Specialist Advisor®.

Note: We expect that candidates will be able to pass the exam, provided there has been sufficient attention and engagement to the learning materials, as well as practical SMSF experience in the industry.

To prepare for the online exam, you will be provided with an SSA® practice exam as part of the learning module resources.

This suite of self-paced learning modules offer comprehensive technical content and takes you beyond the compliance issues arising from the array of legislation and regulation that underpin the operation of an SMSF.

  1. SMSF regulatory framework
    This topic sets the scene for the regulation of SMSFs by providing a summary of the key historical events associated with our superannuation system as well as identifying the purpose of superannuation. It also introduces the key concepts behind the definition of an SMSF that will be explored further throughout this subject.
  2. Regulating SMSFs
    The topic identifies the trustee covenants that all trustees must abide by and are deemed to be incorporated into the governing rules of the fund whether they are stated or not.
  3. Contributions standards
    This topic provides an outline of the rules about accepting contributions, who can make contributions and the way those contributions can be made. The topic also highlights some of the key contributions that can be made to help members accumulate beyond normal contributions, leading to strategic opportunities.
  4. Investing in an SMSF
    The topic analyses the requirements for an SMSF to have an investment strategy in accordance with the trustee covenants and operating standards for investments. It also revisits the concept of the sole purpose test, with a deeper review of what the test requires.
  5. Taxing an SMSF
    This topic explores the taxation obligations of an SMSF.  It considers the taxation of ordinary income, taxable contributions, the applicable capital gains tax (CGT) provisions, how foreign transfers are treated and other statutory income.  This topic also identifies income from transactions that are not maintained on an arms-length basis and imposes a higher rate of tax for income that is deemed not at arm’s length.
  6. Members interests and preservation standards
    This topic defines an interest is an SMSF and explains the preservation status of a members’ benefit.  The topic also considers the conditions of release that a member must satisfy to access money from their superannuation interest.
  7. Payment standards and paying a benefit
    This topic considers the features of a member account and how a member can access their money.  It discusses how money can be taken either as a superannuation lump sum or as a pension and how both lump sum and pension payments are proportioned between taxable and tax-free components.
  8. Taxing superannuation payments
    This topic provides the final overlay of taxation on benefit payments. Having identified the components of a member’s interest, the proportioning that applies to benefit payments and the types of benefits that can be paid, the final step is to determine how much tax is to be paid on those benefits.
  9. SMSF controls – Planning for life events
    This topic provides the relevant references to paying benefits from a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) in the event of the death of a member.  It revisits the trustee requirements on death, the benefit payment options and references the appropriate taxation.

On successful completion of this program, participants should be able to:

  • Research and explain the legal regulations that apply to SMSFs.
  • Research and critically evaluate the special taxation rules applicable to superannuation contributions, superannuation funds and superannuation benefits.
  • Develop and critically evaluate an SMSF strategy to deal with regulatory and tax requirements in a complex SMSF scenario.
  • Justify an SMSF strategy to deal with regulatory and tax requirements in a complex SMSF scenario.

You are required to successfully complete all components of the program within twelve months of entering the program.

Special circumstances can be submitted for consideration to the SMSF Association. 

CPD Hours

As part of completing your Specialist Accreditation, you will be eligible to receive 47 SMSF Association and Legislated CPD hours.

The former Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) recognised the SMSF Specialist Advisor (SSA®) designation as a category of “approved study to attain a Professional Designation” in the financial adviser education standards. This recognition is still available and continues post-FASEA in Corporations (Relevant Providers Degrees, Qualifications and Courses Standard) Determination 2021

The recognition of the SSA® will reduce the number of approved courses those with the SSA® designation may be required to undertake.

Anyone who has completed the SSA® since it was introduced in 2005 is eligible for one credit towards the education requirements for existing financial advisers. This will reduce the time and costs for those who have completed the SSA® and were existing financial advisers at any time between 1 January 2016 and 1 January 2019 under the transitional arrangements.

To understand the benefit of holding the SSA® and credits available, we recommend that you refer to the Approved Courses and other resources available on the Financial Adviser Standards website.

Successful completion of the SMSF Specialist Advisor (SSA®) accreditation program and the course assignment enables credit into a Master of Financial Planning (AQF9 qualification) offered by Kaplan Professional and Deakin University.

The SMSF Association SSA® examination also satisfies the knowledge requirements of RG146 SMSF. 

To apply you must be an SMSF Association Associate Member. 

If you are not yet a member of the SMSF Association, follow the link below to become a member and add the SMSF Specialist Advisor program to your cart.  

Prior to registering for the SMSF Specialist Advisor program you should review the SMSF Specialist Advisor Program Rules & Conditions

Become an
Associate Member

You must be an Associate Member in order to enrol in an SMSF Specialist program.

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SMSF Specialist Advisor?

Already an Associate Member? Enrol in the program today to start your journey towards becoming an SMSF Specialist.