By Keith Norbury

Certificates in freight forwarding can now be earned completely online through the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association. These eLearning On Demand programs are designed “for independent learners who prefer to study online, at their own pace, and without the assistance of an instructor,” says an explanation on the CIFFA website. As with CIFFA programs conducted through colleges across Canada and with its own subject matter experts in major cities, the online programs require completion of final exams to qualify for the CIFFA certificates and advanced certificates. The key difference with eLearning is that those students do all the course work and exams entirely online from wherever they chose, at any time they choose.

“We only recommend the online on-demand courses for students who are comfortable with 100 per cent self-paced learning with no assistance,” said Stephen McDermott, CIFFA’s Senior Manager of Education and Training. “If any of the students feel that they prefer to ask questions and have instructors, then we ask that they wait until the September semester starts.” That way, the students can study in a classroom setting or take part in “blended learning,” which also entails online instruction but provides interaction with instructors through webinars.

While the eLearning students work at their own pace, they must complete the coursework within four months of the date they start. Mr. McDermott said a student would need at least 144 hours of study in that period to complete the program. But it’s up a student whether or not to do that work quickly within a few weeks or spread it out over a few months. “We just set a time limit on how long you can do it because we don’t people dragging it on for two years,” he said.

According to the CIFFA website, the cost of an online program is $525 plus tax for an employee of a CIFFA member and $690 plus tax for other students. While there are no legal requirements to possess any professional certification or designation to work as a freight forwarder in Canada, a CIFFA certificate is valued in the industry. “Companies like DHL, Kuehne + Nagel, Panalpina, and FedEx all send their employees to get the CIFFA certificate because it is a way of them essentially saying that they’ve been trained in the basics of freight forwarding,” Mr. McDermott said.

Harmeet Kohli, coordinator of the international business management program at George Brown College in Toronto, said a CIFFA certificate also benefits people wanting to break into the freight forwarding business. “I’ve seen it from experience,” said Prof. Kohli, who teaches freight forwarding classes as part of the international business program. “I’ve had the students come and tell me that because they had CIFFA’s (certifications), in the interviews they looked much better.”

George Brown is among the Canadian colleges that teach CIFFA-approved freight forwarding classes that can prepare students for CIFFA certifications. Those arrangements vary from college to college, Mr. McDermott said. For some institutions, such as triOS College in Ontario and Brighton College in B.C., the CIFFA exams and certifications are included as part of the program. “Then we just charge the colleges a student rate, which is cheaper than our member and non-member rate,” he said. Other colleges teach the approved course material as part of their programs but the students must pay a fee to CIFFA when they write its certification exam.

“Depending on the college and the way that their program is run — every college is run slightly differently — we will partner with them to form a contract that is beneficial for the students and for the association,” Mr. McDermott said. CIFFA grants about 500 certifications each year, he said. About 50 of them are students from George Brown, according to Prof. Kohli.

For more information on CIFFA’s educational offerings, visit and click on the education tab.