The certified financial planner designation is a special credential awarded to highly qualified personal finance professionals who have fulfilled the stringent requirements laid out by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Capable of advising their clients on effective methods for meeting specific financial goals, solving financial problems and creating an overall financial strategy, certified financial planners have demonstrated their skills through education, examination, experience and ethics.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Certified Financial Planner?

Education is the first hurdle faced by individuals seeking the certified financial planner designation. Applicants are typically expected to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in finance. Topics like financial planning, retirement planning, income tax planning, estate planning, investment planning, insurance, ethics and communication should be thoroughly addressed in the degree program. Individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in another area, but feel they are qualified to be certified financial planners are welcome to request a transcript review. In addition, all applicants must demonstrate their understanding of the field by completing a financial plan development capstone course that has been approved by the Certified Financial Planner Board.

Resources for Customer-focused CFPs

What Topics Does the Certified Financial Planner Certification Exam Cover?

After meeting the education requirement, aspiring certified financial planners can apply to sit for the Certified Financial Planner Certification Exam. This comprehensive exam is designed to evaluate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Instead of focusing on facts and figures, the emphasis is on the test-taker’s ability to comprehend, analyze, evaluate and apply their knowledge to a financial planning scenario. Questions are multiple choice and may be independent or scenario-based.

How Much Experience is Required to Qualify as a Certified Financial Planner?

Education is not enough to receive certification as a certified financial planner. Financial professionals must also have accumulated three years of experience. Professional activities, including supervisory positions and teaching jobs may qualify. In some cases, applicants will be accepted with two years of apprenticeship experience.

What Ethical Expectations Must a Certified Financial Planner Meet?

Once the education, exam, and education aspects of the certification process have been met, candidates must fill out an application that includes questions about their background. As part of the application, they must divulge any incidents of bankruptcy, customer complaints, or involvement in civil, criminal, governmental or regulatory agency inquires. A full background check is run on all applicants. Anyone judged inappropriate for the role of a certified financial planner will be disqualified. If the background check passes muster, the candidate will be granted the designation of certified financial planner. All certified financial planners must also agree to abide by the Certified Financial Planner Board’s ethical standards.

How is the Certified Financial Planner Designation Maintained?

The certified financial planner designation is not a lifelong award; the designation must be renewed in order to remain valid. In order to demonstrate their commitment to remaining current on developments in their field, certified financial planners must complete a total of 30 hours of continuing education every two years. This education must be approved by the Certified Financial Planner Board and consist of 28 hours of financial planning coursework and two hours of ethics training. Certified financial planners are also required to pay an annual fee.

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As the United States’ population ages and becomes increasingly concerned with the realities of retirement, more people are turning to financial professionals for help in getting their financial houses in order. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of personal financial advisors will grow by nearly 30 percent by 2022. Certified financial planners will be especially well positioned to take advantage of this growing interest in financial planning.