Qualifications for the Certified Financial Planner Examination

by Clayton Browne

A financial planner is a trained professional who helps individuals and businesses define and reach their long-term financial objectives. Financial planners often become specialists in tax planning, asset allocation, risk management, retirement or estate planning. Many financial planners choose to become certified financial planners by meeting the requirements of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Requirements to become a CFP include meeting educational and experience standards as well as passing a comprehensive exam.

Educational Requirement

All CFP candidates must have earned at least a bachelor's degree. Equivalent international degrees will be accepted. Candidates must also complete a CFP board-registered education program or apply for challenge status. Individuals with academic backgrounds such as a Ph.D. in business, economics or business administration or who are certified public accountants, chartered financial analysts or licensed attorneys should apply for challenge status and a waiver of the educational requirement.

Experience Requirement

The CFPBS requires that CFP candidates have at least three years of professional experience in financial planning. Working in direct support or supervision of financial planners or teaching financial planning also qualifies as professional experience in financial planning. You may also substitute a two-year apprenticeship working under the direct supervision of a CFP professional for the three-year experience requirement.

The Capstone Course

As of 2012, all CFP candidates are now required to complete a "Capstone" financial plan development course, including candidates who successfully challenged the educational requirements. The Capstone course is designed to supplement the abilities of those working toward CFP certification, and focuses on bringing together all areas of financial planning.

Other Standards

In addition to meeting the educational and work experience requirements and passing the exam, you are required to disclose past or pending litigation or regulatory proceedings and agree to abide by the CFP Board's Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Rules of Conduct and Financial Planning Practice Standards. A background check is also required.

CFP exam

Technically, the only requirement to take the CFP exam is to have completed a CFP board-registered education program or have been awarded challenge status based on your educational background. However, even if you pass the exam, you will not be awarded CFP status until you submit proof of your bachelor's degree and that you have met the experience and fitness requirements. The CFP is a rigorous 10-hour exam offered three times a year, and covers all aspects of financial planning, with emphasis on tax law.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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