Requirements To Become A Certified Financial Planner

A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) provides a variety of services to clients. CFPs assist clients with creating a retirement plan and an investment portfolio that can help clients reach their financial goals. CFPs can also help clients manage their money in times of stress or major life changes, such as marriage, divorce or the birth or adoption of a child. A financial planner can't simply call themselves a CFP and hang out a shingle to draw in clients. The designation of Certified Financial Planner comes with several stringent requirements to ensure the integrity of the career field and protections for clients.

Education and Experience

Certified Financial Planners must complete several education requirements. There are several paths to completion of this requirement. First, an aspiring CFP can complete an approved four-year degree in a field related to accounting, finance or financial planning. This degree must be obtained from a regionally accredited college or university. If an individual has college credits and life experience relating to this field that equal a four-year degree, they can request an audit by the CFP Board to have the four-year degree requirement waived. An aspiring CFP must have on-the-job training, as well. Two years of full-time service as a licensed financial planner, or three years as an apprentice to a licensed financial planner are sufficient to fulfill this educational requirement. During this time, the planner must be involved in providing financial planning services directly to clients.

Moral Fitness

Financial planners must also be morally fit to serve as a CFP. The professional's background should be free of bankruptcy, major credit problems or defaulted loans. The financial planner must also have a clean criminal record; minor traffic infractions will not affect the ability to gain certification as a CFP. Finally, the planner must complete an Ethics Agreement through the CFP Board to ensure that the planner understands all rights and responsibilites of a CFP.

CFP Exam

Once all of these requirements are complete, the planner must complete the CFP Exam offered by the CFP Board. The exam is offered in several locations in March, July and November each year. The exam consists of two sessions lasting three hours each. The exam has a 63% pass rate. Once the planner passes the exam, they are authorized to use the designation of Certified Financial Planner. All CFPs are required to renew their certification every two years by submitting an application and completing 30 hours of continuing education. Look online, such as at, for more information.