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Steps to Achieve CFP® Certification

For those professionals interested in pursuing the CFP® designation, the following steps must be followed:

1: Complete the Education Requirement

Before applying for the CFP® Certification Examination, candidates must complete the education requirements set by CFP Board. The education requirement may be met through one of three paths:

  • Complete a CFP Board-Registered Education Program
    These programs are offered via various delivery formats and schedules including classroom instruction, self-study and online delivery, such as our Accelerated Certificate in Financial Planning programs.

  • Apply for Challenge Status
    Certain degrees and professional credentials fulfill the educational requirement and allow exempted professionals to sit for the CFP® Certification Examination (these Challenge candidates should consider completing a CFP Review Course to prepare for the CFP® Exam).

    Academic degrees and credentials that fulfill the educational requirements include:

    • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) - inactive license acceptable
    • Licensed attorney - inactive license acceptable
    • Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®)
    • Doctor of Business Administration
    • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
    • Ph.D. in business or economics
    • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

  • Request a Transcript Review
    Certain industry credentials recognized by CFP Board, or the successful completion of upper-division level college courses, may satisfy some or all of the education requirements set by CFP Board.

  • Bachelor's Degree Requirement
    A bachelor's degree (or higher), or its equivalent, in any discipline, from an accredited college or university is required to attain CFP® certification. The bachelor's degree requirement is a condition of initial certification; it is not a requirement to be eligible to take the CFP® Certification Examination. After candidates pass the CFP® Certification Examination, they will be required to provide evidence (photocopy of degree) that they meet this requirement.

2: Pass the CFP® Certification Examination

The CFP® Certification Examination tests a candidate's ability to apply financial planning knowledge to client situations. Some information about the Exam is as follows:

  • The 10-hour exam is divided into three separate sessions – one four-hour session on Friday afternoon, and two three-hour sessions on Saturday
  • All questions are multiple choice, including those questions related to case problems
  • The exam is a pencil-and-paper format
  • Exam results are released approximately eight weeks after the exam date
  • The CFP® Certification Examination is a pass or fail exam
  • Pass rate – approximately 55% of CFP® candidates pass the CFP® Certification Examination on their first attempt
  • If you fail the CFP® Certification Examination and elect to retest, you are required to retake the entire exam; there is no limit on the number of times you may retake the exam
Some information about the Exam registration process is as follows:
  • The exam is administered three times per year - generally on the third Friday and Saturday of March, July and November
  • The Exam is offered at about 50 domestic testing locations
  • The application deadline is approximately seven weeks prior to each exam date (e.g., February 1, June 1, and October 1)
  • Application forms can be downloaded from http://www.cfp.net or mailed to you (800-487-1497)
  • Completed applications, including payment of the $595 fee, must be received by the deadlines printed on the applications

3: Meet the Experience Requirement

At least three years of qualifying full-time work experience are required for certification. Qualifying experience includes work that can be categorized into one of the six primary elements of the personal financial planning process. Experience can be gained in a number of ways including:

  • The delivery of all, or of any portion, of the personal financial planning process to a client
  • The direct support or supervision of individuals who deliver all, or any portion, of the personal financial planning process to a client
  • teaching all, or any portion, of the personal financial planning process

4: Pass a Background Check, Adhere to Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility

After candidates have met the education, examination, and work experience requirements, they must disclose past or pending litigation or agency proceedings and agree to abide by CFP Board's Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Financial Planning Practice Standards. A background check will also be conducted.

5: Pay Certification Fees

Upon successfully completing the first three steps, fees will apply as follows:

  • A one-time, non-refundable initial certification application fee of $100 for the background checks as noted above
  • A biennial certification fee of $360

6: Receive Authorization

Receive authorization to use the CFP® and Certified Financial Planner marks!

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