Administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (or CFP Board) the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is the gold standard of the industry and demonstrates a financial planner’s commitment to education, professionalism, and client-centered planning.
There are several ways to meet the designation’s education coursework requirements. CFP candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited university or college. In addition, they must have completed specific coursework in financial planning, as outlined by the CFP Board. Outside of the capstone course, much of this requirement can be waived if the candidate holds another top professional designation like the CFA® or CPA, as well as an MBA.
To maintain certification, a CFP must complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years in the body of knowledge pertaining to an area of financial planning.
All candidates are required to pass the CFP certification exam, a computer-based exam taken over a three-day period in March, July and November. It is composed of 170 multiple-choice questions, which include stand-alone questions as well as item-set-style questions.
In addition, candidates must prove that they have at least three years of full-time professional experience in the industry, or two years of apprenticeship in the industry, which is subject to further individualized requirements.
Candidates and CFP-holders both must adhere to the CFP Board’s standards of professional conduct and regularly disclose if they’ve been involved in any questionable activities. The CFP Board has final discretion on whether to award the designation to an individual or not.