How Do I Become a Certified Financial Planner?

Individuals must follow a specific procedure to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards establishes and updates these requirements. This organization also approves the academic programs a prospective CFP must complete. Read on to find out about the CFP Board's requirements for certification. Schools offering Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

CFP Certification

A prospective certified financial planner must pass the CFP Board's comprehensive computer-based certification exam. The candidate chooses a day to take the exam during one of three five-day testing windows offered per year. The test consists of two three-hour sessions with a 40 minute break in between. It covers material taught in the CFP Board curriculum. The board maintains a list of independent providers who offer review courses. Eligibility for the certification exam includes requirements for education, experience, and a background check.

Important Facts about Becoming a Certified Financial Planner

Possible Careers* Financial consultant, financial advisor
Work Environment* Office setting, full time and often self employed; travel is sometimes necessary
Median Salary (2018)** $88,890 (for all personal financial advisors)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 15% growth (for all personal financial advisors)

Sources: *Certified Financial Planning Board; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


All certified financial planner (CFP) candidates must hold a bachelor's degree or higher, in any field. They must also complete a CFP Board course of study, which must be the equivalent of at least 18 semester hours. The programs are offered at many colleges and universities in the country. The curriculum covers financial planning principles, employee benefits and insurance, investment, tax, retirement, estate planning, interpersonal communication, and fiduciary responsibility.


The CFP Board requires candidates to have three years of full-time experience or two years of apprenticeship experience in the field prior to certification. Experience must be in the areas of employee benefits, insurance, investments, taxes, retirement planning, or estate planning. The CFP Board defines experience as:

  • Providing part or all of a personal financial plan to a client
  • Supporting or supervising other financial planners who provide part or all of a personal financial plan to a client
  • Teaching the process of personal financial planning to others

Background Check

All CFP candidates are subject to a background check and are required to reveal any relevant prior or current litigation and any disciplinary action taken against the candidate by an employer in the field. Prospective certified financial planners must also pass or adhere to the CFP Board's established standards and codes of ethics.

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