The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® and federally registered CFP (with flame design) marks (collectively, the “CFP® marks”) are professional certification marks granted in the United States by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (“CFP Board”).
The CFP® certification is a voluntary certification; no federal or state law or regulation requires financial planners to hold CFP® certification. It is recognized in the United States and a number of other countries for its (1) high standard of professional education; (2) stringent code of conduct and standards of practice; and (3) ethical requirements that govern professional engagements with clients. Currently, more than 71,000 individuals have obtained CFP® certification in the United States.
To attain the right to use the CFP® marks, an individual must satisfactorily fulfill the following requirements:
- Education – Complete an advanced college-level course of study addressing the financial planning subject areas that CFP Board’s studies have determined as necessary for the competent and professional delivery of financial planning services, and attain a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited United States college or university (or its equivalent from a foreign university). CFP Board’s financial planning subject areas include insurance planning and risk management, employee benefits planning, investment planning, income tax planning, retirement planning and estate planning;
- Examination – Pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Examination. The examination includes case studies and client scenarios designed to test one’s ability to correctly diagnose financial planning issues and apply one’s knowledge of financial planning to real world circumstances;
- Experience – Complete at least three years of full-time financial planning-related experience (or the equivalent, measured as 2,000 hours per year); and
- Ethics – Agree to be bound by CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct, a set of documents outlining the ethical and practice standards for CFP® professionals.
Individuals who become certified must complete the following ongoing education and ethics requirements in order to maintain the right to continue to use the CFP® marks:
Continuing Education – Complete 30 hours of continuing education hours every two years, including two hours on the Code of Ethics and other parts of the Standards of Professional Conduct, to maintain competence and keep up with developments in the financial planning field; and
Ethics – Renew an agreement to be bound by the Standards of Professional Conduct. The Standards prominently require that CFP® professionals provide financial planning services at a fiduciary standard of care. This means CFP® professionals must provide financial planning services in the best interests of their clients.
CFP® professionals who fail to comply with the above standards and requirements may be subject to CFP Board’s enforcement process, which could result in suspension or permanent revocation of their CFP® certification.
To learn more about the CFP® designation, visit www.cfp.net.
A Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who meets the financial planning requirements established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The credential is awarded only to CPAs who demonstrate the requisite experience, education, examination and ethical standards established by the AICPA.
In order to obtain the PFS credential, an applicant must:
- Be a CPA in good standing
- Be a member in good standing with the AICPA
- Earn a minimum of 80 hours of personal financial planning education
- Pass a comprehensive Personal Financial Planning exam
- Have at least two years (or 3,000 hours equivalent) of full-time financial planning business experience
- Agree to be bound by the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct
- Meet continuing education requirements
The CAIA Charter is earned by:
- Successfully completing the CAIA Charter program (passing both Level I and Level II exams), and
- Becoming a member of the CAIA Association.
To qualify for membership in the CAIA Association, which includes the right to use the CAIA designation, you must fulfill all of the CAIA membership requirements:
- Pass both CAIA Level I and CAIA Level II exams.
- Hold a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent and have more than one year of professional experience; alternatively, have at least four years of professional experience. Professional experience is defined as full-time employment in a professional capacity within the regulatory, banking, financial or related field.
- Agree on an annual basis to abide by the Candidate and Member Agreement.
- Provide two professional references.
- Submit payment for the annual CAIA Association membership fee.
- Membership is the final requirement for individuals who wish to use the CAIA designation.
To learn more about the CAIA charter, visit www.caia.org.
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter is a globally respected, graduate-level investment credential established in 1962 and awarded by CFA Institute — the largest global association of investment professionals.
There are currently more than 138,000 CFA charterholders working in 134 countries. To earn the CFA charter, candidates must: 1) pass three sequential, six-hour examinations; 2) have at least four years of qualified professional investment experience; 3) join CFA Institute as members; and 4) commit to abide by, and annually reaffirm, their adherence to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.
High Ethical Standards
The CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct, enforced through an active professional conduct program, require CFA charterholders to:
- Place their clients’ interests ahead of their own
- Maintain independence and objectivity
- Act with integrity
- Maintain and improve their professional competence
- Disclose conflicts of interest and legal matters
Passing the three CFA exams is a difficult feat that requires extensive study (successful candidates report spending an average of 300 hours of study per level). Earning the CFA charter demonstrates mastery of many of the advanced skills needed for investment analysis and decision making in today’s quickly evolving global financial industry. As a result, employers and clients are increasingly seeking CFA charterholders—often making the charter a prerequisite for employment.
Additionally, regulatory bodies in over 30 countries and territories recognize the CFA charter as a proxy for meeting certain licensing requirements, and more than 125 colleges and universities around the world have incorporated a majority of the CFA Program curriculum into their own finance courses.
Comprehensive and Current Knowledge
The CFA Program curriculum provides a comprehensive framework of knowledge for investment decision making and is firmly grounded in the knowledge and skills used every day in the investment profession. The three levels of the CFA Program test a proficiency with a wide range of fundamental and advanced investment topics, including ethical and professional standards, fixed-income and equity analysis, alternative and derivative investments, economics, financial reporting standards, portfolio management and wealth planning.
The CFA Program curriculum is updated every year by experts from around the world to ensure that candidates learn the most relevant and practical new tools, ideas and investment and wealth management skills to reflect the dynamic and complex nature of the profession.
To learn more about the CFA charter, visit www.cfainstitute.org.