Certified Financial Planner (CFP) – How to Become One

Education and Degree Requirements

In order to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), individuals must meet certain education and degree requirements. These requirements are designed to ensure that CFP professionals have a strong foundation in financial planning principles and are equipped to provide sound financial advice to their clients.

Undergraduate Degree

CFP Board-Registered Program

CFP Board-Registered Program

After completing a bachelor’s degree, individuals must enroll in a CFP Board-registered program. These programs are designed to provide the necessary education and training to meet the CFP certification requirements. They cover a wide range of topics, including investment planning, retirement planning, tax planning, estate planning, and risk management.

It is important to choose a CFP Board-registered program that is accredited and recognized by the CFP Board. This ensures that the program meets the high standards set by the CFP Board and prepares individuals for the CFP certification exam.


Some of the common coursework includes financial planning fundamentals, investment planning, retirement planning, tax planning, estate planning, risk management, and ethics in financial planning. These courses provide the knowledge and skills necessary to analyze financial situations, develop comprehensive financial plans, and provide appropriate recommendations to clients.

Capstone Course

In addition to the coursework, individuals must also complete a capstone course as part of the CFP Board-registered program. This course is designed to integrate and apply the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the program.

The capstone course typically involves case studies and real-world scenarios, where individuals are required to analyze financial situations, develop financial plans, and present recommendations to clients. This hands-on experience helps individuals develop the practical skills and confidence needed to succeed as a CFP professional.

Continuing Education

Once individuals have obtained the CFP certification, they are required to complete continuing education (CE) requirements to maintain their certification. This ensures that CFP professionals stay up-to-date with the latest developments and trends in the field of financial planning.

CFP professionals must complete 30 hours of CE every two years, including two hours of ethics CE. This can be done through various methods, such as attending seminars, workshops, webinars, or online courses. By staying current with their knowledge and skills, CFP professionals can continue to provide high-quality financial planning services to their clients.




Obtaining the necessary education and degree requirements is an important step towards becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). By completing a bachelor’s degree, enrolling in a CFP Board-registered program, and completing the required coursework and capstone course, individuals can acquire the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the field of financial planning. Additionally, by fulfilling the continuing education requirements, CFP professionals can stay current with industry trends and provide the best possible advice and service to their clients.

Professional Certifications and Designations

Obtaining professional certifications and designations is an important step in becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). These certifications demonstrate a high level of knowledge and expertise in the field of financial planning, and they can greatly enhance your credibility and marketability as a financial planner.

CFP Certification

The most recognized and prestigious certification for financial planners is the CFP certification. This certification is awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) and is considered the gold standard in the industry. To obtain the CFP certification, you must meet certain education, experience, and ethical requirements, as well as pass a comprehensive exam.

CFP certification requires a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university. In addition, you must complete a CFP Board-registered program or hold one of several approved designations, such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

Once you have met the education requirements, you must gain at least three years of full-time relevant work experience, or two years of apprenticeship experience, before you can become eligible to sit for the CFP exam.

The CFP exam is a comprehensive, six-hour exam that covers a wide range of financial planning topics, including investment planning, tax planning, retirement planning, estate planning, and insurance planning. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions, case studies, and client scenarios, and it is designed to test your knowledge, skills, and ability to apply financial planning principles in real-world situations.

Other Certifications and Designations

In addition to the CFP certification, there are several other certifications and designations that can enhance your professional credentials as a financial planner. These include:

  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): This designation is awarded by the CFA Institute and is highly regarded in the investment management industry.
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC): This designation is awarded by the American College of Financial Services and focuses on comprehensive financial planning.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): This designation is awarded by state boards of accountancy and demonstrates expertise in accounting and tax planning.
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU): This designation is awarded by the American College of Financial Services and specializes in life insurance and estate planning.

These certifications and designations require additional education, experience, and exams beyond the CFP certification. They can provide you with specialized knowledge and skills in specific areas of financial planning, and they can help you differentiate yourself from other financial planners in the industry.

Overall, obtaining professional certifications and designations is an important step in becoming a Certified Financial Planner. These credentials demonstrate your commitment to professionalism and ongoing education, and they can greatly enhance your career prospects in the field of financial planning.

Experience and Practical Training

In addition to education and certifications, gaining practical experience is a crucial step in becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). This experience allows individuals to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world scenarios, further enhancing their expertise in financial planning.

There are various ways to gain practical training in the field of financial planning. One common route is to work under the guidance of an experienced CFP or financial planning firm. This provides aspiring CFPs with the opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals and observe how they handle different client situations.

Internships or entry-level positions at financial planning firms, banks, or investment companies can also provide valuable practical experience. These positions often involve working closely with clients, assisting in the development of financial plans, and analyzing investment options.

Another avenue for gaining practical training is through volunteer work or pro bono financial planning services. This allows individuals to work with diverse clients and gain experience in different financial situations. It also demonstrates a commitment to helping others and can be a valuable addition to a CFP’s resume.

During the practical training period, individuals should aim to accumulate a certain number of hours of experience, as required by the CFP Board. This requirement ensures that candidates have a sufficient level of practical knowledge and skills before obtaining their certification.

Overall, gaining practical experience is an essential step in becoming a successful Certified Financial Planner. It provides individuals with the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge, develop their skills, and build a solid foundation for their future career in financial planning.

Exam Preparation and Testing

To prepare for the CFP exam, it is recommended to enroll in a CFP exam prep course. These courses are designed to help you review and reinforce the material covered in your education and provide you with practice questions and mock exams to assess your knowledge and readiness for the actual exam.

During the exam prep course, you will also learn test-taking strategies and techniques to help you manage your time effectively and answer questions accurately. It is important to dedicate sufficient time and effort to studying for the exam to increase your chances of passing.

Once you feel prepared, you can schedule your CFP exam through the CFP Board’s website. The exam is typically offered three times a year in March, July, and November. It is a computer-based exam that is administered at designated testing centers.

After completing the exam, you will receive your score immediately. To pass the CFP exam, you must achieve a minimum passing score determined by the CFP Board. If you do not pass, you can retake the exam during the next available testing window.

Once you have successfully passed the CFP exam, you will be eligible to apply for CFP certification. This involves submitting an application, paying the required fees, and agreeing to adhere to the CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct.

Overall, the CFP exam is a challenging but necessary step in becoming a Certified Financial Planner. By dedicating time and effort to prepare for the exam, you can increase your chances of passing and advancing in your career as a financial planner.

Continuing Education and Career Advancement

Once you have become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), your journey does not end there. In fact, it is just the beginning. Continuing education is a vital component of maintaining your certification and staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and regulations.

Continuing Education Requirements

As a CFP, you are required to complete a certain number of continuing education (CE) credits every two years to maintain your certification. These credits can be earned through various educational activities, such as attending conferences, workshops, seminars, or taking online courses.

The specific CE requirements may vary depending on your jurisdiction, so it is important to check with your local regulatory authority or professional organization to ensure you are meeting the necessary obligations. Failure to fulfill the CE requirements can result in the suspension or revocation of your CFP designation.

Benefits of Continuing Education

Continuing education not only helps you meet the requirements for maintaining your CFP certification but also offers numerous benefits for your career advancement. By staying updated with the latest industry knowledge, you can provide better financial planning services to your clients and enhance your professional credibility.

Continuing education also allows you to expand your expertise in specific areas of financial planning. You can choose to specialize in areas such as retirement planning, estate planning, tax planning, or investment management through targeted educational programs. This specialization can help you attract more clients and differentiate yourself from other financial planners.

Professional Development Opportunities

There are various professional development opportunities available for Certified Financial Planners. These include attending industry conferences, joining professional associations, participating in webinars and workshops, and pursuing advanced certifications or designations.

Advanced certifications or designations, such as Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA), can further enhance your professional credentials and open doors to new career opportunities.


Continuing education is a crucial aspect of being a Certified Financial Planner. It not only helps you maintain your certification but also allows you to stay updated with industry knowledge, specialize in specific areas, and advance your career. By investing in your professional development, you can provide better financial planning services to your clients and achieve long-term success in the field of financial planning.