The education requirement for attaining CFP® certification includes two main parts:
- Complete college or university-level coursework through a program registered with CFP Board, addressing the major personal financial planning areas identified by CFP Board’s most recent Job Analysis Study; and
- Verify that you hold a regionally accredited college or university bachelor’s degree or higher (accreditation must be recognized by U.S. Department of Education at the time the degree is awarded).
The coursework requirement must be completed before you sit for the CFP® Certification Examination; the bachelor’s degree requirement may be completed after you pass the exam (within five years).
As a first step to CFP® certification, you must complete CFP Board education requirements in the major personal financial planning areas, including:
- General principles of financial planning
- Insurance planning
- Investment planning
- Income tax planning
- Retirement planning
- Estate planning
- Interpersonal communication
- Professional conduct and fiduciary responsibility
- Financial plan development (capstone) course
The coursework requirement includes completion of a financial plan development (capstone) course registered with CFP Board. This capstone course requirement has been designed to enhance the knowledge, skills and abilities of individuals seeking to attain CFP® certification and implement an assessment of their ability to deliver professional and competent financial planning services to the public. All students of CFP Board-Registered Programs whose initial dates of matriculation (initial enrollment) occur on or after January 1, 2012 are required to take the capstone course. Individuals who register to take the CFP® exam under “Challenge Status” or “Transcript Review” are required to take the capstone course if their first sitting for the exam is March 2012 or later.
List of Principal Topics
The major personal financial planning areas are outlined in the CFP Board's list of Principal Topics, which is based on the results of CFP Board’s December 2009 Job Analysis Study. The Principal Topics serve as a curricular framework and also represent subject topics that CFP Board accepts for continuing education credit, effective January 2012.
Bachelor's Degree Requirement
In addition to completing courses that cover the financial planning topics required for CFP® certification, a bachelor's degree (or higher), or its equivalent,1 in any discipline, from a regionally accredited college or university2 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 you pass the CFP® Certification Examination, you will be required to provide evidence (official transcript from the degree-granting institution) that you hold a qualified bachelor's degree or higher degree. Please submit your sealed official transcript to:
Attn: Support Specialists
1425 K Street NW #800
Washington, DC 20005
You have five years from the date you pass the CFP® Certification Examination to satisfy the bachelor's degree and work experience requirements. If you have not reported to CFP Board your attainment of an acceptable bachelor's degree or higher degree within this time frame, your candidacy for CFP® certification may be terminated. A one-time, three-year extension may be granted on a case-by-case basis. Requests for an extension should be sent to CFP Board by email to email@example.com or by fax to 202-379-2299.
1International degrees may be substituted for a U.S. undergraduate degree if they receive equivalency from a third-party evaluation agency which is a member of National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) www.NACES.org. Applicants should request a document-by-document evaluation.
2An "accredited college or university" is one that has been regionally accredited at the time the degree was awarded by an accreditation body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. To confirm a school's accreditation please visit the Department of Education's website.
Completing the Education Coursework Requirement
You can complete the education coursework requirement for CFP® certification through one of the following methods:
- Completing a CFP Board-Registered Program
- Completing courses addressing all required major personal financial planning areas at multiple CFP Board-Registered Programs
- Achieving “Challenge Status” by holding a specific academic degree or professional credential accepted by CFP Board and completing a capstone course registered with CFP Board
- Classes you have taken may qualify for part of the education coursework requirement through a Transcript Review
CFP Board-Registered Programs
You can complete a course of study in financial planning offered by an educational institution with a curriculum registered with CFP Board.
Course Titles and Length of Study
CFP Board has reviewed the upper division undergraduate level or higher educational programs at registered institutions to ensure that they cover the core knowledge needed to practice personal financial planning. Regardless of program type, the curriculum taught must be the equivalent of at least 18 semester credit hours. Each educational institution may present the topics under various course names and titles, such as risk management, financial analysis or estate planning. However, each Registered Program will cover all of the topics needed to meet the education requirement for CFP® certification. Some programs include various specialized courses or a review course to better prepare you for the CFP® Certification Examination. Program Directors at any CFP Board-Registered Program have the authority to waive students out of courses in accordance with their college or university policy.
Contact one of the programs for more information about courses offered, class schedules, tuition and transfer of credit for courses previously taken. In general, the course work in a certificate level program can be completed in 18 to 24 months.
CFP Board does not endorse one program over another. All programs cover the same core curriculum, yet vary in style, length and delivery method. They may be certificate programs, undergraduate programs or graduate programs. Programs can also differ in their delivery methods with some having traditional classroom-based instruction and others offering self-study or online courses. All institutions are accredited by their region's accrediting body.
Important Questions to Ask about CFP Board-Registered Programs
Because the educational offerings are so varied, consider asking the Program Director the following questions when evaluating a program:
- What educational level is your curriculum (junior/senior baccalaureate, master's or doctorate level)?
- How long does it take to complete your curriculum?
- How much does your program cost? Does that amount include books, tests and other fees?
- Are you anticipating making changes to your program?
- How do you schedule your courses? How often are courses offered?
- Is your distance education program offered online or is it paper-based?
- What are the credentials of your faculty?
- Does your program have internships or job placement services?
- Does your program have a review course? Does it partner with a review course provider?
- Overall, how will your program prepare me to be a financial planner?
Coursework from Multiple CFP Board-Registered Programs
If you have successfully completed individual courses at two or more CFP Board-Registered Programs but have not completed, or had credits transferred to, any one entire program, you may qualify to apply for the CFP® Certification Examination under the Multiple CFP Board-Registered Programs status. After applying for the exam you will be required to provide transcripts to verify completion of the education requirement through this approach. Please note that not all CFP Board-Registered Programs have the same number of courses nor do they cover the core topics in the same order or course sequence. Programs may group or combine topics differently, and semester hour equivalencies may vary. To qualify to take the exam through this approach, you must have covered all required topics and have achieved the minimum 18 semester credits or the equivalent in core topics.
Education institutions’ policies vary regarding the expiration date of coursework credits. Thus, your previous credits, though expired by the institution, may still be applicable towards meeting the CFP® certification coursework requirement. You can determine if previously taken courses can be credited towards the education requirement through a CFP Board Transcript Review.
CFP Board has approved specific academic degrees and professional credentials as fulfilling most of the education coursework requirement for CFP® certification. If you have one of the following degrees, licenses or credentials, you will automatically be eligible to apply for the CFP® Certification Examination, after you have completed a capstone course registered with CFP Board.
- Ph.D. in business or economics*
- Doctor of Business Administration*
- Licensed attorney - inactive license acceptable**
- Licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) - inactive license acceptable**
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
- Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®)
- CFP certification from the Financial Planning Standards Board Ltd. (FPSB) Affiliate located in your territory of residence outside the U.S.
Only the degrees, licenses and credentials listed above are approved for challenging the CFP® Certification Examination. In addition, certain other credentials are pre-approved for partial credit toward the coursework requirement, with that credit granted through the Transcript Review process.
If you hold a qualified degree or credential that allows you to challenge the CFP® Certification Examination through the challenge status, your exam application must be accompanied or followed with specific documentation verifying your qualification.
If your degree or credential is not on the list above, you may wish to consult the Transcript Review process as an alternate route to the CFP® Certification Examination.
*Degree must be from a regionally-accredited U.S. college or university.
**If you are fulfilling the education requirement on the basis of an inactive CPA license or law license, you will need to provide a letter from the applicable licensing board stating that you are in good standing with that authority.
Challenge Status Path to CFP® Certification
AnneMarie Kessler, CFP®, talks about becoming a CFP® professional through the Challenge Status process. Learn more about the Challenge Status process.
CFP Certification from an FPSB Affiliate Outside the U.S.
If you are a resident of one of the territories affiliated with Financial Planning Standards Board Ltd. (FPSB) and are currently authorized to use the CFP marks in that territory, CFP Board will accept proof of current CFP® certification from the FPSB Affiliate in your territory as documentation that you have completed coursework addressing the required major personal financial planning areas. To complete CFP Board’s education coursework requirement, you will need to complete a financial planning capstone course registered with CFP Board. Individuals who hold the CFP marks internationally and desire to obtain the use of the marks in the U.S. must meet all CFP Board requirements for CFP® Certification, including passing the CFP® Certification Examination.
CFP Board recognizes that you may have covered some components of CFP Board’s required content areas through previous educational coursework not taken through a CFP Board-Registered Program. CFP Board will consider granting credit towards the education coursework requirement for CFP® certification if:
- You can submit documentation that you have successfully completed equivalent upper-division level college or university coursework at a regionally-accredited college or university; and/or
- You have one of the credentials listed below that CFP Board has pre-approved for partial credit towards the education coursework requirement.
Review the Principal Topics and Job Task Domains and use the checklist on the Transcript Review Application (PDF, 87KB) against your college transcript(s) to assess if you have completed acceptable college level coursework addressing CFP Board’s major personal financial planning areas.
Look for upper-division level courses (junior, senior or graduate level coursework with course numbers of typically 300 or greater) with titles such as Personal Income Tax, Risk Management, Investments, Estate Planning, Retirement Planning and Personal Financial Planning.
To satisfy the core educational coursework requirement via a transcript review, your financial planning-related coursework must total at least 18 upper-division semester hours. The courses must have been taken at a U.S. regionally-accredited four-year educational institution. Education institutions’ policies vary regarding the expiration date of coursework credits. CFP Board’s expiration time frame may be different from that of your education institution. Thus, your previous credits, though expired by the institution, may still be applicable towards meeting the CFP® certification coursework requirement.
Download the Transcript Review Application Form
The credentials listed below have been deemed to fulfill certain portions of the education coursework requirement for CFP® certification. The first column lists the credential; the second lists the corresponding topics in CFP Board’s Principal Topics list.
Continuing education courses, firm training and/or FINRA or state licenses do not fulfill any part of CFP Board’s initial educational requirements.
|Credential ||Topics satisfied on CFP Board's topic list |
|Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) ||8, 9, 24-31 |
|Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) ||8-12, 13, 15, 22, 24-31, 35, 44-52 |
|Enrolled Agent (EA) ||32-43 |
|Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA) ||8, 9, 24-31 |
Exam Review Courses
Though it is not required, many candidates find that taking a review course is helpful in preparing for the CFP® certification exam. For the convenience of those pursuing certification, CFP Board has compiled a list of exam review course providers. These courses and their providers are not endorsed or recommended by CFP Board. Additional exam review course providers can be found by searching online.