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The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is a professional certification mark for financial planners conferred by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) in the United States, and by 25 other organizations affiliated with Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB), the international owner of the CFP mark outside of the United States.
To receive authorization to use the designation, the candidate must meet education, examination, experience and ethics requirements, and pay an ongoing certification fee. The information relates specifically to CFP certification in the United States. In the UK, the CFP licence is available to financial planners through membership of the Institute of Financial Planning.
To earn the CFP Board designation, candidates must meet several requirements—the first of which is the educational requirement, which requires candidates to have a bachelor's degree (or higher), or its equivalent in any discipline, from an accredited college or university. The bachelor's degree requirement may be completed after passing the CFP exam (within five years) and is not a requirement to be eligible to take the CFP Board Certification Examination.  As a first step to the present CFP certification criteria, students must master a list of nearly 100 topics on integrated financial planning. The curriculum taught must be the equivalent of 18 semester credit hours (e.g. 6 courses). The topics cover major planning areas such as:
Individuals holding professional designations pre-approved by the CFP Board (such as PhDs in business and economics, attorneys, Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Accountants (CA), Chartered Wealth Managers (AAFM), Chartered Life Underwriters (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFC), and Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA)) are entitled to register for and take the exam without having to complete the education requirements by using the CFP-board's "challenge" status. Notably, individuals who seek to challenge the CFP certification exam after March 2012 will be required to take a financial planning Capstone course before sitting for the exam.
International degrees may be substituted for a U.S. degree if they receive equivalency from a third-party organization. The CFP Board began requiring a college education in 2008. In the early years for the first 25,000 CFP members, candidates could take the 5 courses and achieve certification without a comprehensive exam. In 1991 a comprehensive exam became required for new students.
In recent press, the CFP Board and other organizations have communicated with the CFPB Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to augment accredited degree standards and ranking of professional designations.
The CFP Certification Examination is a 10-hour multiple choice exam that contains 285 questions. The exam is divided into one four-hour session (Friday afternoon) and two three-hour sessions (Saturday). The exam includes two case studies, multiple mini-case problem sets and stand-alone questions. The exam is designed to assess the student's ability to apply his or her knowledge of the aforementioned areas to financial planning situations. The exam was set as a requirement in 1993 and at that time CFPs were grandfathered without having to pass this exam. Prior to 1993 the certification exam(s) consisted of six 4 month study topics with a four-hour exam following each topic for a total of two years of study and 24 hours of exams which included both multiple choice and written analysis of case studies.
Effective November 2014, the CFP Certification Examination is being converted from a paper-based test to a computer-based test, and the exam length will be cut to only 170 questions to be taken in a 6-hour testing period (two 3-hour segments with a 30-minute break), a 40% reduction from the prior exam length and duration.
The pass rate for the CFP certification exam fluctuated historically between a low of 42% and a high of 66%. The pass rate tends to be slightly higher for first-time test takers and lower for repeaters.
The candidate must demonstrate that he or she has extensive experience in the financial planning field. The CFP Board defines work experience as "the supervision, direct support, teaching or personal delivery of all or part of the personal financial planning process to a client" and such experience must fall within one or more of the following six primary elements of financial planning:
After the student passes the exam and meets one or more of the six primary elements of financial planning, he or she must also have completed the following:
The final components are the ethics and continuing education requirements. Students and certificants are required to adhere to the CFP Board Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and to the Financial Planning Practice Standards. Registered investment advisors have a fiduciary duty to care for investments. The CFP Board has the right to enforce them through its Disciplinary Rules and Procedures.
To maintain certification, license holders are also required to complete thirty (30) hours of continuing education, of which two (2) hours the Board of Standards approved ethical information, on an on-going basis in addition to paying a licensing fee every two years.