The College for Financial Planning created one of the country’s first financial planning education programs, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, as well as the certification. CFP® practitioners must pass a comprehensive CFP® Certification Examination that tests their ability to apply financial planning knowledge in an integrated format. The examination covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits, retirement planning, estate planning, investment management, and insurance.

Be aware that Financial Analyst, Financial Adviser (Advisor), Financial Consultant, Financial Planner, Investment Consultant or Wealth Manager are generic terms or job titles, and may be used by investment professionals who may not hold any specific designation. The CFP® certification provides a sense of security by allowing only those who have met the CFP® Board’s education, examination, experience requirements, have agreed to adhere to high standards of ethical conduct, and who complete CFP® Board’s biennial certification requirements, including continuing education, to use the certification marks.

A CFP® is a financial professional authorized to use the CFP® certification marks who has identified himself or herself to CFP® Board as being actively engaged in providing financial planning services. All CFP® individuals have voluntarily submitted to the regulatory authority of CFP® Board. The College for Financial Planning, Inc. (the degree-granting arm of the College) is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association (NCA).

FPA® - The Financial Planning Association®

The Financial Planning Association® connects those who need, support, and delivers financial planning. We believe that everyone is entitled to objective advice from a competent, ethical financial planner to make smart financial decisions. FPA® members demonstrate a professional commitment to education and a client-centered financial planning process as well as a commitment to the highest standards of professional competence, ethical conduct and clear, complete disclosure for financial planning professionals.


CPA - Certified Public Accountant

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) primarily provides financial audit services, including attesting to the reasonableness of disclosures, freedom from material misstatements and adherence to applicable generally accepted accounting principles. To become a CPA, a candidate must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and administered by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. Typically, eligibility to sit for the examination requires a candidate to have a Bachelor’s Degree that includes a minimum number of qualifying credit hours in accounting and business administration plus an additional one year study. Candidates are also required to have public accounting work experience, with minimum requirements varying from state to state. Applicants for CPA status must also complete a special examination on ethics, including a review of state specific rules for professional practice. All CPAs are required to take continuing education courses. The requirements vary by state but usually require 120 hours of continuing education every three years with at least 20 hours taken every year. Many states require CPAs to take an ethics course during every renewal period, with courses ranging from 2-8 hours.

PFS - Personal Financial Specialist

The Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation is awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates for this designation must meet the following pre-requisites: (1) be a member of AICPA, (2) hold an unrevoked Certified Public Accountant certificate issued by a state authority and (3) have at least two years of full-time business personal financial planning experience or 3,000 hours of equivalent experience (including up to 1,000 hours of tax compliance) within the five year period preceding the date of applying for designation. Candidates are required to have a minimum of 80 hours of continuing education within the five year period preceding their application for the designation and must pass a Final Certification Exam. Every three years, designees must complete 60 hours of continuing education related to the personal financial planning body of knowledge.

Financial Paraplanner Qualified ProfessionalTM

Individuals who hold the FPQPTM designation have completed a course of study encompassing the financial planning process, the five disciplines of financial planning and general financial planning concepts, terminology and product categories. Additionally, individuals must pass an end-of-course examination that tests their ability to synthesize complex concepts and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations.