Curious about the steps to become a financial planner? Underneath you’ll find all the steps which are important to become a great (certified) financial planner.
Earn a bachelor’s degree. Virtually every single financial planner certification program will require you to earn a bachelor’s degree in any discipline before you can become certified in a financial planning program. Though there are no restrictions on what students should major in, a field of study related to business or finance might be a good subject to major in if you plan on pursuing a career as a CFP®. More and more undergraduate programs offer a major in financial planning, others offer a masters or PhD.
Research the requirements of the job you want to pursue. Before you decide which college to attend to earn your degree or certification, it may be worthwhile to look into the education and experience requirements of several jobs in which you are interested. This may help steer you toward an education program that can best help you achieve your professional goals. Some employers will even pay for your education.
Research CFP® programs. It’s important to do some research before applying to a program in financial planning. While every program will cover the same basic material, each program differs in terms of teaching methods and duration of the course. Programs can range from simple certification and online courses to college or graduate degrees, and the specifics of each program are prescribed by that program’s local accreditation guidelines. Distance learning programs and certificate programs typically cost less than college and graduate programs that require university enrollment. You can search for programs by location and by education level on the CFP® Board website. When determining which program is right for you, it may be worthwhile to consider:
• Your current level of education and what your educational goals are.
• Cost of attendance and certification in each program.
• The levels of experience and education of faculty members at each program you’re interested in.
• Whether a program offers internships or job placement assistance after graduation.
Meet the education requirements. Whether you are pursuing a degree in financial planning or earning a certification, you will need to meet your program’s specific requirements regarding education and experience. This may vary from program to program, but will generally require you to earn a bachelor’s degree, take at least some coursework in accounting or finance, and take a college-level capstone course that addresses insurance, investment, income tax, retirement planning, and estate planning.
Regardless of what subject you major in, you will be expected to complete at least 18 semester credit hours of relevant course work. The exact courses may vary, with course titles like Financial Analysis or Estate Planning, but they should be courses approved by the CFP® Board for all students working toward a degree or certification in financial planning.
The advantage of earning a degree in financial planning through a Board-certified college is that your education will cover every applicable aspect of financial planning, and will give you a broad base of knowledge and expertise in the field upon graduation.
For more information on education requirements, please see the CFP® Board’s website.
Consider meeting the requirements through advanced education and training. There are several ways to get around the educational requirements of attending a CFP® program, but all of them require extensive education and training. Please note that each of these alternate paths still require candidates to complete a capstone course, pass the CFP® Board exam, conduct a background check, and pay certification fees.
Earning a doctorate in either business, economics, or business management would satisfy the educational requirements of the CFP® Board.
Becoming a licensed attorney would also satisfy the educational requirements of the CFP® Board.
Completing the educational requirements and credentials of a certified public accountant (CPA), a chartered financial analyst, a chartered financial consultant, or a chartered life underwriter would also satisfy the educational requirements of the CFP® Board.
Earn working experience. In order to become Board certified in financial planning, graduates must complete two years of hands-on working experience with financial planning duties. This work must be at full-time employment status and must involve either working directly as a financial planner, as an assistant to a financial planner, attorney or CPA, or as an educator who teaches financial planning in an academic position. Candidates can find a comprehensive listing of open positions at the CFP® Board’s website.
Three years, or 6,000 hours, of full-time qualifying work are required to meet the Board’s experience requirement.
Work experience must fall under at least one of the six experience categories outlined by the board: establishing relationships with clients, compiling client data, reviewing and evaluating client financial information, developing and presenting financial planning recommendations for clients, implementing financial planning recommendations for clients, or monitoring the success of clients’ financial actions.
Work experience must also meet at least one of the five types of experience: personal delivery to clients, supervision of personal delivery to clients, direct or indirect support of personal delivery to clients, teaching CFP® Board courses or finance-related university courses, or internships/residency programs.
The experience requirements may be met by an alternate course of action in which the candidate completes two years or 4,000 hours of full-time apprentice work. The apprenticeship must be under the direct supervision of a CFP® professional and must include experience in all six experience categories outlined by the board.
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