Certified financial planners (CFPs) and certified public accountants (CPAs) both assist clients with finances; however, their areas of expertise differ. This article will cover the job descriptions and outlook for each career.

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Comparing CFPs to CPAs

A career as a CFP or CPA may appeal to individuals with strong analytical skills, attention to detail, and organizational skills. Both careers involve financial analysis, but in different capacities. A CFP assists clients with their financial decisions, such as investments and estate planning, while a CPA provides more comprehensive financial services. Read on to discover the main similarities and differences between these careers.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
CFP Bachelor's degree $65,999 14% (Personal Financial Advisors)
CPA Bachelor's degree $63,547 10% (Accountants & Auditors)

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of CFPs to CPAs

CFPs and CPAs both utilize their analytical skills to improve clients' financial health. A CFP determines individuals' needs and provides guidance on financial decisions. In contrast, a CPA may work with individuals, but often examines an organization's financial systems and determines ways to reduce costs or increase profits.


A CFP specializes in working with individuals on their financial needs, including taxes, insurance, and investments. CFPs help their clients determine both short and long-term goals and how to achieve them. They typically work for securities or financial investment firms or operate their own business. Job duties can include staying abreast of market trends and regulations and evaluating investment possibilities for clients. CFPs will need a bachelor's degree in economics, finance, or a related field. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards issues the CFP certification, which requires a bachelor's degree, three years of work experience, and passing an exam. The exam tests individuals' knowledge in areas such as risk management, retirement planning, and debt management.

Job responsibilities of a CFP include:

  • Assisting clients to plan for life events like college or retirement
  • Tracking clients' accounts and adjusting investments due to life changes
  • Advising clients on available financial services
  • Maintaining regular contact with their client base


CPAs focus on examining clients', either individuals or organizations, financial records and producing reports based on their examinations. They can run their own business or work for a public accounting company. A primary focus of a CPA is making sure clients' records do not contain irregularities or violate any tax codes or regulations. Other general job responsibilities may involve general bookkeeping, developing and overseeing budgets, and advising management on ways to streamline operations and reduce costs. CPAs will need a bachelor's degree in accounting. In most states, CPAs will need to complete thirty hours of coursework beyond the traditional bachelor's degree. CPAs will also need applicable work experience, to pass the Uniform CPA Examination, and become licensed in their state.

Job responsibilities of a CPA include:

  • Preparing an organization's taxes and filing appropriate documentation
  • Creating and implementing audit procedures
  • Collaborating with management on fraud prevention efforts and strategic planning
  • Producing and examining financial reports

Related Careers

If you would like to become a CFP, consider a career as a financial specialist, as both careers involve assisting clients with their investment goals. Individuals interested in a career as a CPA may be interested in a job as a financial analyst, since both careers focus on an organization's fiscal health.

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