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How to Become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Online

Nov 26, 2019

Becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) can be a big boost to one's career in the financial industry. This article will cover the steps necessary to become a CFP, with a focus on online tools and resources available.

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Introduction a Certified Financial Planner Career

Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) are often held in high regard in the banking and finance industry, quite likely down to the stringent requirements put in place to obtain this designation. CFPs typically possess a high level of expertise when it comes to matters of financial management and are prepared ti advice their clients on a variety of financial products and services. Much of the training for this career can be done online.

See the table below for some basic information on the occupation of financial planner:

Required Skills Attention to detail, critical thinking, listening and interpersonal skills, math proficiency
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% (for all Personal Financial Advisors)
Median Salary (2018)* $88,890 per year (for all Personal Financial Advisors)

Source: *U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Become a Certified Financial Planner Online

The CFP Board, the organization responsible for issuing CFP qualifications, list four criteria that must be met in order to receive a CFP designation. All steps aside from the in-person exam can be completed online.

Step 1. Meet Education Requirements

The CFP qualification process requires you to have a bachelor's degree. While this degree could be in any field, you must also have completed courses in specific personal financial planning topics. This means if your degree is in a non-finance field, you may need to complete a certificate program in financial planning in order to meet the education requirements. Fully online certificate programs in financial planning are available as are bachelor's degree programs in areas like financial planning, accounting, finance, and business.

While a bachelor's degree is required to obtain the CFP qualification, it is not a pre-requisite of sitting the CFP exam. This means you are also able to pursue your degree after passing the CFP board exam, as long as you complete the program within five years.

Step 2. Complete a Capstone Course

The CFP Board also specifies that applicants must complete an approved financial development capstone course. This learning program covers a wide range of financial planning and management topics, such as professional conduct, risk management, tax, retirement, and estate planning. The CFP Board maintains a list of accredited programs, with over 100 approved distance learning programs available. It is worthwhile to note, some of these courses are offered within financial planning certificate or bachelor's degree program.

Step 3. Register and sit for the CFP Certification Examination

Once you have completed the required coursework and education components, it's time to register online for your exam. There are typically three testing windows per year, in March, July, and November, and the exams are administered at Prometric testing sites around the U.S. You will be required to create an online account with the CFP Board in order to register, and your education program will provide the documentation required to prove completion of your course.

The exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, taken over the course of two 3-hour sessions in a single day. The exam is designed to test your applied knowledge of the various facets of a CFP's position, including client relations, financial planning principles, making recommendations, meeting regulatory standards, and multiple other topics. While the exam itself must be taken in person, there are a variety of online resources and practice tests available online to help you prepare.

Step 4. Gain Experience

The CFP Board requires you to have 6,000 hours of experience relating directly to the financial planning process. Once you have created your online account, a tool is available to help track the hours spent on these tasks, which include client presentations, analyzing financial circumstances, selecting and developing goals. For reference, based on a 40 hour work week, 6,000 hours is roughly equal to about 3 years full time work experience in a position dedicated to financial planning.

Step 5: Apply for CFP Certification

Once you have met the education, examination, and experience components, you can submit your application in full to the CFP Board through the CFP website The application requires you to complete a background check and to disclose information involving prior complaints, criminal, civil, or governmental inquiries, bankruptcies, or filings. You will also need to agree to adhere to the standards set forward in the CFP Board Code of Ethics manual. It is important to note that CFPs are subject to stringent certification renewal requirements, which include completion of 30 hours of continuing education every two years.

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