CFP® Certification: The Standard of Excellence for Personal Financial Planning

The CFP® certification process, administered by CFP Board, identifies to the public that those individuals who have been authorized to use the CFP® certification marks in the U.S. have met rigorous professional standards and have agreed to adhere to the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence when dealing with clients.

What is CFP® certfication?

CFP Board conducted a nationwide consumer survey among upper-income households. That survey reflects the public’s growing demand for financial planners who adhere to rigorous standards. Of those surveyed:

  • 85% considered successful completion of a certification
    examination “very important” or “extremely important.”
  • 95% felt financial planners should adhere to professional
    practice standards.
  • 97% said the most important standard for financial planners was
    adherence to a professional code of ethics.

CFP® certificants must pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Examination, pass CFP Board’s Fitness Standards for Candidates and Registrants, agree to abide by CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility which puts clients’ interests first and comply with the Financial Planning Practice Standards which spell out what clients should be able to reasonably expect from the financial planning engagement. These are just some of the reasons why the CFP® certification is becoming increasingly recognized.

CFP® Initial Certification

To become certified, one is required to meet the following initial certification requirements (known as the four “Es”):

  • Education
  • Examination
  • Experience
  • Ethics

These four components are briefly described below; subsequent sections of this Guide to CFP® Certification provide detailed information about each component.


To take the CFP® Certification Examination, one needs to be knowledgeable in all of areas covered by the financial planning topic list. There are three ways to complete the educational requirement: CFP Board-Registered Programs, Challenge Status or Transcript Review. Candidates for certification must have a bachelor’s degree (or higher), or its equivalent, in any discipline, from an accredited college or university in order to obtain CFP® certification.


After having successfully met the education requirement, one will be eligible to apply for the CFP® Certification Examination. The CFP® Certification Examination assesses your ability to apply your financial planning knowledge (based on the topic list), in an integrated format, to financial planning situations.


Because CFP® certification indicates to the ability to provide financial planning without supervision, CFP Board requires one to have experience in the financial planning process. Three years of full-time relevant personal financial planning experience is required.


When one has completed the education, examination and experience components of the CFP® certification process, one will be directed to complete the CFP® Certification Application to disclose whether you have been a party (or involved) in any criminal, civil, governmental, or self-regulatory agency proceeding or inquiry. CFP® certification also requires one to agree to adhere to CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Rules of Conduct and Financial Planning Practice Standards, and acknowledge CFP Board’s right to enforce them through its Disciplinary Rules and Procedures.

CFP® Certification Renewal

Once authorized to use the CFP® marks, one must meet CFP Board’s renewal standards to continue to use them; keeping current with the annual certification fee and complete the continuing education (CE) requirement every two years.


Mark Fissel, partner and cofounder of Beacon Hill Investment Advisory, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.  The CFP® educational rigor and process show the commitment that Mark has made to the financial planning industry and to his clients.


Source: Certfied Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.