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Steps to Becoming a CFP® Practitioner

Step 1- Complete the Education Requirement

Before applying for the CFP® Certification Examinations, you need to complete the education requirements set by CFP Board. You can fulfill the education requirement through one of three paths:

1. Complete a CFP Board-Registered Education Program

There are numerous academic programs at colleges and universities across the country that are registered with CFP Board of Standards. These programs include credit and non-credit certificate programs, undergraduate and graduate degree programs. They use various delivery formats and schedules, including classroom instruction, self-study and online delivery. A program's registration with CFP Board assures the student that the content viewed as most critical to success in the field of personal financial planning is covered in detail in the program's curriculum and that the student, upon completing the program, should be well situated to attempt the national exam.

2. Apply for Challenge Status if you Qualify: Certain degrees and professional credentials fulfill the educational requirement and allow you to sit for the CFP® Certification Examination.

Academic degrees and credentials that fulfill the educational requirements include:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Licensed Attorney
  • Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA)
  • Doctor of Business Administration
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Ph.D. in business or economics
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) (*Inactive License Acceptable)

Certain industry credentials recognized by CFP Board, or the successful completion of upper-division level college courses, may satisfy some or all of the education requirements set by CFP Board of Standards .

A bachelor's degree (in any field of study or program) is currently required to attain and use the CFP® certification. You must hold a completed bachelor's degree in order to become a CFP® professional.


Step 2- Pass the CFP® Certification Examination

The CFP® Certification Examination assesses your ability to apply your financial planning knowledge to client situations. The exam is administered three times a year in a computer- based format in March, July and November.  The exam is administered at Prometric exam sites (more than 200 sites are available nationwide for administration of the exam).  More specific details regarding the specific format of the exam can be found at

CFP Board maintains a list of review courses, offered by independent firms, designed to assist individuals in preparing for the CFP® Certification Examination. A current list of review course providers is available at CFP Board neither evaluates the quality of the review courses nor endorses any program.

Step 3- Meet the Experience Requirement

At least three years of qualifying full-time work experience are required for certification. Qualifying experience includes work that can be categorized into one of the six primary elements of the personal financial planning process. Experience can be gained in a number of ways including:

  • the delivery of all, or of any portion, of the personal financial planning process to a client
  • the direct support or supervision of individuals who deliver all, or any portion, of the personal financial planning process to a client
  • teaching all, or any portion, of the personal financial planning process

Step 4- Adhere to the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Pass Background Check

After you have met the education, examination and work experience requirements, you must disclose past or pending litigation or agency proceedings and agree to abide by CFP Board's Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Financial Planning Practice Standards. A background check will also be conducted.

Step 5- Pay Certification Fees

Upon successfully completing the first three steps, fees will apply as follows:

  • A one-time, non-refundable application fee of $125 for the background checks as noted above
  • An annual renewal fee of $325

Step 6- Receive Authorization to Use CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™ Marks

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™ and  in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

MSU Denver does not certify individuals to use the CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™ and  marks.  CFP® certification is granted solely by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. to individuals who, in addition to completing an educational requirement such as this CFP Board-Registered Program, have met ethics, experience and examination requirements.


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