Certification Milestones - CFP Board

About CFP Board


Certification Milestones

CFP Board’s certification requirements are centered around the “Four E’s” – Education, Examination, Experience and Ethics – each of which has developed and been strengthened over the course of CFP Board’s history.


A common body of knowledge lies at the foundation of any profession. Applicants for CFP® certification, a professional certification rather than an educational credential, must successfully complete a course of academic study covering personal financial planning topics that financial planning practitioners have identified through periodic job-task analysis studies.

1986   CFP Board approves curriculum standards for registered institutions
1987   CFP Board’s registration of financial planning education programs begins; 25 institutions register by year end
1987   Publication of CFP Board commissioned-study, Job Analysis of the Professional Requirements of the Certified Financial Planner, conducted by the College for Financial Planning. More than 2,000 practicing financial planners were polled nationally to identify tasks and topics of knowledge used in the practice of financial planning.  The study sets out 175 subject matter areas that formed the basis of CFP Board’s model curriculum and exam development, and grouped those areas under six categories: Fundamentals of Financial Planning, Insurance Planning, Investment Planning, Income Tax Planning, Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits, and Estate Planning. 
1988   Continuing education requirements introduced; first Program Directors’ Conference held
1990   Job Knowledge Requirements of the Certified Financial Planner published; model curriculum based on 1987 Job Analysis published
1994   Job Analysis study identifies 106 financial planning subject matter areas; transcript review process introduced, allowing those who had not completed a CFP Board-Registered Program but who had completed courses that correspond to the required curriculum for CFP®certification to meet the education requirement; continuing education requirement amended to require at least 2 hours on CFP Board’s ethical standards
1999   Job Analysis study identifies 101 financial planning subject matter areas
2004   Job Analysis study identifies 89 financial planning subject matter areas; To assist more colleges and universities in establishing degree programs in financial planning, CFP Board and Academy of Financial Services establish model curriculum for university-level financial planning programs
2006   Education Task Force reviews CFP Board’s current educational goals, standards and practices, compares them to those of other certification bodies and to models of best practice, and issues wide-ranging recommendations
2007   Bachelor’s degree requirement takes effect; applicants for certification must have a bachelor's degree (or higher), or its equivalent, in any discipline, from an accredited college or university
2008   Council on Education formed to advise CFP Board staff on the development and clarification of all educational policies related to the CFP® certification process
2010   CFP Board adopts a Financial Plan Development Course requirement, which will require future applicants for CFP® certification an opportunity to integrate and apply all aspects of curricular content within their registered program. Through this course, students will engage in all aspects of the role of the personal financial planner, utilizing problem solving and communication skills in order to prepare them to provide competent financial planning services to the public. The new course requirement will take effect no earlier than March 2012

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A second building block of a profession is the ability to verify that those who wish to practice the profession have mastered a certain level of theoretical and practical knowledge.  For most professions, this proof takes the form of an examination.  CFP Board’s comprehensive CFP® Certification Examination reflects a philosophical perspective that distinguishes “certification” from “education.” In effect, it is a practical knowledge exam, rather than an academic test.  The examination’s purpose is to assure the public that new CFP® certificants have competence in the financial planning topics that practitioners have said are necessary to the practice of personal financial planning.

1985   College for Financial Planning continues to administer 6-part exam
1987   Serial exam opened to candidates from schools other than College for Financial Planning
1989   Board of Examiners begins planning for creation of comprehensive exam and convenes 6 subject-matter panels to review the list of topics to be covered in the exam
1991   Introduction of comprehensive 10-hour exam to test the integration and application of the knowledge from the financial planning curriculum. November 1992 IBCFP Bulletin: “the purpose of the examination phase has changed from educational testing to a measure of competence to practice financial planning as defined by the 1987 job analysis study.” The exam is developed with the assistance of volunteers from the financial planning and academic communities and all exam questions are analyzed for relevance and psychometric soundness, in addition to being field-tested with financial planning practitioners.
1994   Final phase-out of six part serial-format examination for those who began series in 1991 or earlier
2012   A new exam blueprint is first tested on the March 2012 administration of the CFP® exam. The new blueprint, based on the results of CFP Board's 2009 Job Analysis Study, focuses on eight Job Task Domains.

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CFP® certification, as a professional certification, indicates to the public an individual’s ability to provide professional financial planning services without supervision, and CFP Board requires applicants to have experience in delivering the financial planning process to clients.

1989   Experience requirements introduced: three years of personal financial planning-related experience for those who hold a baccalaureate degree, and five years of experience for those without a degree
1999   Work experience requirement revised to include positions of supervision, support and teaching of the personal financial planning process
2007   Bachelor’s degree requirement takes effect; applicants for certification must have a bachelor's degree (or higher), or its equivalent, in any discipline, from an accredited college or university, in addition to three years of personal financial planning-related experience
2012   CFP Board adopts amendments to the experience requirement, effective September 2012. The amendments include a very limited exception whereby individuals may meet CFP Board’s Experience requirement solely through two years full-time, or the equivalent parttime (2,000 equals one year full-time) of experience focused exclusively on “personal delivery of all or part of the personal financial planning process to a client,” with direct supervision by a CFP® professional, and documented qualifying experience in all six primary elements of the personal financial planning process. The amendments also eliminate the requirement that six months of experience must have been gained within 12 months of an individual’s reporting of experience to CFP Board. Finally, the amendments introduce a process whereby individuals to submit experience to CFP Board for review prior to passing the CFP® exam.

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A fourth critical characteristic of a profession is its commitment to a high standard of ethical conduct. CFP® certificants are required to abide by CFP Board’s ethical standards, as set forth in the Standards of Professional Conduct, and are subject to disciplinary action when those standards are violated. CFP Board’s high ethical standards and its rigorous enforcement of its ethical standards, including the public release of disciplinary information, are key factors that differentiate the CFP® certification from the many designations in the financial services industry.

1986   Adoption of Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct and Disciplinary Rules and Procedures
1989   Preliminary discussions of identifying generally accepted financial planning principles and practice standards
1991   Following a 3-year development process, CFP Board adopts revised Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which introduced comprehensive disclosure requirements, with a January 1, 1993 effective date
1995   Board of Practice Standards holds first meeting in January; first Practice Standard released for comments in fall of 1995

First three Practice Standards become effective

2002   Final Practice Standards become effective

Updated disclosure rules (400-series) of Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility take effect; Disciplinary Rules and Procedures amended to increase efficiency of investigative process, giving staff more discretion to analyze evidence and dismiss cases at an early stage under certain circumstances defined by the Board of Professional Review (now Disciplinary and Ethics Commission)

2008   Significant revision of Standards of Professional Conduct takes effect, including fiduciary standard of care for financial planning services

Robert Fleming, Esq. becomes first non-certificant, “public” member of Disciplinary and Ethics Commission, following best practices for professional review processes in the established professions

2010   Anonymous Case Histories – summaries of cases reviewed by the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission – are made available through an online search function on CFP Board’s website
2012   CFP Board adopts a non-disciplinary process for addressing CFP® professionals and candidates for certification who have filed a single bankruptcy within the previous five years and are not under investigation by CFP Board for any other conduct. CFP Board adopts Sanction Guidelines to assist the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission in maintaining consistency regarding the imposition of sanctions for similar offenses.

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Did You Know?

Among clients who work with an advisor, 87% of those working with a CFP® professional are satisfied or very satisfied, compared with 72% of those who work with an advisor without certification.
Anyone can call themselves a “financial planner.” Only professionals who meet CFP Board’s rigorous standards can call themselves CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals.
The 2013 Household Financial Planning Survey shows that those with a financial plan feel more confident and report more success managing money, savings and investments than those without a plan.