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The Certification Process

Competence. Credibility. Confidence. The path to CFP® certification is a rigorous but rewarding process that gives you the knowledge and skills you need for a fulfilling career.

CFP® Certification Requirements

The "4 E's" of CFP® certification equip you to provide comprehensive advice to your clients, so you can help them achieve confidence today and a more secure tomorrow.

Education
The Education Requirement

The two-part education requirement includes both (1) completing coursework on financial planning through a CFP Board Registered Program, and (2) holding a bachelor's degree or higher (in any discipline) from an accredited college or university.

You must complete the coursework before you can take the CFP® exam. You have 5 years from the date you pass the CFP® exam to complete the bachelor's degree requirement.

Quick Facts

Average time to complete the coursework requirement: 12-18 months.

Exam
The Exam Requirement

Passing the CFP® exam demonstrates that you've attained the knowledge and competency necessary to provide comprehensive personal financial planning advice. The CFP® exam is a 170-question, multiple-choice test that consists of two 3-hour sessions over one day. The exam includes stand-alone and scenario-based questions, as well as questions associated with case studies.

Quick Facts

You must complete the certification coursework through a CFP Board Registered Program before you can sit for the exam. In 2019, the pass rate for first-time exam takers was approximately 67%.

Experience
The Experience Requirement

The experience requirement prepares you to provide personal financial planning to the public without supervision. You can fulfill the experience requirement either before or after you take the exam. You need to complete either 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process, or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience that meets additional requirements.

Quick Facts

Experience must be completed within 10 years before and 5 years after successful completion of the CFP® exam.

Ethics
The Ethics Requirement

The ethics requirement is the final step on your path to CFP® certification. It indicates you've agreed to adhere to high ethical and professional standards for the practice of financial planning, and to act as a fiduciary when providing financial advice to your client, always putting their best interests first.

Quick Facts

You'll need to sign the Ethics Declaration, and CFP Board will conduct a background check.

Choose Your Path to Certification

Here are some of the most common paths to CFP® certification. Typically, it takes 18-24 months to become a CFP® professional, but the certification process offers flexibility so you can make it work for you.

Which path best matches you?

Certification Path Arrows

Earn 4-Year Degree
A bachelor's degree in any discipline is required. You can earn your degree up to 5 years after passing the CFP® exam.
Complete CFP® certification coursework
You must complete the certification coursework through a CFP Board Registered Program before you can take the CFP® exam.
Pass CFP® Exam
Don't forget that you must complete your certification coursework through a CFP Board Registered Program before you can sit for the CFP® exam.
Accumulate experience
You can fulfill the experience requirement either before or after you take the CFP® exam.
Meet Ethics Requirement
You must sign an Ethics Declaration, and undergo a background check.
Earn CFP® Certification
Congrats on your grit and determination! You've achieved the standard of excellence and can now use the CFP® marks to market yourself.

Your education and experience may qualify you to get a jumpstart on your certification.

Learn more

We're Here To Help

CFP Board offers the guidance, tools and support you need to successfully become a CFP® professional, no matter what stage of the process you're in. See all of our tools and resources.

Start your journey to CFP® Certification

  • Track your progress with the CFP® Certification Tracker
  • Post your resume at the Career Center
  • Connect with a mentor who can guide you
  • Register and prepare for the exam
  • Find career and financial support
  • Connect with other candidates at our online forum