Intro: What Is CFP? And What are CFP Costs and Fees?


Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a designation or certification granted to financial planners by the CFP Board in the U.S. Through this article, we aim to review the various aspects of CFP Costs. 

Depending on your circumstances, you will incur a few or all of the following costs in order to become a Certified Financial Planner:

  • CFP course fees
  • CFP exam cost
  • CFP certification cost
  • CFP annual fee

The course fees and exam costs are pretty self-explanatory. But what is the cost to be certified, and what are the requirements? To be certified as a CFP, you must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Education

As part of the education requirement, the board requires you to finish a course that has been registered with them. The CFP course fees differ depending on the university you attend.

In this article, we will provide a comparison of the costs of CFP programs offered by different universities in the U.S. for your reference. You can search for a suitable program through the CFP Board’s website, too.

You must also hold at least a bachelor’s degree, though you are allowed to finish the degree after you pass the exam. It must be done within five years of passing the exam.

cfp cost-min

Image Source: CFP Cost

  • Experience

To fulfill the experience requirement, you must either have three years of experience showcasing a good understanding and competent knowledge of financial planning or two years of experience as an apprentice.

The criterion for professional experience is again divided into two parts that need to be met individually. The experience must also be met within five years of passing the exam. The apprenticeship criterion is divided into three parts that need to be fulfilled separately.

More details about experience requirements can be found on the CFP website.

  • Exam

The exam lasts seven hours in total. Yes, seven hours! After the first three hours, you will get a 40-minute break. Then you will do the next three hours of your exam. For more details and updates, you can check the board’s website.

The exam mainly has multiple choice questions with case studies for each section.  The results of the exam are said to be published in about four weeks from the close of the test window.

Once you are certified, you can enjoy an above-average annual salary: this article on Investopedia states that $102,000 is the average CFP salary in the U.S. as of in 2015. However, bear in mind that the pay will vary depending on where you work and how long you have been in the field.

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CFP Course Fees

The CFP certification cost includes the cost of the CFP Program and the cost of the CFP exam. First, let’s look at how you can choose the right program to achieve your certification. There are many CFP courses you could choose and many universities that offer such programs.

According to the board, you must consider the following questions before you choose your program.

  • What is your level of education?
  • How long does it take to finish the course?
  • Is it online or written?
  • Does the program offer internships?
  • What are the CFP course fees and what all do they include?

Below we provide details of 10 of the universities that offer courses that are registered with the board. 

University

CFP Programs

Annual Cost of CFP Program

Baylor University

Bachelor of Business Administration
Financial Planning Major

$ 30,600

Boston University

An online Certification Program and a face-to-face Certification Program

Online Accelerated Program – $5,295
Online Self-Paced Program – $3,495
Classroom Program – $ 6,365

California Lutheran University

Certification Program and MBA

MBA – $36,000
Certification Program – 13,200

Clemson University

BS in Financial Management,
Concentration on Financial Planning

South Carolina residents – $21,726
Out of state – $ 38,370

Colorado State University

BS in Business Administration with Financial Planning Concentration

Colorado resident – $ 9,313
Out of state – $25,166

DePaul University

Certification Program

$ 5,400

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Financial Planning Certificate Course

$ 5,995

Kaplan University

1 self-paced program, 1 accelerated online program and 1 face-to-face program

Accelerated and Classroom – $5,599
Self-Paced – $ 4,043

Louisiana State University

BS and MS in Finance with Financial Planning specialization

Louisiana residents – $ 3,940 per semester
Nonresidents – $ 12,899 per semester

Northwestern University

Certificate Programs

Online – $5,545 – $6,050
Classroom – $5,600 – $7,500
Live online – $2,495 – $4,295

This data was obtained from Financial-Planning.com’s 30 Great Schools for Financial Planning.

If you are interested in doing your program online, here is a list of universities you could try (again, these do not include the CFP Exam costs).

University

Cost of CFP Program – with Instructor

Cost of CFP Program – Self-Paced

Boston University

$ 5,995

$ 4,995

College for Financial Planning

$ 6,450

 –

Kaplan University

$ 5,599

$ 4,043

Texas A & M University

$ 7,795

$ 4,795

The American College of Financial Services

$ 5,250

$ 3,990

University of Georgia Terry College

$ 5,550

$ 4,550

We obtained the above data from Compare CFP.

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CFP Exam Cost and Details

Like we have mentioned earlier, the CFP Certification cost includes your CFP course fees and your CFP exam fees. The cost of the CFP exam depends on when you apply for it. The usual CFP exam cost is $695.

However, you can apply up to six weeks before the date. If you do that, your cost would be $595. If you apply during the last two weeks before the date, then your CFP exam fees would come up to $795.

The exam has 170 multiple choice questions in total. You can also change your answers and make corrections within the time frame of the exam. It is a computer-based exam. Paper and pencil exams are no longer provided.

Image Source: CFP Cost

Candidates are required to fix a 7-hour appointment. The seven hours include your exam and the time required to verify your IDs and other required procedures. According to the website, the current exam period is July 26 to July 30, and the final period in 2016 will be from November 15 to November 19.

Again, if you cannot appear for the exam on your fixed date, you will not get a refund of your CFP exam fees. Only under medical emergencies may you get a refund, and even that requires documents as proof. You can check the board’s FAQ page for more details on this.

You are allowed to change your date and venue in advance though. If you do it a month before, you can do it free of charge. From 29 days to five days before the exam, you will need to pay an additional $100 for this. You cannot change venues or dates less than five days before your exam.

You are able to attempt CFP exam up to five times in total. If you fail for one exam, you must wait till the next testing window to appear for it again.

Below are the details of the CFP exam costs.

CFP Exam Cost

Standard cost

Early registration

Late Registration

$ 695

$ 595

$ 795

Change of Schedule

30 days earlier

29 days – 5 days

Less than 5 days

No charges

$ 100

Not allowed

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Gaining Experience

The CFP cost does not include experience. This is the third requirement that needs to be met along with your exam and education. You must either work or be an apprentice to gain this experience.

According to Financial Samurai, if you fulfill any of the following, you can directly take the exam:

  • If you have a CPA License
  • If you are an Attorney
  • If you have a Ph.D. in Economics or Business
  • If you are a Doctor of Business Administration
  • If you are a CFA
  • If you are a CLU
  • If you are a Chartered Financial Consultant

In these situations, you would only need to pay the CFP exam cost. If you do not fall into one of the above categories, your options are work experience or apprenticeship.

If you are working, then you need three years of full-time experience or 6,000 hours of experience. This means that you are allowed to work part-time, provided you gain the said hours of experience.

Experience that you gained more than 10 years before you take the exam is not counted. At the same time, experience gained five years after your exam is not valid either. The board also says that the work you do must involve direct support or actual performance of financial planning work to a client.

It is not necessary that you get paid for this; you just need to be providing the service as a qualified professional financial planner.

As an apprentice, you must have 4,000 hours or two years’ experience. Even here you must have provided the financial planning service directly to a client. The difference is that here it should be under the supervision of a professional financial planner.

Once you submit your experience details for verification, it may take up to 20 working days for it to be processed.

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CFP Cost Calculation

You may need to opt for a bachelor’s degree if you don’t have one already, though a simple certification would be enough to qualify you to appear for the exam. In this, case you would not incur much expense.

 The CFP certification costs, as we have seen above, range between $2,000 to $6,000. Therefore adding the CFP exam fees, your total expenditure would be less than $10,000 in order to get certified.

In addition, you can get exempted from a few units if you have been to classes that cover topics listed as part of the CFP exam. For this, you will have to provide a course description and syllabus along with a $100 fee to the board.

You will then only have to cover the units that you did not do in your previous course. This will help reduce your CFP course fees to an extent, too.


Other Expenses

After all three requirements are met, you must complete the following steps:

  • Complete the CFP Certification Application
  • Provide the application fee
  • Provide the initial certification fee (after the initial fee, this simply becomes part of the CFP annual fee)

The application fee comes up to $125 and the certification fee is calculated based on the $325 CFP annual fee. All these steps should be complete within six months of completing your experience requirement. More details are available in the CFP board’s website.

To sum up, here is a table showing the breakup of the total CFP cost, including the CFP course fees, the CFP exam cost, and the CFP certification cost. The course fees are estimated based on the details of universities we have provided in this article. These may vary if you choose one that is not mentioned here.

CFP Cost

With Degree

Without Degree

CFP Course Fees

$0

$6,000 – $4,0000

CFP Certification Cost

$2,000 – $6,000

$2,000 – $6,000

CFP Exam Fees

$ 695

$ 695

CFP Application Fee

$ 125

$ 125

CFP Initial Certification Fee

Prorated based on CFP Annual Fee

Prorated based on CFP Annual Fee

CFP Annual Fee

$325

$325

Early Applications

CFP Exam Fees

$595

$595

Late Applications

CFP Exam Fee

$795

$795

Change of Exam Schedule

Schedule Change Fee

$100

$100

Again, if you have taken your exam before completing the education requirement, you must complete it by the verification deadline. If you do not, then you will be charged an additional $100 as a withdrawal fee, and your seat will be provided to another candidate.

Those are all the details you will need to become a Certified Financial Planner. For more details and to apply for the exam, you must visit the CFP Board website. Good luck in your financial planning career!

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