Intro: How To Become A Certified Financial Planner

Maybe you have a mind for numbers and math. Maybe finances interest you and make sense in your brain. Or maybe you have a desire to help others understand money in the way you do. Becoming a certified financial planner may seem like the perfect next step in your career path.

But you may also be wondering how to become a certified financial planner. What steps must you take? Could you even qualifiy? What does the process look like?

To answer all your questions, we made a simple and easy-to-follow guide that will give you every detail you need to gain your own certified financial planner certification.

Keep in mind that this article is not only for those who desire to join the field. This information can also be important for those who want to hire a certified financial planner. If you are worried about licensing or curious about the steps your planner took to obtain a financial planner license, read on.

how to become a certified financial planner

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What Do Certified Financial Planners Do?

The short answer: they help people with their money. When you become a certified financial planner, you are fully prepared to help people make decisions when it comes to financial decisions such as:

  • Creating financial plans and goals
  • Choosing the correct investments
  • Planning for retirement
  • Assessing current financial states
  • Monitoring progress
  • Suggesting smart financial moves

Financial planners may have the reputation of only serving the wealthy, but they offer immense benefits to everybody who needs some guidance when it comes to financial matters.

This is why a financial planner’s license is so important. It shows they have gone through a process that confirms they are ready to provide unsupervised information to the public.

How To Become a Certified Financial Planner: The Basics

Dealing with other people’s finances is an enormous responsibility. Clients will have worked their whole lives to earn their money, and they are trusting you to help them plan its use successfully.

With a responsibility this great, high standards are required.

To ensure that the public receives financial planners who deal with their money properly and intelligently, the financial planning field is highly regulated. While anybody can suggest they know how to be a financial planner, only those who go through the certification process can be insured to the public.

What Is the CFP Board?

Certified financial planning is supervised and regulated by the CFP (Certified Financial Planning) Board. Going through the CFP Board is how to become a certified finanical planner.

This is a non-profit organization that exists solely to ensure financial planners are well-educated and ethical. They monitor all certified financial planner certifications. The CFP Board follows the “four E’s” to ensure that all financial planners are capable: education, examination, experience, and ethics.

The CFP Board both creates and enforces the standards that keep the public safe from scam artists and criminals. This allows the public to choose a professional worry-free.

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Becoming a Financial Planner: 4 Necessary Steps

Before you obtain your official certified financial planner certification, you need to meet a certain set of criteria. Then, you must complete all the mandatory requirements. If you are wondering how to become a financial planner, these are the actions you must take.

The entire process can easily be broken down into four necessary steps.

Step 1: Complete Your Education

To become a certified financial planner, proper education is an important standard that is enforced vigorously. You will need to focus on these two required areas of education and training.

  • Bachelor’s Degree

The first education requirement for a certified financial planner certification is earning a bachelor’s degree. You need not have majored in any particular financial field. Any discipline is fine as long as you have finished your entire bachelor’s degree program.

The CFP certification process will not accept any exceptions or equivilances for this education requirement. However, on the road to becoming a finanical planner, you can take your certification examination prior to receiving your bachelor’s degree. Later, you will have to show proof of completion by mailing in your official transcript.

  • CFP Courses

The second education reqirement is completing accredited, college-level instruction at a CFP-approved program. These courses will cover all the necessary personal financial planning information you will need to become a certified financial planner.

Sometimes the classes you have already taken in a degree program will be accepted as CFP courses. A transcript review through the CFP Board will determine whether or not you qualify for this allowance.

Step 2: Take The Certification Exam

Once you have gone through the education requirements, the next step to becoming a financial planner is to take the CFP Certification Examination at a location near you. There are over 260 sites throughout the United States to choose from for your convenience.

The exam is offered three times a year. Each time offers five different date options for the 7-hour exam. You are encouraged to apply for the exam early, as it is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

According to, the test has two 3-hour sessions and a forty-minute break. Expect to be there the entire day. The initial results will be given to you after you are done. The finalized and reviewed results will be given to you at a later time.

The exam is the most expensive part when becoming a financial planner. Currently, the cost of the exam is broken down in this way:

  • Early Bird Fee: $595
  • Standard Fee: $695
  • Late Registration Fee: $795

how to become a financial planner

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Getting Ready For The Certification Exam

Knowing how to become a financial planner is one thing. Knowing how to take the exam is another.

You will be tested on all matters to show your competency in the area of personal finance. Do not expect to pass this exam easily if you are unprepared. In 2013, only a little over 60% of the test takers passed the test.

The CFP Board provides free online sample tests for practice. There are also quite a few exam review courses throughout the country that will prep you for your exam for a fee. Some of the courses offer their lessons online, so you can conveniently study for your exam anywhere.

To mentally prepare for the test, know that it is a computer-based exam. There are 170 multiple-choice questions that can be both stand-alone and scenario-based.

Step 3: Satisfy The Experience Requirement

Even after education and examination, not every person will understand how to be a financial planner once they are put in real life situations. This is why the CFP Board has a substantial experience requirement.

The basic requirements dictate that you either should have had “three years full-time professional experience related to the financial planning process, or two years of apprenticeship experience that meets additional requirements,” according to the CFP website.

There are many different ways that you can qualify for the experience requirement. The only real goal is to learn how to become a certified financial planner with hands-on experience. This on-the-job experience must have occurred no more than ten years before the date you take your examination.

  • Full-time Professional Experience

This option has countless ways of qualification. Professional experience could include, but isn’t limited to, working for an investment firm, performing financial audits, working with insurance companies, banking, etc. Some internships can be included as experience toward teaching you how to become a certified financial planner.

  • Apprenticeship

This option allows you to work directly under a certified financial planner. Since you are experiencing the exact job first-hand, the process is faster. It allows you to finish one year earlier than the professional experience option.

Step 4: Pass A Background Check

Since certified financial planners deal with the public’s money and hold the responsibility of advising with honesty and integrity, becoming a financial planner requires a high level of ethics.

To become a certified financial planner, you must past a comprehensive background check in order to move on toward certification.

Felony convictions of violent crimes within the past five years — rape, murder, and, of course, financial crimes — will automatically prevent anyone from passing the ethics portion of the certification process.

Beyond that background check, you also must agree to the CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct, their Disciplinary Rules and Procedures, and their Code of Ethics and Planning Standards.

Financial Planner License: Continued Certification

Once you have finally received your certified financial planner certification, you are not necessarily done with the whole process forever. To maintain high standards, the CFP Board has continued certification requirements.

  • Annual Fee

Each year you will be required to pay $325 to the CFP Board in order to maintain your financial planner license.

  • Application

Every two years, you will have to resubmit your application to the CFP Board.

  • Continuing Education

Every two years, you are also required to fulfill 30 hours of continuing education approved by the CFP Board. You can choose which continuing education courses you would like to take, but make sure to double check that they are pre-approved. This way you do not waste your time and money.

Certified Financial Planner Certification: Next Steps

The steps you need to take to become a certified financial planner depend upon where you land amount the four basic steps. Perhaps you will need to finish your degree or begin working at a CFP-approved job to gain your experience.

The CFP Board has a helpful guide that will walk you through whatever step of the process you find yourself in.  You can download the PDF booklet on their website.

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Why Become a Certified Financial Planner?

There is no doubt about it: the process of obtaining a certified financial planner certification is not an easy one. It requires dedication and a willingness to be patient as you learn everything required of you.

However, if you become a certified financial planner, you receive many benefits as well in this respected career path. According to Investopedia, the average certified financial planner made $105,000 in 2015. This is over double the average income.

This is a career path that has stayed in demand even through the Great Recession. At a time when money matters become strained, more professionals than ever turn to their financial planners for guidance. You can make a difference in the lives of those who are stressed and worried about their money situations.

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Is Becoming a Financial Planner Right For Me?

Now that you know how to become a financial planner, you will have to decide whether ot not it will be the right fit for your career path. Sure, taking the time to be properly certified by the CFP Board may be a large time investment. You will also have to pay some money before you begin making money.

But if learning how to become a certified financial planner excites you, this may be the perfect path for you. Once you find yourself interested in this field and feel passionate about helping others with their finances, you should not think twice about getting certified.

You will enter the finance world backed by those trusty three letters after your last name: CFP. That will have an immeasurable benefit to your career and to the many people you will help make their financial dreams a reality.

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