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Earning Your CFP® Certification

The process of earning CFP® certification consists of four steps intended to make sure that those who obtain certification have met the competency and ethical standards necessary to use the CFP® certification marks.

Step 1: Complete the Education Requirements

Before you sit for the CFP® exam, you will need to satisfy the education coursework requirement that makes certain you have a firm understanding of financial planning fundamentals. There are two ways to fulfill the necessary education requirement.

First, complete the required coursework.

You can do this by participating in UT Chattanooga's Executive Certificate in Finanical Planning Program which is CFP® Board-approved and meets the education requirements. 

Second, if you hold one of the following credentials, you can apply for what is called Challenge Status:

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

Challenge Status candidates only need to take a financial plan development capstone course or meet the Capstone alternative requirement. Learn more at CFP.net/education#challenge.

A bachelor's degree or its equivalent in any discipline from an accredited college or university is a requirement for initial certification; it is not a requirement to sit for the CFP® exam.

Step 2: Pass the CFP® Exam

Once you have completed the education coursework requirement, you can then register to take the CFP® exam. The exam measures your critical thinking and problem solving skills.

The CFP® exam is a 6-hour, pass/fail exam that is administered three times a year in March, July and November at more than 265 Prometric test sites nationwide. The exam registration pricing ranges from $595 to $795, with best pricing by the Early Bird deadline 6 weeks ahead of the exam. You can complete your application for the exam online at CFP.net/exam.

Though not required, many candidates for CFP® certification find review courses are helpful in preparing for the exam. Information about review courses is available at previewcourses.net or through education providers.

Step 3: Meet the Experienced Requirement

CFP® certification indicates to the public your ability to provide financial planning unsupervised, and CFP Board requires you to have 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process, or 4,000 hours of Apprenticeship experience that meets additional requirements.

CFP Board recognizes the variety of situations and circumstances in which people participate in the financial planning process and has developed an experience requirement to recognize the depth and breadth of the profession.

Whether you engage with clients directly, supervise or support the financial planning process, teach financial-planning related courses, or participate in internships or the FPA Residency Program, there are many paths to completing the experience requirement.

Experience can be reported to CFP Board at any time through the Experience Reporting Profile, available in your online account by clicking on the Experience section of your Certification Tracker. You will also be able to review previously submitted entries, refresh hours for your current position and add new experience.

*Note that you can sit for the CFP® exam before you have completed the experience requirement for certification. *

Additional details about the experience requirement are available at CFP.net/experience.

Step 4: Pass Fitness Standards and Background Check

You will be asked to disclose your background information as part of the certification process. CFP Board established specific character and fitness standards for candidates for CFP® certification to ensure that an individual's prior conduct would not reflect adversely upon the profession. Any civil or criminal conviction, revocation of a professional license, or governmental or self-regulatory agency proceeding or inquiry may disqualify you from CFP® professional eligibility.