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A Certified Financial Planner designation is one of the most recognized titles in the financial services industry. Everyone has heard of a financial planner and many often (falsely) assume that the term refers to an individual who has taken a certified financial planner course and successfully fulfilled the other requirements to achieve certification as a result.
However, not everyone who calls themselves a financial planner is actually a certified financial planner. Some individuals have never taken, let alone completed, a CFP course. Fortunately, consumers are becoming savvier about financial planning and are asking for credentials before choosing to work with someone. Therefore, taking a certified financial planner course and successfully completing the program is continuing to grow in importance.
For those who want to help others with their financial future, knowing what the process entails is important before embarking on the first steps or enrolling in a CFP course.
In January, the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) certification programs changed. If you’ve been considering taking a certified financial planner course to work towards your CFP certification it’s important to know how the new structure of the CFP process will establish your path forward and the choices available to you to reach a CFP designation.
Understanding FP Canada and its programs
There are several ways to earn CFP certification according to FP Canada, the body that certifies financial planners and provides standards, education, tools and resources for financial planners across the country. Find the organization, and answers to many certification questions, at fpcanada.ca. The paths to become a certified financial planner may go through the QAFP (Qualified Associate Financial Planner) certification process or may be direct through the CFP program.
The QAFP program and designation is designed to prepare financial planners for less complex client needs while the CFP program will provide financial planners with the ability to work with clients at all levels of complexity. Additionally, QAFP designations will require a post-secondary diploma while a CFP will require a bachelor’s degree or higher (a post-secondary degree) to obtain certification as of April 2022. It is important to keep in mind that if you start along the path for QAFP but decide you want to pursue CFP designation, there is a “bridge path” noted below that will make this possible.
The steps to become a CFP
To gain CFP certification, there is an education program (which is quite extensive and is broken into four separate segments – core curriculum, professional ethics, advanced curriculum and professional education), a national exam and three years of qualifying experience. It’s also important to know that to keep the certification, CFPs must complete annual continuing education and follow FP Canada standards of professional responsibility and the code of ethics.
The FP Canada Professional Ethics program can be taken simultaneously with the core curriculum program, before or after it. However, both programs must be completed prior to taking the FP Canada Approved Advanced Curriculum program.
A number of FP Canada accredited post-secondary institutions offer certified financial planner courses. Schools like deliver the program through professional, industry-experienced instructors to ensure students learn about real-world situations in their certified financial planner course. Plus, because this education is available through Ashton’s LIVE Online education platform, classes are accepting new students all the time in order to provide a robust online education experience from just about anywhere a student may be.
Many of the education institutions that offer one CFP course will also offer the other required education programs. This helps to ensure continuity for students in that they don’t have to learn a new campus or online platform for each new program. They will also likely have some of the same instructors and/or students in the subsequent programs allowing them to build on the relationships they previously established.
The steps to become a QAFP
To become a QAFP, candidates need a minimum of one year of qualified work experience, the required education program (core curriculum, professional ethics) and to pass the national exam. Maintaining the QFP designation also requires yearly continuing education and adherence to the FP Canada standards and ethics.
Those who earn the QAFP may choose to work towards the CFP. FP Canada calls this the QAFP Bridge Path to CFP. Following earning the QAFP, the financial planner will need to complete the other required CFP courses, take the CFP exam and apply for CFP certification.
A third path to become a CFP
There is a third route to earning a CFP designation. This is known as the alternate paths method and builds on previously earned qualifications and designations so that the financial planner can skip over certain parts of the certified financial planner course work depending upon their background.
For example, those with a Pl. Fin. (financial planning program designation in Quebec), are able to proceed directly to the CFP exam. Those with CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Fellow of the FCIA (Fellow, Canadian Institute of Actuaries) or other FP Canada outlined designations may skip the first two course requirements and proceed to the CFP Professional Education Program. Finally, a foreign CFP professional must complete the Introduction to Professional Ethics before they can proceed to the CFP exam.
Additionally, other types of designations such as a mutual funds licence or PFP (Professional Financial Planner) designation will allow those working towards their CFP to skip parts of the certified financial planner course work as well. It’s important to check the FP Canada site to find out where your previous education and financial credentials will fit within the overall CFP education program.
The journey to becoming a CFP can be a lengthy one, but it is extremely worthwhile when it comes to helping others create a brighter and better financial future and earning the well-known Certified Financial Planner designation. By choosing the right education institution for your personal study style, taking time to do your best with education components and preparing for the exam, you’ll be well on your way to CFP certification.
Read Our Other Blog: You Can Work Towards Your CFP with CFP Courses Online