Qualified Associate Financial Planner (QAFP™) or Certified Financial Planner (CFP®): Know the Basics

In January 2020, the CFP certification programs changed (read our summary of changes here). 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.

This post will also summarize the key differences between being a QAFP versus a CFP: since consumers are becoming savvier about financial planning and are asking for credentials before choosing to work with someone, it is important for you to review your individual goals and successfully plan to complete a program path that meets your goals.

Please note that Ashton’s CFP Core Curriculum provides the coursework required for obtaining a QAFP and/or a CFP.

FP Canada and Its Role

FP Canada is the body that certifies financial planners and provides standards, education, tools and resources for financial planners across the country. FP Canada’s website contains a wealth of information, regarding the steps necessary to obtain a QAFP or A CFP Certification, and the varying paths to achieve this.  For instance, in order to obtain your CFP, your path may go through the QAFP certification process or may be direct through the CFP program.

Qualified Associate Financial Planner (QAFP): 

The QAFP program and designation prepares financial planners for less complex client needs while the CFP program provides financial planners with the ability to work with clients at all levels of complexity. Successfully obtaining the QAFP certification shows that a financial planner is “skilled, knowledgeable and committed to the highest ethical standards of responsibility, and has demonstrated the knowledge, skills, experience and ethics to provide holistic financial planning strategies and solutions for average Canadians with typical financial planning needs” (source: https://fpcanada.ca/certifications/qafp-certification).

Obtaining a QAFP designation generally takes less time and work experience than a CFP.

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. The QAFP designation presents a certification option for financial planners wishing to serve a broad market, or for those wishing to gain recognition of their qualifications and professionalism along the path to CFP certification. QAFP professionals empower Canadians to access the professional financial planning advice they need, and play an important role in helping their clients begin their financial journey with confidence.

Ashton College offers the Core Curriculum required for obtaining your QAFP Certification.

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 (ex: Ashton’s Core Curriculum courses and 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 (also see “Three Paths to CFP” below). Following earning the QAFP, the financial planner will need to complete the other required CFP courses, take the CFP exam and then apply for CFP certification.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP):

A Certified Financial Planner designation is one of the most recognized titles in the financial services industry. 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.

CFP professionals demonstrate the knowledge, skills, experience and ethics to examine their clients’ entire financial picture, at the highest level of complexity required of the profession, and work with their clients to build a solid, life-long financial plan.

It’s also important to know that to keep the CFP certification, CFPs must complete annual continuing education and follow FP Canada standards of professional responsibility and the code of ethics.

Three Paths to CFP – Brief Summary:

Due to the extensive requirements, FP Canada outlines three paths towards a CFP Certification:

Ashton College offers the Core Curriculum required for obtaining your CFP Certification directly.

Regardless of Your Path…

Ashton College is an FP Canada accredited post-secondary institution that offers CFP courses through professional, industry-experienced instructors to ensure students learn about real-world situations during their coursework. 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.

The journey towards becoming a QAFP or a CFP is an extremely worthwhile one, as it allows you to help others create a brighter and better financial future. By choosing the right education path for your personal study style, taking time to do your best with education components and preparing for the certification exams, you’ll be well on your way towards the certification of your choice.

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