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How to Become a Financial Planner

Working as a financial planner, you can guide people on how to overcome debt in the short term and also lay out a plan to optimize savings for the future. However, a financial planner needs to have the right qualifications and experience to help clients successfully meet their retirement, estate, and investment planning goals.

The demand for financial planners in the future is projected to go up in several countries including the United States. This growth is mainly because people have recognized the advantages that a personal financial planner provides, and have come to value the customized plans that they create. Therefore, people are increasingly consulting financial planners when saving for their retirement, paying their taxes, or buying insurance.

Since financial planning is also a highly lucrative career, many people are choosing to become Certified Financial Planners these days.

With the right qualifications and certifications, this can be quite an attractive option for people looking to build an independent career. 

In this article, we look at: 

  • What does a Financial Planner do?
  • Certificates and Educational Qualifications Required to Become a Financial Planner
  • Procedure to Become a Certified Financial Planner

Let’s take a look!

  • What does a Financial Planner do?

A financial planner’s role is only slightly different from that of a financial advisor and various other similarly-named jobs. Financial planners go a step beyond advising by charting out detailed financial plans for their clients. Typically, a financial planner examines the current situation of a client and then makes customised plans to help them achieve their goals. The things they take into account while creating plans for clients include current and projected income, credit score and status, market rates, and economic projections.

Using these plans, clients can save for their retirement, buy a house or set up a college fund for a child. Getting help from a financial planner is especially handy when you’re looking to make long-term plans related to finances and savings. Financial planners help people to make the best savings and investment choices to meet their goals. Additionally, they also provide tips for people who are struggling to keep to a budget and deal with debt.

Certificates and Educational Qualifications Required to Become a Financial Planner

There are two ways in which you can work as a financial planner: independently or as an employee for someone else. The requirements change drastically depending on the kind of work you choose to do.

As an independent financial planner, you don’t need any particular degree or certification. What you need is a portfolio to prove that you can do successful financial planning. You can use your personal connections to earn your first few clients and thereafter, use their references to get work as a financial planner. 

If you’re looking to work for an employer, though, you will need to get the relevant certifications and educational qualifications. In an increasingly competitive world, you can find jobs more easily if you have a college degree. Ideally, you should get a bachelor's or master’s degree in economics, mathematics or finance. Since there is no specific degree that financial planners need to have, there are many who make do with degrees in business management or accounting.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the certification you can get to become a Certified Financial Planner.

Procedure to Become A Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

A Certified Financial Planner is one who has been issued a certificate in financial planning by the CFP Board of Standards, Inc. To get this certification, you have to complete the course and pass the exam conducted by this board. This is the most popular certification among financial planners in America, however, a number of other courses offer a certificate in financial planning as well. The CFP certification from the Board of Standards remains the most credible of them all.

It usually takes about a year to 18 months for an average person to do the CFP Board’s course and get certified. But passing the exam is not all it takes to become a CFP. You need to achieve the 4 ‘E’s, as per the Board’s requirements. Here are the four ‘E’s in detail:


There are two parts to this. One is the completion of coursework prescribed by a Board Registered Program, and the other is holding a bachelor’s degree or higher in any discipline. If you don’t already have a bachelor’s degree when you take the CFP exam, you must get one within five years of getting certified.


The CFP Exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that you can attempt to answer in two sessions of three hours each in one day. The exam has three types of questions, i.e. stand-alone questions, scenario-based questions, and case study-based questions. You can take this Exam in March, July, or November. The scoring and passing criteria are regularly updated, so please ensure that you are up-to-date on these before your attempt.


To get the CFP certification, you need to have worked in the field of financial planning either or indirectly. You need to report at least 6,000 hours of work experience in engaging with clients directly, or in supporting or supervising the financial planning process directly.  Alternatively, you can report 4,000 hours of apprenticeship in the financial planning field. This includes a wide variety of activities such as internships, participation in the FPA Residency Program, and teaching financial planning courses. 

You need to have completed this experience requirements within ten years before taking the exam or within five years after doing so.


Just as it is with doctors and lawyers, CFPs are also held to a high ethical standard. The CFP Board will conduct a thorough background check to ascertain whether your moral conduct with respect to financial matters is good enough to ensure that you will fulfill your fiduciary responsibilities as a CFP. In addition to this, you will also need to sign a declaration committing to adhere to a given code of ethics followed by all CFPs.

Wrap Up

While you can work as a financial planner without getting any certifications, there are many advantages to becoming a Certified Financial Planner. For example, CFPs registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission can sell securities to clients and earn commissions on the same. Getting a CFP certification also makes you more credible and reliable as a financial planner. To get this certification, you have to complete the four ‘E’s prescribed by the CFP Board of Standards: education, exam, experience, and ethics. While this may be a complicated process, the results are worth the time and effort you put into it.