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CFP® Accelerated Path: Everything Advisors Should Know


Certified Financial Planner™ must meet education, experience, ethics and exam requirements to obtain certification. Financial professionals with a degree and at least three years of experience may choose the CFP® accelerated path to expedite the process. Following the accelerated plan allows you to bypass much of the coursework required to earn a CFP® mark, though it may not be appropriate for every financial advisor.

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What Is the CFP® Accelerated Path?

The CFP® Accelerated Path allows financial professionals to sit for the CFP® exam without completing the coursework requirements typically associated with CFP® certification. Advisors who choose this path can substitute their professional experience and knowledge to satisfy the education prong of the CFP® certification requirements.

Ordinarily, CFP® candidates are required to complete coursework spanning eight principal knowledge domains:

  • Professional conduct and regulation
  • General principles of financial planning
  • Risk management and insurance planning
  • Investment planning
  • Tax planning
  • Retirement savings and income planning
  • Estate planning
  • Psychology of financial planning

Candidates are tested on the knowledge they’ve acquired in each of these areas on the CFP® exam.

Qualifying for the CFP® Accelerated Path

The CFP® Board allows financial professionals who hold certain designations to pursue accelerated certification. You’re eligible if you hold any of the following credentials:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

You also qualify if you’re a licensed attorney, have a CFP® certification from outside the U.S. through a CFP® Board affiliate, have a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree, or have a Ph.D. in financial planning, finance, business administration or economics.

CFP® Accelerated Path Requirements

If you believe you qualify for the Accelerated Path, you’ll need to verify your eligibility with the CFP® Board.

If you believe you qualify for the Accelerated Path, you’ll need to verify your eligibility with the CFP® Board. You’ll need to create a CFP® Board account and submit documentation of your credentials or degrees. Your credentials determine the type of documentation you’ll need, but may include:

  • Official transcripts
  • Copies of professional licenses
  • Letters of completion

Once you verify your eligibility, you’ll need to complete the CFP® Capstone course through a Board Registered program. The 45-hour Capstone course is designed to put your financial planning knowledge, skills and abilities to work.

All Accelerated Path candidates are required to complete the Capstone course or a Capstone Alternative. The Capstone Alternative allows you to forgo the 45 hours of instruction and move directly to developing a financial plan.

You’ll need to apply for the Capstone Alternative and meet eligibility requirements to qualify. They include holding one of the above-mentioned credentials and satisfying the experience requirement for CFP® certification.

The CFP® Board offers two pathways for earning experience hours:

  • Apprentice Pathway (4,000 hours)
  • Standard Pathway (6,000 hours)

You must meet this requirement to complete the Accelerated Path, whether you’re completing the Capstone or the Capstone Alternative.

The final steps are signing an Ethics Declaration and completing the CFP® exam. The CFP® exam is offered three times per year.

Pros and Cons of the CFP® Accelerated Path

Choosing the Accelerated Path can offer some advantages to advisors who are already working in a professional capacity.

  • You may be able to earn certification sooner since you don’t have to complete principal knowledge coursework.
  • If you’ve accumulated enough experience hours, you may qualify for the Capstone Alternative as well as the Accelerated Path, which can save additional time.
  • Being able to bypass the CFP® coursework can save money since you don’t have to pay for enrollment fees or course materials.

The primary downside of the Accelerated Path is that working as a financial professional does not guarantee that you’ll qualify. If you don’t hold an eligible credential, you’ll need to follow the regular path to CFP® certification, which can take longer to complete.

The Accelerated Path doesn’t mean you get to opt out of other certification requirements, either. You’ll still need to take the Capstone course (or Capstone Alternative), acquire the minimum number of experience hours and sit for the CFP® exam.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How fast can you get your CFP®?

The CFP® Board estimates that the typical candidate will need 18 to 24 months to earn their certification. Choosing the Accelerated Path could cut the time needed to obtain certification significantly if you already have the required number of experience hours.

How long does it take to complete the CFP® Capstone course?

The Capstone course requires 45 hours of instruction, unless you’re eligible for the Capstone Alternative. Many Board Registered Capstone courses are designed to be completed in three months or less, though the timing may be longer for others.

Is CFP® exam prep required?

CFP® candidates are not required to take exam prep courses, though it may be advisable to do so. CFP® exam prep coursework is designed to familiarize you with the content and structure of the exam. Even if you’re on the CFP® Accelerated Path, you may benefit from completing exam prep to refresh your knowledge ahead of the test.

Is earning the CFP® certification worth it?

Adding a CFP® mark to your professional designations could give you a competitive edge. According to the CFP® Board, 86% of consumers prefer to work with an advisor who has passed a certification exam and 90% view certifications as important. Earning a CFP® certification could be worth it if it helps you to attract more clients to your business.

Bottom Line

A CFP® certification could help advisors attract more clients to their business.

The CFP® Accelerated Path may be right for you if you have a degree and you’ve been practicing as an advisor for three years or more already. Reviewing the requirements and expectations can help you decide if it’s worth pursuing.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

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  • Once you’ve earned the CFP® certification, you’ll need to maintain it by meeting continuing education requirements. The CFP® Board requires you to complete 30 hours of continuing education each reporting period, including two hours of ethics continuing education. If you’re looking for CE credits, there are several ways to earn them online or offline.

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