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Free CFP Ethics CE Courses


Certified financial planners (CFP®) are subject to continuing education requirements in order to maintain their certification. Specifically, they’re required to complete 30 hours of continuing education each reporting period, which includes two hours of study in the area of ethics. CFP professionals can complete the requirements by taking paid or free courses online. If you’re specifically looking for free CFP ethics continuing education (CE) resources, here’s how to potentially find them.

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CFP Board Ethics Continuing Education Requirements

The CFP Board requires CFP professionals to complete continuing education in the area of ethics for each two-year reporting period. The CE requirement takes effect upon certification or after the 12th month following the successful completion of the CFP exam, whichever occurs first.

CFPs must complete 30 hours of instruction altogether, including two hours of CFP Board Code of Ethics continuing education. The ethics requirement is in addition to 28 hours of hours of general continuing education in at least on of the board’s principal knowledge topics:

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

The hours must be earned during the reporting period and ethics programs must be approved by the CFP Board in order for them to be eligible for CE credit.

CFP professionals can choose to satisfy the requirements through in-person attendance or self-study programs, as long as they’re CFP Board-approved. Credits earned through approved CE sponsors are reported to the CFP Board as they’re earned.

CFP Ethics CE Free Resources

Obtaining a CFP certification can be costly, as you may need to purchase study prep courses or materials. And of course, you also have to pay the CFP exam fee. While there are CFP scholarships available, those can be difficult to obtain.

The CFP Board offers an online search tool that you can use to find continuing education courses, though these typically require you to pay a fee. If you’re interested in completing credit hours for little or no money, here are several option you might try:


Vanguard offers CE credits at no cost to financial professionals in partnership with Quest. According to the Vanguard website, resources are focused on investing and financial planning. However, it may be worth creating an account to explore all of the course options, including those focused on ethics, available for satisfying continuing education requirements.

RIA Custodians

If you work for a registered investment advisor, you might be able to find free CFP CE ethics courses or other continuing education credits offered through your firm’s custodian. RIA custodians are responsible for holding client funds and securities on behalf of registered advisors. If you’re able to contact your firm’s custodian, they may be able to tell you whether any free continuing education courses or resources are available.


BlackRock offers CFP continuing education courses and resources online for financial professionals. You’ll need to register for an account through the BlackRock Advisor Hub to access the latest course offerings. Courses use a “watch and answer questions” format. Current course listings do not specifically mention ethics CE, but this could still be a useful resource for completing your continuing education requirements at no cost.

Check Your Benefits

You can also ask your employer if they offer access to free continuing education courses or reimbursement for taking paid courses. Your benefits package might include those kinds of perks, which can help with reducing the expense of maintaining your CFP certification each reporting period.

Financial Advisor Magazines

Publications directed toward financial advisors can be another resource for unlocking free or low-cost access to CE ethics courses. For example, Advisor Perspectives offers access to free CE ethics training to financial professionals who enroll in a Premium membership. While you’ll pay an annual fee for membership, continuing education resources and other valuable benefits are included at no additional cost. If you subscribe to any financial advisor magazines or are thinking of picking up a subscription or two, it may be worthwhile to see if access to CE courses might be included.

Why Is Ethics CE Required for Certified Financial Planners?

The CFP Board imposes continuing education requirements to ensure that financial planning professionals are up to date on the latest regulations, standards and trends in the industry. Ethics is part of continuing education requirements as a commitment to ethical standards is central to the Board’s mission.

Under the Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct, financial planning professionals must:

  • Act with honesty, integrity, competence and diligence
  • Act in the client’s best interests
  • Exercise due care in meeting client needs
  • Avoid or disclose and manage conflicts of interest
  • Maintain confidentiality and protect client information
  • Act in a manner that reflects positively on the financial planning profession and CFP certification

The ethics CE requirement is designed to reinforce those ideas and ensure that CFPs are adhering to industry guidelines. That ties into the CFP’s role as a fiduciary.

Fiduciaries are held to a higher ethical standard and have a duty of loyalty to their clients, as well as a duty of care and a duty to follow client instructions. CFPs must put the interests of their clients first, act prudently at all times and comply with the wishes and instructions of their clients in order to fulfill their fiduciary role.

Finding Affordable CE Courses for Ethics and General Education

CFP students puzzling over a complicated ethics question

Free CFP ethics courses are hard to come by, though you may be able to find them using some of the options mentioned above. If you’re unable to find a good free course or program for completing your ethics CE requirement, however, you may need to consider spending some money to obtain the necessary credits.

There are a few ways that you might go about doing that, including:

If you’re not sure where to look to find CE courses in ethics or other areas, here are a few websites that you might find useful.

  • CFP Board (filter for “Ethics” in the Topics menu)
  • WebCE (choose “CFP” under License or Certification)
  • Quest CE

You can use these sites to search for continuing education courses, workshops and seminars that satisfy CFP Board requirements. When comparing course options, it’s helpful to look at the number of credit hours earned, the course format, how long it will take you to complete it and the cost.

It’s possible to find CE ethics courses for under $20 online but some courses can carry steeper fees. If you’re attending a workshop or conference to satisfy CE requirements, the cost may be significantly higher when you factor in registration fees and travel expenses.

All of that might sound daunting but it’s important that you don’t neglect your continuing education requirements. Waiting until the last minute can be problematic, as some courses may take longer to complete than others.

If you need to free up time in your schedule to devote to continuing education, consider what you can automate or outsource. If you’re spending a lot of time prospecting, for example, you might use an online lead generation tool like SmartAsset AMP to bring clients to you instead.

Bottom Line

CFP instructor explaining to a student some key ethics principles

Keeping up with continuing education requirements is an important responsibility for certified financial planner (CFP®) professionals. Knowing where to find approved courses or programs can keep you from scrambling to meet your credit hours at the last minute. It can make your life a lot easier every time the requirement rolls around.

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