General Introduction

Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) help people with a range of financial services, from large-scale financial advisement as investment bankers, stock brokers, and Chief Financial Officers, to small-scale personal financial planning as retirement counselors, insurance managers, and estate planners. With laws and statutes that govern the financial responsibilities of private citizens, companies, and public organizations in a constant state of flux, today’s CFP needs to have a keen sense of their need to adapt to an ever-changing profession. This is especially true when economic and financial reform are being discussed at the highest levels of governance. In times like these, Certified Financial Planners will be in high demand, because they are some of the most qualified professionals to not only ensure that clients are meeting their financial goals as changes occur to the old system, but also that the movers, shakers, and decision-makers are developing a new system that takes their clients into consideration.

So the future is bright for anyone who aspires to become a Certified Financial Planner, a career path for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 30% job growth between 2014-2024. Jobs await them in literally every industry, because every industry has companies and organizations, and every organization or company has investment strategies that a CFP can work to improve. And because the work of a CFP is never finished—that is, because a Certified Financial Planner’s work is highly specialized and personalized, not to mention dependant upon human variables such as client needs and financial laws that change regularly—it is unlikely the profession will be hurt badly by automation, something which is an unfortunate possibility for financial jobs that don’t require as much specialization or human interaction as the CFP.

Salary Information

According to a lead authority on investment planning, the median salary for individuals who earn their Certified Financial Planning (CFP) license is above average, not to mention a contributing factor to the high job satisfaction reported by Certified Financial Planners. Other leading authorities, such as PayScale stake the median salary of their CFPs at $66,348, a number based on 731 individuals reporting throughout the United States. Still others, like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, report a median salary of $90,530, but specifically for CFPs with the job title of Personal Financial Advisor. As with all professions, the amount an individual with the requisite qualifications will make depends upon a number of variables, including geographic location, job title, and years of experience. However, it should be noted that on the high end of all CFP salary reports (i.e., the top 25%), most salaries reported are well-above the $100,000 mark.


In order to perform their jobs on a day-to-day basis, Certified Financial Planners need to have mastered basic skillsets in mathematics, organization, planning, and personal and public finance. Because CFPs work within the service industry known as “assurance services,” they generally have the goal of providing specialized financial information to key decision-makers in order to assure they make the most informed decisions regarding their finances. That also means CFPs should have good people skills, since they will very likely be interacting with the clients whom they serve on a regular basis.

On a more technical level, CFPs should also be comfortable with the most common financial advising software used in the industry, such as MoneyGuidePro, NaviPlan Select, and Money Tree, as well as be aware of new paperless trends in the profession, such as using cloud-based financial planning software, providing online forms to clients, and asking for e-signatures. In other words, rather than worrying about being replaced by technology, today’s CFP should be working to master it.

And now for the intangibles. There are certain character traits a CFP should have that are difficult to find and replace, such as the ability to keep a secret under any circumstances in order to protect client confidentiality, as well as the desire to learn something new every day to remain both certified and in compliance with the law. CFPs should also have a high degree of patience for sifting through clients’ sometimes poorly kept financial records, as well as for dealing with the legal hurdles to wealth protection in the most ethical way possible.

Job Description

The job description of a Certified Financial Planner will vary depending on area of finance in which they’d like to specialize. Some of the most common areas of specialization for CFPs are investment planning, risk management and insurance planning, retirement planning, tax planning, estate planning, and cash flow and liability management, areas which, if chosen during a degree program that is ultimately completed, can earn them private sector jobs with mutual companies, insurance companies, and big banks. But many CFPs also work for themselves and with individual clients as personal financial and family planners.

But speaking in the broadest possible terms, every CFP will be expected to carry out the responsibility of ensuring that the organization or individual for which they work is taking steps to avoid bankruptcy, protect its investments, comply with the laws that govern its finances, and maximize revenue from all its sources of income.

Necessary Education and Experience

In order to become an authorized CFP who can use the designation in their job title, prospective financial planners should strive to accomplish the following four goals:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education.
  • Sit for and pass the CFP Board Certification Examination.
  • Gain work experience as a certified financial planner
  • Demonstrate adherence to the CFP Board Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, as well as the Financial Planning Practice Standards.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) ask the CFPs they certify upon examination to have three years’ full-time work experience in one or more of 6 areas: Establishing and Defining the Client Relationship, Gathering Client Data and Goals, Analyzing and Evaluating the Client’s Financial Status, Developing and Presenting Financial Planning Recommendations and Alternatives, Implementing the Financial Planning Recommendations, and Monitoring the Financial Planning Recommendations.

In addition, two years of full-time work experience as an apprentice, while under the supervision of an authorized CFP professional, and a focus on practicing within all six of these areas of financial planning may also be accepted in order for prospective CFPs to be authorized after they pass the CFP Exam. Certified Financial Plannerants should also plan to take part in and complete continuing education courses on a regular basis in order to maintain their licensure.

Helpful Resources

You can start your journey to become a Certified Financial Plannerant (CFP) through a number of accounting bachelor’s degree programs, all of which can prepare students to sit for the CFP Exam. There are also a number of associate’s degree programs, which can often help prospective CFPs reach their educational goals at less cost.

For an overall perspective of accounting, as well as your educational path to success in this field, see our Accounting FAQ Section. On our homepage, you’ll also find features and infographics on fraud and tax scams, tax loopholes, and other topics relevant to CFPs and the financial planning profession.

If you want to go all the way to ensure you get your CFP license, see our ranking of the best master’s degrees in accounting to maximize your likelihood of both sitting for and passing the CFP Exam.

Below, you’ll find a list of the most important professional organizations for CFPs to become familiar with, as well as a directory to find the degree program that best suits your accounting career goals: