Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a license regulated by states. CPA’s must obtain relevant experience and pass a uniform exam taken after meeting post-secondary education requirements. They must also commit to lifelong learning and adhere to a strict Code of Professional Conduct that requires competence, objectivity, integrity, and independence. I’ll never forget taking the 19-hour, two-and-a-half-day exam the week before graduation from Adams State. I was licensed in 1985.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) is not a license per se but certificate holders are allowed to use the trademark by passing a uniform exam and meeting experience requirements. CFP’s must also meet on-going education requirements and adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. As a CPA, I was qualified to sit for the exam, but opted to first complete a five-part program with exams offered by The College for Financial Planning. I subsequently passed the 10-hour, two-day exam in 1998.
Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) is a trademark administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is very similar to a CFP in that it requires an exam, education, and experience. I met the examination requirement by being a CFP. I satisfied the 3,000 hours (in last five years) of financial planning experience requirement in 2022.