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Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist – Definition

Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist Definition

An accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist (PFS) refers to a qualified Certified Public Accountant, who assists clients to make informed financial decisions and also manage their finances in an organized manner.

It is important to note that the PFS is only available to those individuals who are CPA holders from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).  The PFS certification is awarded by the AICPA where an individual is subjected to a thorough financial planning examination – an exam that a candidate must pass in order to qualify for PFS certification.

A Little More on What is Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist

The main work of a Financial Personal Specialist is to assess clients’ financial status and advise accordingly. For instance, the FPS can evaluate a client’s financial management history. From the evaluation results, the PFS is able to advise the client on areas that he or she needs to improve on as well as a new recommendation plan to help the client achieve his or her financial goals.

In addition, the PFS can carry out reviews regularly to ensure that the client’s revised financial plan is progressing as planned. In other words, he or she keeps track of the client’s financial management to ensure that finances are being managed as per the laid out plan.

Note that although the PFS can propose investment options to a client, the final decision solely lies with the client or with the party entrusted to make decisions on behalf of the client such as a broker. In other words, the FPS does not execute the investment strategies but he or she recommends the financial planning process.

How to Become a Financial Planning Specialist 

If you wish to become a financial planning specialist, it is mandatory that you complete personal financial planning (PFP) course. The credentials for the PFP course is created by a body known as the PFP Division staff within the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

The National Accreditation Commission, and the personal financial specialist credential committee are also key players in the PFP course administration. Meaning that each one of them has a crucial role as far as this course is concerned.

These bodies are mandated to assess a CPA candidate suitability in terms of experience as well as technical skills to see if he or she qualifies to obtain the PFP certification.

What PFP Course Covers 

When you decide to take the Personal Financial Planning (PFP) course, you will be able to acquire knowledge in the following areas:

  • Estate planning
  • Investment planning
  • Insurance planning including risk management
  • Income tax planning
  • Employee benefit planning
  • Retirement planning
  • General financial management and planning.

PFP Course Requirements/Eligibility

According to AICPA, there are different categories of requirements that a candidate is required to meet so as to be eligible for the PFP certification. The requirements range from experience, education, and ethics. They are as follows:


Experience Requirements


As a  PFS applicant you  must meet the following work experience requirements:

  • Possess a minimum of two years of business experience or full-time tutoring experience. An equivalent of this would be for you to complete 3000 hours of personal financial planning. All this should be within the five years prior to CPA or PFS application.
  • You must have a financial planning experience of not less than 3 years.
  • You must have work experience from 12 areas which consist of the PFP Body of Knowledge.
  • You must have a maximum of 1,000 hours of work experience in tax compliance. Note that this can count for the total time required for work experience.
  • As an applicant, you must have engaged in the following financial planning responsibilities as part of the work experience requirement:
    • Assessed and evaluated the client’s financial status.
    • Gathered client’s data and goals
    • Developed and presented a financial plan and alternative plans for achieving financial goals
    • Monitored financial planning recommendations
    • Defined and established client’s relation


Education Requirements


There are educational requirements that you must meet to be able to qualify for a Personal Financial Planning course. They include the following:

  • You must have a Bachelors’ degree in any faculty from a recognized college or university or obtain the degree within 5-years of completing Credited Financial Planning (CFP) exams.
  • You must meet the required threshold of being a CPA. In other words, you must be a qualified Certified Public Accountant.
  • You must earn not less than 75 hours of personal financial planning education within the five-year period prior to the date of applying for PFS.
  • Also, as PFS specialist, you must meet a 60-hours continuing professional education

Ethical Requirements

According to the Certified Finance Planning Board, there are professional standard conducts that guide CFPs while executing their duties. One must be able to abide by, and upheld some of the provided ethical procedures so as to qualify for PFS credentials. An individual must demonstrate his or her capability to adhere to the following ethical procedures:

  • Code of ethics
  • Professional rules of conduct
  • Disciplinary rules
  • Practice standards

Also, as an individual, you must demonstrate the ability to uphold the following principles to be able to qualify for a CFP certification:

  • Integrity
  • Competence
  • Objectivity
  • Fairness
  • Professionalism
  • Confidentiality
  • Diligence

Note that the ethics fulfillment requirement is only done after one has done and passed the financial planning exam. Ethics requirement is, therefore, the last step that you must go through and pass so that you can get the FPS certification.

In order to assess the ethical suitability of the PFS applicant, the candidate is taken through a Fitness Standards for Candidates and Registrants test. Through this, an individual’s ethical suitability is then determined and if one passes, then he or she qualifies to become the PFS.


Other Requirements


A CPA candidate is also expected to meet the following additional requirements:

  • Must be an AICP registered member.
  • Hold an unrevoked CPA certification which is given by a legal state authority.
  • Must pay an annual fee so as to maintain the designation.

Credited Financial Specialist Credential Exemptions

There are exemptions that apply to CFP certification. If you are a CPA holder who has certifications, designations or degree in any of the following areas, you may be exempted from doing accredited Financial Planner (CFP) exam as the other qualifications automatically qualify you to become PFS:

PFP Credential Application

Applicants can apply for the CFP credential only after he or she has fulfilled all of the mentioned requirements. This is an online course and, therefore, applicants can log online in order to complete the application.

Also, during the process of application, you will be required to pay for an application fee worth $100 and an annual certification fee worth $325. When through with the application, you will wait for the board’s approval. For feedback on the application status, the applicant is contacted through the postal mail.

Continuing Education Requirements

To be able to maintain your CFP certification, you must pay a fee worth $325 every two years.

You are also required to report a continued education covering 30 hours every two years. The 30-hour continued education has to include:

  • 2-hours of Continued education from CFP Board-approved program on ethics and professional standards.
  • 28-hours accepted subjects for continued education.
  • Acquire continuing education credit when you do live presentations, self-study programs, college course, completing professional licenses including exams, and working as a trainer or speaker.

Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Exam 

The PFP exam is made up of 160 questions. Half of the exam questions are standalone and are accompanied by multiple-choice. The remaining questions consist of short case scenarios with 2-5 multiple-choice questions, and finally, longer case scenarios which are followed by 12-18 questions with multiple-choice.

Before the exam administration, three short tutorial video featuring mock exam sessions. Exam is done electronically using a computer. The exam time allocation is five hours including a 30 minutes break. After the application is filed, a candidate is then provided with exam dates.

However, note that to be able to be awarded the PFS certification and to receive recommendations, you must pass all the exam requirements as specified in the course outline.

Benefits of Taking a PFS Certification

Personal Financial Planning Specialist credential has the following advantages to the holder:

  • When you become accredited PFS, you will earn the right to use a PFS designation attached to your name. This will you to help to easily secure well-paying job opportunities as the credential adds credibility to your professional reputation.

Available Job Opportunities for a Qualified PFS

If you are a qualified FPS, you can be guaranteed job openings in the following areas:

  • Consulting firms
  • Accounting firms
  • Self-employment. Instead of being employed, with a PFS qualification, you can as well open your own firm and become a consultant.

Reference for “Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist”






Academic Research on “Accredited Personal Financial Planning Specialist”

Personal financial planning education in Australian universities, Cowen, J. E., Blair, W. T., & Taylor, S. M. (2006). Personal financial planning education in Australian universities. Financial Services Review, 15(1), 43. Personal financial planning in Australia is drawing interest from a wide range of groups including consumers, regulators, the financial services industry, accountants, and educators. This paper reflects on the development of the Australian financial planning industry, focusing on its historical background and the relevant regulatory environment. This article then provides a descriptive analysis of the availability of dedicated financial planning courses currently available in Australian universities at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The Australian findings suggest the existence of considerable research opportunities to study professionalism in financial planning and the fundamental role that education plays in this process.

Personal financial planning attitudes: a preliminary study of graduate students, Murphy, D. S., & Yetmar, S. (2010). Personal financial planning attitudes: a preliminary study of graduate students. Management Research Review, 33(8), 811-817.

Integration of Professional Certification Examinations with the Financial Planning Curriculum: Increasing Efficiency, Motivation, and Professional Success., Goetz, J. W., Zhu, D., Hampton, V. L., Chatterjee, S., & Salter, J. (2011). Integration of Professional Certification Examinations with the Financial Planning Curriculum: Increasing Efficiency, Motivation, and Professional Success. American Journal of Business Education, 4(3), 35-46. This article provides a theoretical-based rationale and plan of action for educational programs to encourage and create opportunities for the integration of course study with professional exam preparation, while highlighting the complementary benefits for students, academic programs, and the financial services profession. Serving primarily as a model for faculty associated with university-based financial planning education, this article also provides a foundation for future research in this area. In addition, the article presents descriptive information on select designations and licenses currently available that finance and financial planning students could pursue concurrently with coursework.

Does AICPA accreditation of nonaudit services add value? The case of personal financial planning, Mauldin, D. S., Wilder, M., & Stocks, M. H. (2000). Does AICPA accreditation of nonaudit services add value? The case of personal financial planning. Accounting Horizons, 14(1), 49-67. The AICPA has taken the position that accreditation of CPAs in specific areas of practice is an important aspect of repositioning the CPA profession for the future. The AICPA currently offers two designations exclusively to CPAs, one of which is the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation. However, the issue of accrediting CPAs by granting official AICPA designations is a complex and highly debated issue with opposing sides having compelling arguments supporting their positions. CPAs and other professionals specializing in personal financial planning have opportunities to obtain designations other than the PFS. This paper examines the relative value of these alternative options for financial planners. Specifically, the research was designed to examine the differential effects of alternative financial‐planning accreditations on users’ perceptions. These perceptions relate to various professional attributes of a financial planner such as their knowledge and expertise, objectivity, and level of trust and ethics possessed. In addition, these perceptions relate to fees charged and the influence that the designation has on the public’s choice of a financial planner. Our results indicate that the CPA designation used in conjunction with the PFS designation is generally perceived to signal a higher level of professional attributes than the other designations examined in the study. In addition, a CPA with a PFS designation has a significantly greater influence on the public’s choice of a financial planner than do the other designations. These results suggest that important benefits may accrue to CPAs from holding the PFS specialty accreditation.

planner, Goodman, M., & Malin, S. (2013). planner.

Costs and benefits of APFS accreditation, Donelan, J. G., & Elsea, J. E. (1992). Costs and benefits of APFS accreditation. The CPA Journal, 62(2), 67

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