In our recruiting business, we are often asked about the timing of when newer planners should take the CFP exam. The short answer is, as soon as possible. What used to be a differentiator is quickly becoming a pre-requisite for client facing associate level positions at the top firms across the country. Most of the firms we work with are looking for a candidate who is a CFP® Professional or that has made substantial progress in obtaining the certification.
New College Grads
If you graduated from a CFP Board registered financial planning program, you should plan to take the exam within two exam cycles from when you graduated. So, May grads, if you aren’t taking the exam in July you should be preparing for the November exam. If you think that’s too soon, realize some of your peers were offered a CFP® exam prep course as a spring semester class through their university and took the exam in March and passed!
We often talk with candidates who did not graduate from a CFP Board registered financial planning program. When asked when they plan to enroll in a program, the most common response is, “I want to wait to see where I end up in case the firm is willing to cover the costs.” Although, the truth in some cases, that is not what top firms are wanting to hear. Firms are looking for candidates who take initiative. Get started on the coursework as soon as possible. Remember, you’re competing with people who completed the education requirement through their undergraduate program.
Start the coursework as soon as you decide you want to get into financial planning. Again, firms are looking for candidates who take initiative. If you have finished the coursework before you are able to find a position in the industry, take the exam. Make sure you give yourself adequate time to prepare – 2-3 months depending on how much time you have to devote to studying each week.
The bottom line is that you are much more marketable to employers from a skill and credibility standpoint, and much less risky to employers from a commitment to the industry standpoint if you take and pass the CFP exam early on in your financial planning career tenure.
Planners already in the industry
If you have already completed the education requirement, sign up for an exam prep course and take the exam as soon as you can. If you haven’t, enroll in a program now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just get started. You could be sending mixed signals to potential employers about your commitment to your career and the profession if you are a few years in and have not taken the CFP exam.
Here are the most common excuses we hear for delaying the process.
- The firm I worked for didn’t encourage me to pursue the designation. Neither did the firm Charlotte Jacobs worked for, but she did it anyway. In addition to candidates pursuing the CFP certification, our clients are interested in people who have a sense of urgency and well above average initiative.
- I can’t use the credential until I have the experience, so it doesn’t matter when I take it. True, but if you want to find a new position within those three years, you need to have passed the exam to get the best position and competitive compensation. You can also be positioned more effectively, with current and prospective clients. Clients see you differently if the senior planner can tell them you have passed the exam.
- The designation isn’t necessary for the work that I am doing right now. If your end goal is to be a financial planner, you’ll need the designation to be a top candidate when you start looking for a new position. Furthermore, the CFP® certification has emerged as the leading credential for financial planners.
- My firm doesn’t cover the costs of the coursework/exam prep course/exam. Refer back to the first bullet point. Charlotte’s firm didn’t either, you just have to make it happen. Adjust your budget, apply for a scholarship (hello, New Planner Recruiting offers one), make short-term sacrifices. You’re a financial planner. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen 😊
We want you to find your ideal position at a firm that is a great fit for you beyond anything you can imagine so don’t procrastinate, get started now! Remember you can get a job without being enrolled in the CFP® coursework or passing the CFP® exam, but it will be so much easier to hit the ground running in your new gig if you already have those things knocked out. So, this summer, while things are slow, we are challenging you to take the first step. When you do, share it with us on twitter or LinkedIn. We would love to encourage you along the way!
If you would like some tips, strategies, and hints on passing the CFP exam, we encourage you to visit our website to download your free guide.
To Your Success,
The New Planner Recruiting Team