If you are considering a career in asset management or financial advising, one significant decision awaiting you is whether to pursue the Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) or the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.
While both pathways have their merits, the best option for you will largely be influenced by your current position, where you see your career heading in the future, and the time you can dedicate to these qualifications. In this AAMS vs CFP article, we will explore the intricacies of both the AAMS and CFP designations to help you pinpoint the one that will best cater to your needs and aspirations.
What’s the Difference?
Before you can consider either of these qualifications against your career goals, you must first understand what each of them entails.
What is an AAMS
The AAMS designation, awarded by the College for Financial Planning (CFFP), aims to equip financial professionals with the knowledge necessary to help clients achieve their financial goals with investments and asset management.
Here are some key details about the AAMS designation:
- Scope: Although the AAMS designation’s educational modules cover a range of topics (e.g., insurance, taxation, retirement, and estate planning), they mainly focus on teaching students how to identify new investment opportunities and provide clients with more comprehensive advice on asset management
- Duration: Once enrolled, candidates have four months in which to complete the self-study educational program and pass the final exam. Taught entirely through the CFFP’s online platform, this program enables candidates to complete it at a pace that suits them
- Career Prospects: Financial professionals holding an AAMS certification have numerous prestigious careers available to them, often working as client relationship managers, personal financial advisors, investment counselors, registered investment consultants, or authorized representatives
All in all, the AAMS designation suits those who are new to financial planning or planners transitioning from other areas of the financial industry. It prepares advisors to deal effectively with clients, focusing on long-term asset management and personal financial planning.
Recommended Study Materials
Interested in starting your AAMS studies? We recommend having a look at Kaplan’s in-depth study materials.
Alternatively, check out our in-depth AAMS Certification article.
What is the CFP?
The CFP designation, awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board), is an extremely rigorous and difficult qualification to obtain because it specifically certifies an individual’s ability to offer all-encompassing financial planning advice.
This is an important distinction between CFPs and other financial advisors who don’t need to pass any sort of licensing exam in order to offer guidance. Instead, other financial advisors often only take a licensing exam that allows them to buy and sell securities on someone else’s behalf.
Here are some key details about the CFP designation:
- Scope: The CFP designation’s educational program sharply focuses on teaching candidates how to provide holistic financial planning across a range of common needs, such as insurance, retirement, tax, and retirement planning
- Duration: Becoming a CFP is a long-term commitment that requires candidates to devote 4,000 to 6,000 hours of their time across several years. In addition, they must complete ongoing education after qualifying in order to maintain this designation
- Career Prospects: Widely considered the gold standard in the industry, the CFP designation can open a number of doors in the finance industry. This could mean finding a job at a large bank, specializing in a financial planning niche, or even moving into the academic field as a professor or researcher — whatever you prefer
- Fiduciary Duty: One of the most distinguishing factors of the CFP designation is its emphasis on fiduciary responsibility. All CFPs must act in their clients’ best interests. This requires them to adhere to the duties of loyalty and care as well as to follow their clients’ instructions, as outlined by the CFP Board
If you’re considering a career as a CFP, give yourself the best headstart possible as you pursue this professional designation by investing in high-quality study resources.
Interested in starting your CFP studies? We recommend having a look at Kaplan’s in-depth study materials.
For more information, check out our CFP Certification article.
Both the AAMS and the CFP designations have specific requirements you must satisfy in order to obtain these credentials. Below, you’ll find a summary of the specific requirements for each designation.
While there are no prerequisites in order to become an AAMS, you’ll need to meet certain educational, examination, and ethical requirements.
Educational and Examination Requirements
All candidates must enroll in the AAMS designation’s self-study program. This program includes 10 modules that cover various aspects of asset management — from investments and insurance to taxation, retirement, and estate planning.
At the end of the AAMS educational program, candidates must pass a three-hour final exam. This exam has 80 questions and requires a minimum score of 70% to pass. The questions test candidates’ knowledge and understanding of the course material, making rigorous preparation essential.
After obtaining the AAMS designation, these professionals must take some additional steps to gain authorization to use this designation. These include:
- Committing to a Code of Ethics: All candidates must comply with the AAMS Standards of Professional Conduct. This ethical commitment ensures each AAMS adheres to high standards of professional conduct, which enhances their credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of clients and employers
- Completing Continuing Education (CE) Courses and Paying Renewal Fees: After successfully earning the AAMS designation, finance professionals must complete 16 hours of CE credits every two years and pay a $95 renewal fee
Becoming an AAMS might not require as much time as some other qualifications, such as the CFP designation, but it does offer targeted education and skills development in the field of asset and risk management. For those particularly interested in this area of specialization, it can provide the knowledge and credibility needed to excel within this sector of financial planning.
Just like with the AAMS designation, candidates must meet certain requirements in order to become a CFP.
Educational and Examination Requirements
All CFP candidates must complete a comprehensive financial planning curriculum at a college or university registered with the CFP Board. This should cover a range of topics, including retirement, insurance, investments, and taxation. In addition, they’ll need to obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution within five years of passing the CFP exam.
After completing this course, candidates must take and pass the CFP exam. This is a one-day, 170-question test that evaluates candidates’ ability to apply financial planning knowledge in real-life situations.
Candidates also must accumulate 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience to qualify for the CFP designation.
However, the journey doesn’t end here because all CFPs must complete certain additional steps to retain their CFP designation.
In order to continue using the letters CFP after their names, CFPs must satisfy the following post-qualification requirements:
- Committing to a Code of Ethics: All candidates must commit to upholding the CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct, which involves adhering to principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism, and diligence
- Completing CE Courses and Paying Renewal Fees: After earning the CFP designation, CFPs must complete 30 hours of CE courses every two years and pay a renewal fee
Becoming a CFP professional can be more time-consuming than earning some other financial credentials, such as the AAMS designation. However, the CFP qualification can equip you with the knowledge and credibility you’ll need in order to excel in the sphere of financial planning. That can make it well worth the effort, depending on your future goals.
Which Qualification is Better for You?
Deciding between pursuing the AAMS and CFP designation can depend on a number of factors, such as your career aspirations and personal interests. Below, you’ll find a few of the most important factors to consider when making this decision.
An AAMS mainly concentrates on asset management, including investments, portfolio management, and estate planning. This designation can lead to a variety of roles, including financial planners, registered investment advisors, or client relationship managers.
CFPs, on the other hand, typically focus on financial planning, wealth management, and personal finance consulting. The CFP designation can lead to positions as a financial advisor, estate planner, or retirement specialist.
If you have a limited budget, the AAMS designation likely is the better choice because it typically costs around $1,375. This includes on-demand professional designation classes, textbooks, module quizzes, practice exams, and the cost of the final exam.
In contrast, the study materials for the CFP designation cost between $599 and $2,195 (if you go with a premium provider). You’ll also need to allocate an additional $925 for the final exam.
All in all, you should consider what roles and financial sectors align with your preferences and how each of these designations could help you achieve your professional ambitions in order to make the best choice for you.
If you’re interested in learning more about both qualifications, visit Kaplan Financial’s wealth management page.
AAMS vs CFP FAQ
Does the AAMS designation count toward the CFP designation?
Earning the AAMS designation can contribute to your CFP certification because you’ll receive a credit for module FP511 in the CFP course when you pass the AAMS exam. However, this doesn’t replace the comprehensive educational, examination, and experience requirements for the full CFP certification.
Is the AAMS designation worth it?
The AAMS certification is valuable for professionals who focus on asset allocation and personal finance because it can improve their job opportunities, professional reputation, and compensation in these fields. Ultimately, though, it’ll depend on your career goals and the specific financial services you aim to provide.
What is the hardest financial designation?
The perceived difficulty of obtaining a financial designation varies by individual and their career goals. However, financial professionals often cite the chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation as one of the most challenging due to its extensive curriculum and three levels of rigorous exams.
Is the AAMS designation easier to earn than the CFP designation?
The AAMS designation focuses on the asset management process and requires a self-study program as well as a single exam. The CFP designation, on the other hand, requires a broader curriculum, a comprehensive exam, and specific work experience. Therefore, candidates typically consider the AAMS designation as less demanding than the CFP designation. For a more in-depth comparison, see our AAMS vs. CFP article.