If you’re torn between a career in wealth management or financial planning, you’ll likely find yourself faced with the decision between pursuing the accredited wealth management advisor (AWMA) and the certified financial planner (CFP) designations.
While both of these reputable credentials can prove valuable, the best choice for you will vary based on your specific career goals, current position, and the time you have available to invest in your professional development.
This AWMA vs CFP article will help you understand the key differences between these two certifications and, ultimately, decide which is a better fit for your career.
What’s the Difference?
Before you can decide which of these professional credentials will suit you best, you first need to understand how they differ.
What is the AWMA
Awarded by the College for Financial Planning (CFFP), the AWMA designation is a comprehensive qualification that specifically certifies an individual’s ability to manage the financial complexities of high-net-worth individuals.
Here are some key facts about the AWMA designation:
- Scope: It focuses on specialized wealth management services, including advanced investment planning, tax planning for high-net-worth individuals, and fiduciary and regulatory issues
- Duration: Becoming an AWMA doesn’t require as much time as some other qualifications like the CFP designation. Passing the final exam will, however, still require a rigorous educational program of dedicated study over a period of two to three months
- Career Prospects: It’s highly respected within the industry — particularly among firms that specialize in wealth management services. Having this designation can pave the way to prestigious positions in boutique wealth management firms, banks, or even your own consultancy
If you’re considering a career that requires the AWMA designation, investing in high-quality study resources can give you the best chance of success.
Recommended Study Materials
Interested in starting your AWMA studies? We recommend Kaplan’s in-depth study materials.
Alternatively, check out our in-depth AWMA Designation article.
What is the CFP
Awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board), the CFP designation is an extremely rigorous qualification that certifies an individual’s ability to offer all-encompassing financial planning advice.
Here are some key facts about the CFP designation:
- Scope: It focuses on teaching candidates how to provide holistic financial planning across a range of common needs, such as insurance, retirement, investment, and tax planning.
- Duration: Becoming a CFP is a long-term commitment that requires candidates to invest between 4,000 and 6,000 hours over the course of several years. After qualification, CFPs also must complete continuing education courses in order to maintain this credential.
- Career Prospects: Because the finance industry considers the CFP designation as a gold standard, obtaining it can open a number of career opportunities. 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, adhering to the duties of loyalty and care as well as following client instructions outlined by the CFP Board.
If you’re considering a career that requires the CFP designation, give yourself the best head start possible by investing in high-quality study resources.
Recommended Study Materials
Interested in starting your CFP studies? We recommend Kaplan’s in-depth study materials.
For more information, check out our CFP Certification article.
Both the AWMA and the CFP designations have specific requirements you must satisfy in order to obtain them. Below, you’ll find a summary of these requirements.
In order to work as an AWMA, you’ll need to satisfy three main requirements:
- Education: Candidates must complete a specialized wealth management curriculum approved by the CFFP. This curriculum should cover various facets of wealth management, such as portfolio assessment, estate planning, and retirement strategies. While an academic degree isn’t explicitly required, it can help strengthen your credentials
- Examination: Candidates must pass the AWMA exam — a computer-based test with around 145 multiple-choice questions. It’ll evaluate your comprehension of wealth management topics, such as estate planning, retirement strategies, and investment management
- Experience: To qualify for the AWMA designation, candidates also must accumulate 3,000 hours of work experience in the financial services industry. You can do this either before or after passing the AWMA exam
Just like with the AWMA designation, you’ll need to meet certain requirements in order to become a CFP and maintain this professional credential. These include:
- Education: Candidates must complete a comprehensive financial planning curriculum at a college or university registered with the CFP Board. This should cover areas like retirement, insurance, investments, and taxation. In addition, candidates must earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution within five years of passing the CFP exam
- Examination: Candidates must pass the CFP exam — a one-day, 170-question test that evaluates your ability to apply financial planning knowledge in real-life situations
- Experience: Candidates also must accumulate 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience that meets certain additional requirements
Although becoming a CFP can be more time-consuming than earning the AWMA designation, it’s a great way to equip yourself with the knowledge and credibility you’ll need to excel within the financial planning sector.
Which Qualification is Better for You?
Deciding whether the AWMA or the CFP qualification is right for you depends 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.
AWMAs primarily concentrate on wealth management, which can include investment strategies, risk management, and retirement planning. This designation can lead to a variety of roles, such as a wealth management advisor, investment consultant, or private banker.
CFPs, on the other hand, provide their clients with comprehensive financial strategies that can range from wealth management and estate planning to tax planning and insurance. Some common positions CFPs may hold include financial planner, estate planner, or even an academic or researcher in the field of financial planning.
If you have a limited budget, the AWMA designation likely will be the better choice because it costs much less than obtaining the CFP designation. Its $1,375 price tag covers the cost of on-demand classes, textbooks, module quizzes, mock tests, and even the final exam.
On the other hand, CFP study materials alone can cost between $599 and $2,195 (if you go with a premium level provider). You’ll need to allocate an additional $925 for the final exam.
Ultimately, the most important factors to consider when making this decision include the roles and financial sectors that align with your personal preferences and how each of these designations can help you achieve your professional ambitions.
If you’re interested in having a look at both qualifications, check out Kaplan Financial’s Wealth Management page.
AWMA vs. CFP FAQ
Does an AWMA certification count toward a CFP certification?
Earning the AWMA designation can contribute to your CFP certification because you’ll receive a credit for one CFP module — FP513 Investment Planning — when you pass the AWMA exam. For more information regarding the rest of the CFP certification process, check out our article on this subject.
Is the AWMA designation worth it?
The AWMA designation is a specialized certification focused on wealth management, making it ideal for those looking to concentrate on investment strategies, risk management, and retirement planning. As a highly respected qualification within the finance industry, it’s certainly worth considering if you’re interested in specializing in any of these areas.
Which is better: the AWMA or the CFP designation?
While neither designation is universally better for everyone, they each have their own specific focuses and advantages. The CFP qualification covers broader financial planning areas (e.g., taxation, estate planning, and insurance) while the AWMA qualification concentrates on wealth management. For a more in-depth look at the differences between these two qualifications, check out our AWMA vs. CFP article.
What does the AWMA designation mean in finance?
The AWMA designation is a professional credential for financial advisors and consultants who complete a course of study and pass an exam focusing on key areas of wealth management (e.g., investment risk, asset allocation, and retirement planning).
How long do you need to study for the AWMA exam?
The time needed to study for the AWMA designation exam can vary, depending on your prior experience and knowledge. However, most candidates typically spend between 80 and 120 hours preparing for this exam. As a best practice, give yourself at least two to three months of focused study to prepare adequately.