In the world of financial planning, two certifications often stand out when it comes to career advancement — the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and the Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Since both of these titles demonstrate expertise and credibility, it is important to be aware of the crucial differences between them in order to decide which one aligns more with your needs.
In order to help you make this decision, this ChFC vs. CFP will explore the differences between these two qualifications, covering everything from educational requirements to career opportunities.
What’s the Difference?
The ChFC and the CFP serve slightly different niches within the financial planning landscape, which we’ve explored in greater detail below.
What is the CFP
The CFP is a globally-respected designation ideal for individuals seeking the ability to provide comprehensive financial planning strategies across many aspects of personal finance.
Below, we’ve summarized some of the most important information about this designation to be aware of:
- Curriculum: The CFP’s curriculum is robust and well-rounded, covering areas like risk management, retirement planning, tax planning, and insurance planning. Unlike the ChFC, it places a strong emphasis on ethics, requiring professionals to adhere to a strict code of conduct
- Examination: All candidates are required to sit the comprehensive CFP Board exam, which tests your overall grasp of financial planning. This examination style also means that you’ll need to have a holistic understanding of all the subject areas covered as part of the course
- Career Opportunities: The CFP is particularly useful for those who wish to offer generalized financial planning services. It’s a well-recognized designation in multiple countries, and many firms consider it a staple qualification for hiring financial planners
- Costs: The cost of becoming a CFP generally ranges from $2,000 to $3,000. This sum includes course fees, CFP exam fees, and study materials. Just like the ChFC, extra expenses may come from additional preparatory courses or resources
That being said, the CFP’s far more stringent educational requirements make it essential for students to complete significant preparation in order to pass. Investing in reputable study materials is one of the best ways to ensure you’re adequately prepared.
Recommended Study Materials
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.
What is the ChFC?
The ChFC designation is aimed at professionals wanting to offer specialized financial advisory services that deal with more complex issues going beyond general financial planning.
We’ve included some key information regarding this designation you need to be aware of below:
- Curriculum: The ChFC curriculum is intensive, focusing on areas like income taxation, retirement planning, and estate planning before delving deeper into topics relating to wealth accumulation and preservation. The program also often incorporates case studies and real-world scenarios to enhance learning
- Examination: Unlike the CFP, you’re not required to sit a comprehensive final exam for the ChFC. Instead, you’ll undergo multiple-choice exams for each course module — which makes the examination process more segmented and allows you to focus on one subject area at a time
- Career Opportunities: As a ChFC, you are positioned to offer specialized services, especially in areas like tax planning, estate conservation, and insurance. This makes it an ideal fit for individuals aiming to provide consultancy services that require in-depth knowledge of these domains
- Costs: Including the costs of the courses, textbooks, and exam fees, preparing for ChFC could set you back around $2,500 to $3,500. The total cost might even exceed this figure if you decide to take any prep courses in the lead-up to the ChFC
While the ChFC is a highly valued certification for specialized financial advice, candidates must undergo significant preparation in order to pass its eight mandatory exams. To ensure you’re prepared and stand the best chance of passing these on your first attempt, investing in quality study resources is essential.
Recommended Study Materials
Interested in starting your ChFC studies? We recommend having a look at the American College of Financial Services’s website.
Alternatively, you can have a look at our in-depth ChFC Designation article.
Before jumping into either certification, it’s important to understand what you’re committing to. Here are the crucial elements you’ll need to consider for each certification:
The certification for Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFC) certification is more lenient when it comes to educational prerequisites but is still rigorous in its examination process.
- Educational Requirements: A high school diploma coupled with three years of full-time business experience is enough to get you into the ChFC program. It does not necessitate a college degree, making it more accessible for some
- Examinations: The ChFC program is divided into eight courses, each having its individual exam. These courses cover an array of financial topics, ranging from investments to insurance
- Continuing Education: To maintain the designation, 30 hours of continuing education are required every two years. This ensures that you stay current with changes in the financial landscape
Completing eight different courses and passing the exams for each adds depth to your skill set, making you highly specialized in areas like tax planning and estate management.
The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation has stricter educational prerequisites, although this often grants license-holders greater prestige, especially in the eyes of clients:
- Educational Requirements: The first stepping stone for the CFP is a bachelor’s degree in any field. This educational background lays a strong foundation for the comprehensive coursework ahead
- Examinations: After completing all required courses, you have to pass a comprehensive exam that tests you on all aspects of financial planning. This exam ensures a well-rounded grasp of the financial planning sphere
- Continuing Education: Similar to the ChFC, the CFP also requires 30 hours of continuing education every two years. This commitment keeps your knowledge updated and relevant
The CFP is an all-encompassing certification ideal for those looking to provide a broad range of services in financial planning and consulting. Despite having more stringent educational requirements, it is perhaps more widely recognized and can grant financial advisors an edge in terms of prestige.
Understanding these requirements can guide you in choosing the certification that aligns best with your career goals and educational background. Both certifications are demanding but offer substantial rewards in terms of skill set, marketability, and career growth.
Which Qualification is Better for You?
The right certification depends on your career goals, the services you want to provide, and the type of clients you want to work with. Here are some points to consider:
- Depth vs Breadth: The ChFC provides deeper specialization, while the CFP offers a broader range of knowledge
- Exam Style: Consider whether you prefer multiple smaller exams (ChFC) or a single comprehensive one (CFP)
- Cost: Both certifications are roughly in the same price range, but it’s essential to factor in any additional study materials or courses
In summary, if you wish to offer a broad array of services and want a well-recognized credential, the CFP might be the right choice. On the other hand, if you’re interested in specialized topics like tax and estate planning, the ChFC could better suit your career path.
To make the most informed decision, evaluate your career goals and the needs of your potential clients. Either certification can give you a significant edge in the personal financial planning industry, so choose the one that aligns best with your professional aspirations.
If you are interested in having a look at a variety of qualifications, we recommend checking out Kaplan Financial’s Wealth Management page.
ChFC vs. CFP FAQ
Is ChFC as good as CFP?
The terms “good” or “better” depend on your career objectives and the type of financial planning services you wish to offer. The CFP provides a more holistic overview of a broader range of topics. Contrastingly, the ChFC is more specialized, focusing on topics like tax planning and estate conservation. For more information, see our ChFC Designation page.
Which is easier CFP or ChFC?
The difficulty level of either certification can be subjective and depends on your personal strengths and educational background. The ChFC has a choice-based exam for each of its eight courses but doesn’t require a comprehensive final exam. By contrast, the CFP certification requires a single, comprehensive board exam covering all course material. It may be beneficial to consider your test-taking preferences when choosing between the two.
Can I become a ChFC if I already have a CFP?
Yes, you can become a ChFC even if you already hold a CFP Certification. Some financial professionals obtain both certifications to broaden their skill set and marketability. Having both designations may also demonstrate a commitment to comprehensive and specialized financial planning, which is often more appealing to clients.
What is the difference between CFP and ChFC?
Although both are prestigious designations, they serve slightly different purposes. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standard’s CFP has a broad-based approach covering various aspects of financial planning, while the ChFC focuses on specialized financial planning needs like tax planning and estate conservation. For more information on the differences between these two designations, see our ChFC vs. CFP article.
What is the hardest financial designation?
The difficulty of a financial designation is subjective as it depends on factors such as prior education, financial industry experience, and the individual’s affinity for test-taking. However, many consider designations like Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) to be among the most challenging due to the rigor of the exam and the breadth of knowledge required.