Written by: Nik Ventouris

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When stepping into the world of financial planning, it’s essential to pursue the right professional certifications. Two significant contenders include the chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC) and the certified financial planner (CFP) designations.

These certifications — both prestigious in their own right — can open the door to distinct career paths within the world of finance. This article explores each of these designations and offers a comprehensive comparison to help you choose the one that best aligns with your career aspirations and goals.

What’s the Difference?

Before you can decide if you want to pursue either of these professional credentials, you must first understand how they differ.

What is the CRPC

The CRPC designation focuses on mastering the principles of retirement planning. These principles include understanding retirement savings, income management, and estate planning.

Because it’s much easier to obtain than more comprehensive credentials like the CFP designation, the CRPC designation can provide a simple way to stand out from other financial advisors — many of whom only possess a license to buy and sell securities on someone else’s behalf.

In fact, becoming a CRPC only requires a short commitment of around 100 hours of study before taking a final exam. Despite this, the CRPC designation remains highly regarded within the area of retirement planning. Moreover, it often can open doors to jobs in financial institutions focused on this niche as well as specialist departments within larger advisory firms.

If you’re considering a career path that requires the CRPC designation, investing in specialized study materials can give you the solid foundation you’ll need to ace the final exam.

Recommended Study Materials

Interested in starting your CRPC studies? We recommend Kaplan’s in-depth study materials.

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Alternatively, you can check out our in-depth CRPC Designation article.

What Is the CFP 

An extremely rigorous and difficult qualification to obtain, the CFP designation specifically certifies an individual’s ability to offer all-encompassing financial planning advice. In particular, it focuses on teaching candidates how to provide holistic financial planning services across a range of common needs, such as insurance, retirement, investment, and tax planning. 

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. That’s in addition to continuing education (CE) courses they must complete after qualifying in order to maintain this certification.

Due to its rigorous nature, the CFP designation represents a gold standard within the industry that can open a number of doors. Many CFPs go on to find jobs at large banks, in specialist niches of financial planning, or even in academic positions as a researcher or professor. 

One of the most distinguishing factors of the CFP designation is its emphasis on fiduciary responsibility. As a central aspect of a CFP’s professional conduct, this duty ensures they offer advice that genuinely serves their clients’ financial goals and well-being above any other interests.

If you’re considering a career path 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 having a look at Kaplan’s in-depth study materials.

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For more information, check out our CFP Certification article.

Certification Requirements

Obtaining each of these prestigious credentials will require you to meet certain prerequisites — outlined in more detail below.


CRPC candidates must satisfy three main requirements in order to obtain this designation:

  • Education: Candidates must complete a retirement planning course through the College for Financial Planning (CFFP). This course focuses on topics related to retirement planning, such as income management, estate planning, and savings strategies
  • Examination: The CRPC’s final test is a three-hour exam, consisting of 85 questions that evaluate your ability to apply retirement planning concepts in practical, real-world scenarios
  • Experience: Unlike the CFP qualification, CRPC candidates don’t need any financial planning experience in order to obtain this designation

Note: Even though satisfying all of the above requirements will allow you to obtain the CRPC designation, you’ll also need to complete certain post-qualification requirements in order to maintain this qualification.

Such requirements include:

  • Comply with a code of ethics. All candidates must agree to uphold the CFFP’s Standards of Professional Conduct, which focus on principles like integrity, objectivity, competence, and fairness
  • Complete CE courses and pay a renewal fee. CRPCs must complete 16 hours of CE credits every two years and pay a renewal fee to maintain their professional designation

All in all, becoming a CRPC can be a great choice if your career goals relate to assisting clients prepare for retirement.


Just as with the CRPC designation, you must meet certain requirements in order to become a CFP. These include:

  • Education: Earning the CFP designation will require you to complete a detailed course on financial planning at a school recognized by the CFP Board, covering topics like retirement, insurance, how to invest, and taxes. After that, you’ll also need to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a certified college within five years of passing the CFP exam
  • Examination: Candidates must pass the CFP final exam, which features two sections that each span three hours. This exam’s 170 questions will test your financial planning knowledge in real-life situations
  • Experience: Finally, all candidates must complete 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process. Alternatively, they can opt to complete 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience in which they’ll need to meet certain extra criteria

You will also need to satisfy the following post-licensing requirements in order to maintain your CFP designation:

  • Comply with a code of ethics. All candidates must agree to follow the CFP Board’s rules for professional behavior. This means always acting with honesty and fairness as well as serving your clients to the best of your ability and keeping client information private
  • Complete CE courses and pay a renewal fee. Every two years, CFPs must complete at least 30 hours of CE classes and pay a renewal fee

Although earning the CFP designation can prove more time-consuming than other professional qualifications, it’s one of the most effective ways to equip yourself with the knowledge and credibility necessary to excel in financial planning. This can make the required effort worthwhile, depending on your future goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about both qualifications, visit Kaplan Financial’s wealth management page.

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Which Qualification is Better for You?

Choosing between the CRPC or the CFP qualification can hinge on several elements, including your career goals and personal interests. Below, you’ll find the key factors to consider while navigating this decision.

Career Opportunities

Here’s a brief overview of the unique job opportunities hat each path can offer:

  • The CRPC Route: With this credential, your professional focus will center on retirement planning. Armed with this specialization, you can pursue a career as a retirement planning counselor, as a financial advisor with a focus on aiding retirees, or even as a consultant who specializes in retirement benefits
  • The CFP Route: On the flip side, pursuing the CFP designation will grant you the latitude to explore a broader spectrum of financial planning sectors, such as wealth management, estate planning, and tax strategies. That can present an expansive set of opportunities, including roles as a comprehensive financial planner, as an estate planner, or even as a researcher or academic in a niche of financial planning

In essence, the choice between the CRPC and CFP designations boils down to whether you envision yourself as a specialist with a focus on retirement planning or a versatile professional with a holistic grasp of financial planning at large. While both avenues offer promising prospects and fulfilling career trajectories, the ideal option for you will depend on your personal interests and career aspirations.


If you’re on a limited budget, the CRPC designation could be a financially prudent choice. This credential’s entire educational package costs $1,350, which includes all the necessary learning materials, module quizzes to test your knowledge, practice exams to hone your skills, and the fee for the final examination.

Conversely, pursuing the CFP designation involves a far heftier financial commitment. The study materials alone — especially if you opt for a premium provider — can cost anywhere between $599 and $2,195. You’ll also need to pay a fee to take the final exam, which’ll add another $925 to your budget.

It’s essential to consider both cost and career opportunities when deciding between these two qualifications. While the CFP qualification demands a higher financial investment, for example, it also opens doors to a wider array of opportunities in the financial planning sector. That can allow you to delve deeper into various facets of the industry, such as estate and tax planning, insurance, and beyond.

If you’re interested in learning more about both qualifications, visit Kaplan Financial’s wealth management page.

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Which is better: the CFP or the CRPC designation?

Both the CFP and CRPC designations are valuable professional credentials, but they each serve different needs. The CFP qualification has a broader focus, covering comprehensive financial planning, while the CRPC designation focuses specifically on retirement planning. See our CRPC vs CFP article for a more in-depth look.

Does the CRPC certification count toward the CFP certification?

Yes it does. This is because, when you pass the CRPC final exam, you also receive credits for Module FP515 (Benefit and Other Pension Plans) in the CFP course. For more information, have a look at our CFP certification article.

Do you need a degree for the CRPC designation?

No, you don’t need a specific degree to obtain the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC) designation. The primary requirement is completing a study program and successfully passing the CRPC exam. However, having a background in finance or a related field can be beneficial for better understanding the course material. Check out our CRPC designation article for more information on the requirements.

Is the CRPC designation worth it?

Yes, but this will depend on your personal goals and work-niche. If your work revolves around retirement planning, then obtaining the CRPC designation can be an extremely worthwhile investment. On the other hand, if you want to target several different niches within the financial services industry, a CFP certification might be the better choice for you.

How long does it take to study for the CRPC designation?

The time needed to prepare for the CRPC designation can vary significantly for each candidate. Having said that, most candidates generally need between two and four months of solid preparation, which is significantly shorter than the time required to prepare for a CFP designation.

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For all related articles, have a look at our Financial Advisor Resources page.

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