In your financial career, you may encounter a client at some point whose current financial situation is way more complicated than it seems. A client with a seemingly simple situation may have complex issues about life insurance, estate planning, and taxes that they are unaware of. When facing such client, it is very important to ensure that you have equipped yourself with the right knowledge and credibility. Two of the most popular certifications for financial advisors are ChFC and CFP. Of course, there has been a long continuing debate on ChFC vs CFP regarding which one is better. Below, we will see the differences between ChFC and CFP to help you understand the similarities and differences.

What is a Financial Advisor?

A financial advisor, also commonly known as financial planner, is an expert in financial planning. A financial advisor’s responsibility is to give advices to their client on how to set and achieve financial goals. A financial advisor is supposed to carry a comprehensive understanding of financial planning so that they can provide different suggestions and strategies to help manage the client’s finances.

In order to become a financial advisor, a person has to be either a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) or a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Both designations require coursework, professional experience, and high ethical standards. But there are also several distinguishing differences between ChFCvs CFP.

About CFP

The CFP designation is known as the most popular route for financial planning. The certification is granted by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. In order to attain the CFP title, you have to meet four requirements: education, examination, experience, and ethics. Once you meet all the four e’s, you may receive your CFP certification. Holding this title is proof to clients that you are knowledgeable in the field of financial planning and that you have passed the high standards enforced by the CFP Board.

About ChFC

The ChFC designation was first introduced in 1982 as an alternative to the CFP designation. The certification is awarded by the American College of Financial Services. Although ChFC is less popular than CFP, it still stands as a distinguished and eminent certification in financial planning. The primary difference is on the process to become certified.

The education portion to get the ChFC title is lengthier, as it is comprised of nine college-level courses that are self-paced and can be done online. In contrast to CFP, ChFC does not hold a comprehensive final exam. Instead, there is an exam at the end of each course. There are also experience and ethics requirements. Once you meet all the requirements, you can get the ChFC title and serve as a credible financial advisor.


There are different background requirements to attain the ChFC vs CFP certification. This difference can decide which one is the more suitable designation for you.

In order to attain the CFP title, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. In addition, you also have to complete a college-level study program in personal financial planning.

On the other hand, in order to attain the ChFC title, you do not need to hold any degree as a background. But you have to possess at least three years’ experience of full-time business within the five years prior the awarding of the designation.


The CFP board does not offer the education program; they only conduct the examination. You have to obtain the education program from an approved CFP professional education provider. The program consists of seven courses, which are Financial Planning: Process Environment, Fund of Insurance Planning, Income Taxation, Planning for Retirement Needs, Investments, Fundamentals of Estate Planning, and Personal Financial Planning: Case Analysis. Once you have completed all the seven courses, you can take the examination conducted by the CFP Board.

However, if you have a specific academic degree or professional credential, you can take the capstone course and then immediately take the exam. The list of allowed degrees and credentials can be found in the CFP official website.

On the other hand, the education program for ChFC is conferred by the American College of Financial Services. It consists of nine courses. Seven of them are the same as the ones required for CFP. The two additional courses are Applications in Financial Planning I and II, which discuss special cases such as divorced clients, blended families, and non-traditional families.


Once you have completed an education program for CFP, you must pass a comprehensive and intensive board exam, which covers all of the principal topics. This exam is conducted by the CFP Board. Historically, the exam carries a pass rate between 60% and 65%.After passing the board exam, a CFP student must pass a background check which reviews any potential violation, such as a previous misconduct. This ensures that the student adheres to the high standards that the CFP Board holds. You will also have to pay an entrance fee.

On the other hand, the ChFC route does not have a final board exam. Instead, you will have to take an exam at the end of every course before moving on to the next course. Finally, you will have to choose your status whether you are going to be a client-facing or a non-client-facing financial advisor.

Continuing Education (CE)

The education does not stop after you have received the certification. Both CFP and ChFC require you to complete Continuing Education (CE) programs if you want to maintain your title.

In order to maintain your CFP title, you have to pay an ongoing annual certification fee. You are also required to collect 30 CE points every two years. This is to ensure that you always stay up to date with the latest rules and trends.

Similarly, client-facing financial advisors holding the ChFC title are required to participate in the Professional Recertification Program to accumulate 30 CE points every two years, which is conducted by the American College of Financial Services. You are also required to pay an annual fee.

- At least three years’ experience of full-time business within the five years prior the awarding of the designation- At least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- Requires more coursework- Requires less coursework; certain degrees/credentials can take the capstone course and the exam immediately
- An exam at the end of every course before moving to the next- A final board exam after completing all courses
- Must collect 30 CE credits every two years- Must achieve 30 CE points every two years


From the perspective of a client, the differences between ChFC vs CFP are rather trivial. Both designations are equally credible and capable of providing financial advices. If you already have a bachelor’s degree or higher, you can take the CFP route. If you don’t have at least a bachelor’s degree, the ChFC route is the way to go. Both designations require financial advisors to take continuing education programs.

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