As huge swaths of the financial planning industry have shifted from focusing on commission-based sales to providing client-centric comprehensive planning as true financial ‘advicers’, proving one’s chops to break into the financial planning industry has only become more difficult. CFP certification, which was once considered the industry ‘gold standard,’ has now become a base-level requirement as firms strive to hire better and more capable workers. While this shift has served to create a legitimate barrier to entry and has arguably elevated the overall service provided to clients, many employers now require having one’s CFP certification as a prerequisite for employment, which means that many new and aspiring financial planners now face costly, intensive requirements to enter the profession.
The struggle to attain CFP certification, along with completing the robust education requirements, is not just a matter of mastering the academic challenges of the subject material; it also involves managing large expenses that cover tuition (not just for the 6 specific financial planning classes required by the CFP Board, but also for coursework to obtain an undergraduate degree as well, which are often taken by students as two separate curricula), registration for exam fees, and costs associated for exam preparation programs (not to mention the ‘soft’ costs of taking time off from work and sacrificing personal and family time to study and prepare for the CFP exam!).
Which is why we thought a database of resources would be helpful for those seeking financial support to earn their CFP certification. Enter the Kitces.com CFP Certification Scholarship Database, which collects information on scholarships available for aspiring CFP professionals trying to break into the industry as well as seasoned financial advisors looking to earn their CFP marks. The database is structured to help people filter by background and location to find the scholarship that fits their needs. Many aspiring financial advisors thinking about entering the industry generally need to overcome not only the significant cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree (which can be in any subject matter) but also the costly process of obtaining CFP certification (which includes a specific set of course requirements created by the CFP Board). Costs involved in coursework, exam preparation, and the exam itself can add up quickly.
For those already in the financial planning profession, there is a chance their firm will agree to cover some (or perhaps all) of the costs required for gaining CFP certification. For those who have not yet entered the industry (or whose firms will not finance the cost), scholarships can be a key resource to help the individual manage expenses. Scholarship funding for CFPs generally focuses on three areas: 1) Tuition or expenses related to the CFP Board’s 6-course education requirement (which is what the majority of current scholarships provide funding for); 2) CFP exam preparation courses; and 3) Registration fees for the CFP exam itself. Notably, there are many CFP certification scholarships that focus not just on providing financial support to individuals who need it, but also on increasing diversity within the financial planning profession.
For scholarship applicants, winning an award can make a measured difference not only in their ability to take the CFP exam, but also in future networking and career opportunities. This is because many scholarship applications are reviewed by a committee of practitioners who are actively looking for future employees. And since the application can impact both immediate and long-term opportunities, creating a strong, memorable submission is essential. Depending on the scholarship, many aspects may be considered, but good academic performance, solid references, and basic professionalism can go a long way.
Ultimately, as the financial planning industry grows, it will not only become more competitive for prospective financial advisors, but also for hiring employers looking to find the best of the best. While there are still many gaps in the scholarships available to aspiring financial planners, firms have the opportunity to create their own scholarships to help fill these gaps. Which can be beneficial not only for the firms creating scholarships (as they provide good branding opportunities to increase a firm’s visibility and can also help firms attract high-achieving and motivated employees), but for aspiring CFP professionals and students of financial planning as well. And with the introduction of the Kitces.com CFP certification scholarship list, we also aim to help bridge the gap by guiding those who are looking to join the profession to the support they need to realize their educational and professional goals!