Personal Financial Planning Certificate Program: FAQs


Anyone can obtain the certificates. However, only active CPAs can use the certificate program as an alternative pathway to obtain the CPA/PFS credential.

There are two ways to earn the four technical certificates (retirement, investment, estate, risk management/insurance planning):

  • By completing the education bundle and passing the certificate exam, an online proctored exam taken from the convenience of your home or office.
  • By passing the certificate exam using your knowledge from prior education or experience.

There is also no prescribed order for the certificates. Certificate exams are online and proctored remotely via webcam and audio (either laptop or USB external) anytime 7 days a week throughout the year. If you do not pass the exam the first time, one free re-take is included at no extra charge.

The PFP Practical Application Certificate is earned upon successful completion of the continuing education courses. No exam is required.

If continuing education is your goal, you can simply purchase and complete the education bundle or any individual course, without the certificate exam, and simply earn CPE. If you hold the CPA/PFS credential, there is no need to take the certificate exam, as your CPA/PFS credential exam tests the material covered in the individual certificates.

There is also no prescribed order for the education or certificate programs.

Obtain each of the five certificates on your own schedule. Take the learning associated with each certificate to meet the overall credential education requirement. Obtaining all of the certificates makes you a PFS Credential Candidate; you only need to complete the experience requirement to obtain the PFS credential. For more information on the PFS credential go to

Complete an optional education bundle where you feel that prior education or experience has not adequately prepared you.

Yes, you get one retake of the certificate exam at no extra cost. If you do not pass after this retake, you will need to purchase another certificate exam to take it again (includes 2 attempts as well).

Certificate exams can be taken in the convenience of your home or office on your own computer. Since it is a web-based proctored exam, you will be required to have both a microphone and a web camera (either laptop or USB external) connected to your computer. When you schedule your exam, you will be prompted to download a proprietary security program to your computer on which the exam will be presented. You will need administrator rights to load this software on the computer.

There is no formal application process for this certificate program. Interested individuals can purchase the education and exams online.

If you would like to have a calculator available for the exams, the following is the list of approved calculators:

  • Hewlett Packard 12C 10B, 10B II+, 17B II+
  • Texas Instruments TI BAII Plus, TIBAII Plus Professional
  • Victor V12, Victor 10

Course Content

The Personal Financial Planning Certificate Programs are a combination of education bundles and certificate exams that provide the opportunity to enhance PFP knowledge, earn CPE credit and obtain digital badges to demonstrate your competency. They also serve as an alternative pathway to the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential.

The Personal Financial Planning Certificate Programs have three different purposes:

  1. Certificates: You can display your competence and understanding in one or more core areas of PFP by displaying a digital badge awarded upon completion of each certificate requirement.
  2. Education: If CPE and continuing education is your goal, you can purchase the education bundle or individual courses alone, without the certificate exam, and simply earn continuing education for your CPA license, PFS credential, and/or CFP® credential.
  3. Credential: If you are an active CPA desiring to obtain the PFS credential, the certificate program provides an alternative pathway to meeting the exam and education requirements. Obtaining the five certificates with the education identifies you as a PFS Credential Candidate until you obtain the required experience.

There are five certificates:

  • Retirement Planning Certificate
  • Investment Planning Certificate
  • Risk Management and Insurance Planning Certificate
  • Estate Planning Certificate
  • PFP Practical Applications

The exams are multiple choice format.

No, they are not open book. The exams are virtually proctored via webcam to prevent using external materials.


Certificate exams are available on demand from time of purchase. There are no testing windows for these programs; however, exams need to be scheduled in advance. The exams can be taken Monday 5:30am through midnight Friday night, and on weekends from 5:30am to 11:30 pm.

You will have 100 minutes to complete each exam.

You have one year (365 days) from the date of purchase to complete the exam(s). Also, on the CPE learning, you have one year (365 days) from the date you purchase each CPE course to finish the requirements to obtain your CPE.


You can contact a representative by completing a brief Online Form, calling 800.634.6780 (option 1) for information, or emailing

No, the exam is a pass/fail exam and the raw data score is not published. You are the only one notified whether you passed or failed.

You will receive a pass/fail notice on the screen at the end of the exam, and an email copy of your exam results will be sent to you as well.

Your certificate will be issued electronically as a digital badge. For information on how digital badges work, please see this video and our Digital Badge page.

No, CPE credit is not available for taking the certificate exams. NASBA does not allow CPE credit to be awarded for stand-alone exams.

You can obtain CPE credit by completing the learning associated with each certificate.