September 12, 2008, 6:00 am

CFP VS CFA, Is There More Than One Letter Difference?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Career,Financial Planning
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After my post on how to become a CFP, I received the same question from several readers through emails or comments. They all wanted to know the difference between a CFP and a CFA. Since both titles look alike and they are both related to the finance industry, I agree with them that it could be confusing. Even though there is only one letter different, fields of study differ completely from each other. So here’s a quick summary of what you can do and what you will learn doing those financial titles.

CFP: Certified Financial Planner

In order to get the CFP title, you must complete a bachelor degree along with a certificate in financial planning. The certificate can be included to add to your bachelor degree. Then, you have to register for the final exam. The mark obtained at your final exam will determine if you have your title or not.

Once you are a Certified Financial Planner, you must keep your knowledge up-to-date by following several training sessions each year. Those sessions cover topics such as financial planning, investment, compliancy, etc.

Most people with a CFP title will do become Financial Planner or Independent Financial Advisor. Therefore, you can work for a bank, an investment firm or an insurance company. While you can get a job in other type of companies, the above mentioned will be the bigger employer for CFP.

The Financial planner will answer his clients’ needs in term of investment, retirement planning, tax optimization, estate planning, insurance, personal finance and protection. It is important to mention that when we are talking about investment, we are talking about asset allocation according to your risk tolerance and not stock picking.

Depending of you employer, you might or might not cover all the 7 fields of financial planning. In all cases, this implies a lot of client contact and discussion. If you like meeting people, this is a good job for you.

CFA; Chartered Financial Analyst

While both beasts are Financial Something, the CFA is way different than the CFP. In order to get your CFA, you must successfully write 3 exams that are usually organized across several countries in June (the same date since it is the same exam).

Tests are concentrated on the investment part only and are way more technical than the CFP exam. We are looking at a deeper analytical aspect of the stock market and we do not consider the clients’ needs.

Most jobs requiring a CFA title will obviously include an analytical part where you have to work with spread sheet, graphs and other data. The most common jobs are trader or financial analyst (concentrating on a specific investment category or industry).

The level of math required is way higher while you will most likely meet fewer clients in one-to-one meeting with a job requiring a CFA. I am tempted to think that the CFA is much tougher to get since its 3 exams cover more topics.

While the purpose of the CFP is to become a generalist, the CFA goal is to create specialist. Both require specific ability in different fields and they are not necessarily the same.

For more information, I suggest you visit the following website:

CFP Canadian official site

CFA official site

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Actually, CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst, not certified.

“While both beasts are Certified Financial Something, the CFA is way different than the CFP. In order to get your CFP, you must successfully write 3 exams that are usually organized across several countries in June (the same date since it is the same exam).”

I think you meant “In order to get your CFA” in the above paragraph…

by: The Financial Blogger | September 12th, 2008 (4:59 pm)

You are right!

thx, I just edited the post 😀

by: The Financial Blogger | September 12th, 2008 (7:24 pm)

Doh! I am so sorry, I don’t know what was I thinking about… CFA is Chartered Financial Analyst!!

by: Charles Martineau | September 13th, 2008 (5:05 pm)

First of all, happy birthday! Second of all, thanks again for the meeting we once had this summer. Lastly, I have a question for you:

– Is it possible to have a good finance career with a MSc in Finance without ever having a CFA or CFP? By that I mean, is mostly all finance position requires a CFA or CFP? Or CFA/CFP are the most prestigious ones and if you don’t have either one of them you will end-up nowhere…

Thanks mike!

by: The Financial Blogger | September 14th, 2008 (3:11 pm)


I think the MSc in Finance will bring you more toward a research career. I don’t know if you can have a great career with a MSc but I personally didn’t much job requiring such diploma. CFA and CFP and accounting titles and definitely more in demand.

by: Sunil Bundiwal | January 20th, 2009 (10:20 am)

I am agree with you but I dont think CFP would be help in Accounting work.

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Like its properly mentioned above a CFP makes you a generalist with a more client focus approach. Its more comprehensive in the sense you are exposed to the different aspects of financial planning (i.e Investment, taxation, estate, insurance, risk, etc.). Of course you might have a CFP charterholder being a specialist in Investment with also a CFA designation or a CPA designation being a specialist in taxation. Being an MBA in Finance myself, I still believe from an advancement as well as recognition point of view in addition to have a Bachelor degree or Master degree it always pays to have either a CFP or CFA , of course depending on whether your job is more analytical or client centric. Its also good to know that a lot of financial jobs require you to be CFP or CFA in addtion to hold a degree.

did you people read the following articles, will help you all immensely:
by the way this article was interesting…


If I wanna pursue both, then wat are my chances… n where I should concentrate more.

@ Arihant,

The CFA is definitely thougher than the CFP. However, I wonder why you would like to do both at the same time. They don’t really correspond to the same career path so you might do one of them for nothing.

What exactly do you want to do?

You said that you need a degree to do your CFP. I went to their website and it mentions nothing of that. I think that may only be in the U.S.A. Please show me anywhere that it says you need a degree.

by: The Financial Blogger | February 9th, 2011 (7:24 am)


You need one if you live in Quebec. It might be different for other provinces.



The CFA charter is certainly more comprehensize in breadth of the curriculum and delves far deeper than the CFP. Historically “Financial Planners” were selected and/or hired by charterholders to be touch points with retail investors and the charterholder would be the one actually running the fund or building the structured product being sold. The CFP then came about as an attempt to legitimize this part of the profession. Not trying to ruffle any feathers with that statement, but that is just the facts on the two designations.
They are not necessarily mutually exclusive professional designations at this point. The CFA charter has been geared more or less to manage institutional money at present and has to some extent a lesser emphasis on some wealth management topics. Nonetheless, risk tolerance/aversity, suitability, tax management, and other such topics are central to portfolio management (only one out of ten topic areas tested) and I can assure you , as a candidate in the CFA program, they are tested for and well understood by anyone who has been awarded their charter. The point to all this finally is, If one were working for a small buy side RIA shop or even some other front office role at larger brokerage/ research shops, pursuing both designations could complement each other well. They are different animals none the less. The CFA charter is a huge commitment in terms of time and resources, far greater than the CFP, and you should be certain that you are prepared to make some significant sacrifices if you choose to pursue that route. It’s worth it, but it is quite difficult. Short story long getting both or one or the other just really depends on where you are at and where you are wanting to go. If it was only buy side analyst reasearch work, then the CFP would likely be of little value, for the above it could be found useful.

Andrew caps it all off with an excellent comment. as someone who has all three CPA, CFP and CFA, i am in total agreement, especially about the interrelation of the certifications, the commitment, practical applications, etc.

what’s ironic is that i use none of the three. but when i was working full time, having all three was a deadly combination in terms of practical use, value delivered to clients as well as financial rewards from my employers

[…] example, I work in the financial industry. I am a financial planner by day. So basically, I do “my job” when I meet clients and transfer their money under my […]

Pretty obvious you don’t know much about the CFA program. The level 3 actually has a large portfolio management component that looks at client needs much like a CFP would.

The differences between a CFA and a CFP? CFA will have a broader range of investment knowledge and a higher IQ. Doesn’t really make for a better financial planner.

by: The Financial Blogger | September 6th, 2013 (9:02 am)

Hey Howie,

I didn’t know the CFA covers insurance, estate planning, debt structures, tax optimization topics. It’s funny, my friend who’s a CFA didn’t cover that in his 3rd either… maybe you are the one who doesn’t know what a CFP does…

[…] since I wrote about my day job and told you the difference between a CFP vs a CFA, I receive emails on a continuous basis from readers about becoming a financial planner. Today, […]