FAQs for Prospective CPA/PFS Credential Holders (Applicants) 


Eligibility

  • Do I have to be a CPA and a member of the AICPA to apply?
  • Do I need an active CPA license to become a CPA/PFS?
  • Do I need to be a PFP Section member in order to apply to become a CPA/PFS credential holder?
  • If I don’t meet the requirements to become a CPA/PFS credential holder, is there another way to get information about personal financial planning?

PFS Exam

  • Can I take the PFS exam before I complete the education and experience requirements for the CPA/PFS credential?
  • After I complete the PFS exam, how long do I have to apply for the credential?
  • What is the duration of the PFS exam?
  • Do I still receive any credit for having another financial planning credential?
  • Where are the test centers located for the PFS exam?
  • Do exam results include numerical scores or just pass/fail results?
  • How long is the grading process and when do exam candidates find out if they passed or failed?
  • How many hours does the AICPA recommend to study for the PFS Exam?
  • What materials are recommended by the AICPA to study for the PFS Exam?
  • If a candidate only took the PFP Boot Camp, how prepared would the candidate be to take the exam? Also, how long should a candidate wait to take the exam after completing the PFP Boot Camp?
  • What is covered in the PFP Boot Camp? Do candidates complete practice tests/questions?
     

General

  • If I become a CPA/PFS, do I automatically become a member of the Personal Financial Planning Membership Section?
  • I have applied for the CPA/PFS credential. What happens next?
  • Does the AICPA audit CPA/PFS applications?
  • How does the CPA/PFS credential differ from other financial planning credentials?
  • How do I apply for a waiver of the Series 65 based on my CPA/PFS credential?

 

Return to the Overview of the CPA/PFS Credential


Eligibility

Do I have to be a CPA and a member of the AICPA to apply?

Yes. You must be a CPA member in good standing of the AICPA and hold a valid and unrevoked CPA permit, certificate, or license issued by a legally constituted state authority and which is in active status. The CPA/PFS credential is granted exclusively by the AICPA.

Do I need an active CPA license to become a CPA/PFS?

Yes. A PFS candidate must hold a valid and unrevoked CPA permit, license or certificate issued by a legally constituted state authority, and which is in active status.

Do I need to be a PFP Section member in order to apply to become a CPA/PFS credential holder?

No. You need to be an AICPA member in good standing and meet the CPA permit, certificate, or license requirement indicated above. CPA/PFS holders receive complimentary PFP Section membership.

If I don’t meet the requirements to become a CPA/PFS credential holder, is there another way to get information about personal financial planning?

Yes. You may join the PFP Section – the only requirement is AICPA membership in good standing.

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PFS Exam

Can I take the PFS exam before I complete the education and experience requirements for the CPA/PFS credential?

Yes. There is no time limit in terms of when you successfully complete the exam and when you apply for the CPA/PFS credential. However, when you do apply, only PFP-related education and experience in the last 5 years can be used to meet the education and experience requirements for the CPA/PFS credential.

After I complete the PFS exam, how long do I have to apply for the credential?

You can apply for the credential any time after completing the PFS exam. We would encourage you to apply as soon as you qualify.

What is the duration of the PFS exam?

The PFS exam is a total of 7 5 hours and 15 minutes in length, which includes an optional 4530-minute break. Please note that there is not a particular point in the exam where this break is required but candidates are allowed to take up to 45 30 minutes for a break at one point or during multiple points of the exam. The exam consists of a total of 230 160 questions, approximately 50% of which are discrete multiple choice and 50% of which are case study (of varying lengths) with related multiple choice questions.

Do I receive any credit for having another financial planning credential?

The exam requirement is waived for anyone who has passed the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) exam or the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) exams. However, there is no exam requirement waiver for holding any other credential such as the CFA, or licenses such as Series 7, 65 or 66.

Where are the test centers located for the PFS exam?

The PFS exam is hosted at Kryterion test centers in the North America region. View all of the Kryterion test locations.

Do exam results include numerical scores or just pass/fail results?

Numerical score results are not included in results letters. The PFS exam is designed to psychometrically assess whether candidates have a sufficient base level comprehension of the PFP body of knowledge. Therefore results are issued as either “Pass” or “Fail” indicating whether the exam taker meets this minimum threshold.

How long is the grading process and when do exam candidates find out if they passed or failed?

The PFS exam grading process begins immediately after the end of each exam window and can take up to two months. Results are distributed by email and US mail upon the conclusion of the grading process.

How many hours does the AICPA recommend to study for the PFS exam?

The AICPA does not make a formal recommendation regarding the number of hours someone should study. This would most likely depend upon factors such as how much experience an individual already has and how familiar individuals are with the PFP body of knowledge found in the PFS Exam Content Specification Outline.

What materials are recommended by the AICPA to study for the PFS exam?

The complete PFP Body of Knowledge (BOK) that is subject to testing for the PFS exam can be downloaded from the PFP Body of Knowledge website (the website contains a summary only). The BOK lists the topics and subject matter covered by the exam. To help prepare for the exam, the AICPA provides the PFP Boot Camp in a variety of formats with CPE designed to overview, not teach the body of knowledge The PFP Boot Camp is a systematic review of the entire PFS exam CSO and is a good final review prior to taking the exam.  It is delivered as a self-study on-demand course, an in-person and online class. If more in-depth education is needed, the AICPA sells six textbooks as publications that cover the exam topics.

If a candidate only took the PFP Boot Camp, how prepared would the candidate be to take the exam? Also, how long should a candidate wait to take the exam after completing the  PFP Boot Camp?

The AICPA highly recommends that candidates do not rely solely upon the information provided in the PFP Boot Camp. These review courses are meant as a review only and is not a means for candidates to learn the material in the PFP body of knowledge. The additional preparation necessary would differ by individual based on prior education and experience.

What is covered in the PFP Boot Camp? Do candidates complete practice tests/questions?

The complete PFP Body of Knowledge is covered in a review format, including the Statement on Standards in PFP Services. The PFP Boot Camp is a classroom format that systematically covers the entire exam topical outline and does not come with practice questions. We recommend the PFP Boot Camp to be your final review prior to taking the PFS exam. In a separate product, PFS Exam Review Materials, we also provide additional practice question books (and access to online questions and flashcards) covering financial calculator and case study questions, with one full book of random practice questions to help prepare you for the exam.


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General

If I am a CPA/PFS, do I automatically become a member of the Personal Financial Planning Membership Section?

Yes. All CPA/PFS credential holders are automatically enrolled as a PFP Section member, receiving all the benefits and information updates that membership includes. The PFP Membership Section is a voluntary membership section that is open to all members of the AICPA and those members who are not CPA/PFS credential holders pay an additional fee. If you are not a CPA/PFS, but you want to enjoy the benefits of section membership, enroll in the PFP Section.

I have applied for the CPA/PFS credential. What happens next?

Once documentation and payment have been submitted, the AICPA will review and issue a welcome email and a CPA/PFS certificate.  When the welcome email is received:

  • Individuals may use the CPA/PFS credential in accordance with the rules of the state in which they practice. Members are not authorized to use the credential until they receive this notice.

  • At the applicant’s request, their state society will be notified so the information can be promoted in state society newsletters.  

Note: In some cases, applicants may be required to provide additional information in support of their application.

Does the AICPA audit CPA/PFS applications?

Yes. A percentage of approved applications are selected for random audit. Any misrepresentations or incorrect information may result in disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of CPA/PFS eligibility and/or credential.

How does the CPA/PFS differ from other financial planning credentials?

The CPA/PFS credential is the only personal financial planning credential that is maintained by the AICPA, the membership organization for CPAs. Individuals holding the CPA certificate are perceived to be highly qualified, ethical, and well-trained professionals within the financial services industry and the overall business community. People who hold both the CPA and the PFS provide individuals and their closely held businesses confidence in the services they provide and the assurance of objective guidance that takes all aspects (including tax) of their situation into account. Credential holders are automatically enrolled in the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Section and have access to other members of the CPA PFP community, practice aids, quick reference guides, continuing education, discounts to conferences and goods and services.

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