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A Word About Designations
Accredited Asset Management Specialist℠, AAMS®
Individuals who hold the Accredited Asset Management Specialist℠ or AAMS® designation have completed a course of study encompassing investments, insurance, tax, retirement, and estate planning issues. Additionally, individuals must pass an end-of-course examination that tests their ability to synthesize complex concepts and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations. All designees have agreed to adhere to Standards of Professional Conduct and are subject to a disciplinary process. Designees renew their designation every two years by completing 16 hours of continuing education, reaffirming adherence to the Standards of Professional Conduct, and complying with self-disclosure requirements.
Accredited Estate Planner®, AEP®
The Accredited Estate Planner® (AEP®) designation is a graduate-level specialization in estate planning, obtained in addition to already recognized professional credentials within the various disciplines of estate planning. It is awarded by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC) to estate planning professionals who meet stringent requirements of experience, knowledge, education professional reputation, and character. Every 2 years, the individual must complete 30 hours of continuing education, 15 of which must be in estate planning.
Accredited Financial Counselor®, AFC®
Individuals who hold the Accredited Financial Counselor® designation can educate clients on financial principals, assist clients with paying off debt and help identify and improve money management habits. All designees must complete coursework from a regionally accredited college or university in the United States in Personal Finance, Financial Planning, Financial Counseling, Consumer Sciences, or equivalent. The designee must also pass the AFC exam and meet the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) experience guidelines, which are to complete at least 1,000 hours of financial counseling and submit three reference letters. Designees renew their designation every three years by completing 30 hours of continuing education.
Accredited Investment Fiduciary, AIF®
The AIF® designation, administered by the Center for Fiduciary Studies fi360, certifies that the recipient has specialized knowledge of fiduciary standards of care and their application to the investment management process. To receive the AIF Designation, the individual must meet prerequisite criteria based on a combination of education, relevant industry experience, and/or ongoing professional development, complete a training program, successfully pass a comprehensive, closed-book final examination under the supervision of a proctor and agree to abide by the Code of Ethics and Conduct Standards. Six hours of continuing education is required annually to maintain the designation.
Accredited Portfolio Management Advisor℠, APMA®
The Accredited Portfolio Management Advisor℠ or APMA® Program is a professional designation program for financial professionals. The program is designed to educate advisors on portfolio creation, augmentation, and maintenance. Topics covered include client assessment and suitability, risk/return, investment objectives, bond and equity portfolios, modern portfolio theory, investor psychology, and other topics germane to building appropriate client portfolios. Students gain hands-on practice in analyzing investment policy statements, building portfolios, and making asset allocation decisions, to include determining sell, hold, and buy decisions within a client’s portfolio. Individuals must take a two-part self-study course and pass an exam, to maintain this designation, individuals must complete 16 hours of continuing education every 2 years.
California Tax Education Council (CTEC) Registered Tax Preparer, CRTP
An individual who is a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) Registered Tax Preparer has completed 60 hours of tax education – 45 federal & 15 state. Individuals renew their CRTP on an annual basis by completing 20 hours (10 Federal, 3 Federal Tax Update, 2 Ethics & 5 State) of continuing education and pay a registration fee. Any individuals who assist with or prepare state or federal income tax returns, excluding certified public accountants, attorneys, enrolled agents, enrolled actuaries, and certain financial institutions or their employees must be registered with CTEC. CTEC approves providers of tax education and maintains and distributes to the public a list of those approved providers.
Certified Financial Planner™, CFP®
To use the CFP credential, the financial planner must successfully complete the CFP® Board’s comprehensive examination which tests his or her knowledge on a number of key financial planning topics. The applicant must also have three to five years of related experience, voluntarily ascribe to the board’s code of ethics and complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years pertaining to such relevant topics as estate and retirement planning, investment management, tax planning and insurance.
Certified Public Accountant, CPA
Certified Public Accountant is a license set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and administered by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. Eligibility to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam is determined by individual State Boards of Accountancy. Typically, the requirement is a U.S. bachelor’s degree which includes a minimum number of qualifying credit hours in accounting and business administration with an additional one-year study. All CPA candidates must pass the Uniform CPA Examination to qualify for a CPA certificate and license (i.e., permit to practice) to practice public accounting. CPAs are required to take continuing education courses to renew their license, and most states require CPAs to complete an ethics course during every renewal period.
Chartered Advisor of Philanthropy®, CAP®
Individuals must have three years, full-time, of relevant business experience. They must then successfully complete three required courses through the American College of Financial Services and agree to comply with their Code of Ethics and Procedures. The Professional Recertification Program to maintain this designation must be completed every two years by meeting their continuing education requirement of 30 credit hours and recommitting to the college’s code of ethics.
Chartered Financial Analyst®, CFA® charter
Chartered Financial Analyst® designation was first introduced in 1963. The CFA Program contains three levels of curriculum, each with its own 6-hour exam. Candidates must meet enrollment requirements, self-attest to professional conduct, complete the approx. 900 hours of self-study, and successfully pass all three levels to use the designation.
The program curriculum increases in complexity as you move through the three levels:
- Level I: Focuses on a basic knowledge of the ten topic areas and simple analysis using investment tools
- Level II: Emphasizes the application of investment tools and concepts with a focus on the valuation of all types of assets
- Level III: Focuses on synthesizing all of the concepts and analytical methods in a variety of applications for effective portfolio management and wealth planning
CFA Institute does not endorse, promote, or warrant the accuracy or quality of Pure Financial Advisors. CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst® are registered trademarks owned by CFA Institute.
Chartered Financial Consultant®, ChFC®
The Chartered Financial Consultant® educational program includes nine or more college-level courses on all aspects of financial planning from The American College, a non-profit educator with the highest level of academic accreditation. The average study time is 400 hours and advisors often spend years earning this coveted distinction. Each ChFC® must also complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education every two years, adhere to strict ethical standards, and meet extensive experience requirements to ensure that the client gets the professional financial advice he or she needs.
Chartered Life Underwriter®, CLU®
The CLU® is granted by the American College of Financial Services. To attain this designation, an individual must complete eight self-paced courses, meet experience requirements, ethics standards, and complete 30 hours of continuing education credits every two years. Certification gives advisors an in-depth knowledge of life insurance underwriting concepts, life insurance law within the context of overall risk management, and necessary knowledge to help clients address their estate planning needs.
Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠, CRPC®
The CRPC® program is awarded by the College of Financial Planning to those who pass an examination. The CRPC® was developed with a focus on client-centered problem-solving. Applicants gain knowledge of individuals’ needs both before and after retirement. The study program covers the entire retirement planning process, including meeting multiple financial objectives, sources of retirement income, personal savings, employer-sponsored retirement plans, income taxes, retirement cash flow, asset management, estate planning, and more. Every two years 16 hours of continuing education is required to maintain the designation.
Enrolled Agent, EA
Enrolled agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards. An enrolled agent is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service by either passing a comprehensive IRS exam covering individual and business tax returns, or through experience as a former IRS employee. Individuals who obtain this status must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years.
Esquire (Esq.) is an honorary title that is placed after a practicing lawyer’s name. Practicing lawyers are those who have passed a state’s (or Washington, D.C.’s) bar exam and have been licensed by that jurisdiction’s bar association.
Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™, FPQP™
The Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™ designation introduces financial planning to professionals with no prior experience. It is offered exclusively by the College for Financial Planning®. The curriculum consists of 10 modules that can be completed in 144 hours with a 75-question final exam. Holders must complete 16 hours of continuing education (CE) credits every two years.
Investment Advisor Certified Compliance Professional®, IACCP®
The IACCP program, developed by NRS and co-sponsored with the Investment Adviser Association (IAA), is designed to help compliance professionals increase their knowledge of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and help ensure the ongoing success of their firms’ compliance programs. Earning the IACCP designation helps firms demonstrate to clients and the SEC that they proactively support an educated staff and a culture of compliance. The IACCP® is awarded to individuals who complete a program of 22-hour courses, pass a certifying examination, meet work experience, ethics, and annual continuing education requirements. To maintain certification, individuals are required to complete 12 continuing education credits each year, 2 of which must be an approved ethics program.
Juris Doctor, JD
The Juris Doctor (JD) degree is usually required to practice law in the United States. It is considered the first degree in law and is required for eligibility to sit for the bar examination. Gaining admission to the bar means obtaining a license to practice law in a particular state or in federal court. The specific requirements for a JD vary from school to school. Generally, the requirements include completing a minimum number of class hours each academic period, and taking certain mandatory courses such as contracts, torts, civil procedure and criminal law in the first year of law school. All states require that students pass a course on professional responsibility before receiving a JD degree.
Master of Arts in Psychology, M.A. (Psychology)
The Master of Arts in Psychology degree is earned after successfully completing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. A person holding this degree has pursued further study in understanding human behavior and psychological principles. This graduate-level degree may indicate a strong focus of study on the liberal arts. The typical length of time to complete the program is 1 to 2 years for full-time students.
Master of Business Administration, MBA
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a postgraduate degree that is awarded to students who have mastered the study of business. Most MBA programs include a “core” curriculum of subjects, such as accounting, economics, marketing, and operations, as well as elective courses that allow participants to follow their own personal or professional interests.
Master of Liberal Arts, ALM
The Master of Liberal Arts degree is earned after successfully completing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. It is an interdisciplinary program to pursue further study in an area of specialization (i.e. finance). The typical length of time to complete the program is 1 to 2 years for full-time students.
Master of Public Health, MPH
The Master of Public Health (MPH) is a postgraduate degree that is awarded to students who have trained to become public health practitioners to work in government, non-profits, or in industry work with communities, implement and evaluate public health programs, and/or help raise public awareness of best health practices. Most programs focus on 5 core areas: Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental Health, Health Policy, and Health Administration, and Social and Behavioral sciences.
Master of Science in Business Administration, MSBA
The Master of Science in Business Administration (MSBA) degree is earned after successfully completing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. A person holding this degree has pursued further study in an area of specialization (i.e. financial and tax planning). The typical length of time to complete the program is 1 to 2 years for full-time students.
Master Planner Advanced Studies, MPAS®
Master Planner Advanced Studies (MPAS®) is a unique designation available only to graduates of the College for Financial Planning’s Master of Science Degree Program in Personal Financial Planning. Individuals can apply for this designation upon graduating and must complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain it.