Difference Between CFA® and CFP

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) are some of the most prestigious designations for any aspiring financial advisor. While CFP helps develop wealth management and financial planning skills, CFA focuses on developing skills for asset allocation, investment analysis, portfolio strategy, and corporate finance.

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CFA vs CFP Infographics


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CFA vs CFP – Comparative Table

Organizing BodyCFA InstituteCFP Board
PatternDivided into 3 levels – level I, level II, and level IIIOnly 1 level
Duration of Course4 year3 years
  • Financial Principles
  • Financial Analysis & Accounting
  • Portfolio Management
  • Personal Financial Planning
Exam fees$700-$1,000 per level plus $450 one-time registration$825-$1,025
Difficulty2019 Pass Rates
  • Level I – 41%
  • Level II – 44%
  • Level III – 56%
2019 Pass Rates

  • 62% (Overall)
  • 66% (First-time test takers)
Exam Date2021 Calendar
  • Level I – Feb 16- Mar 1, May 18-24, Aug 24-30, Nov 16-22
  • Level II – May 25- Jun 1, Aug 31- Sep 4
  • Level III – May 25- Jun 1, Nov 23-25
2021 Calendar
  • Mar 9 – 6
  • Jul 6 – 13
  • Nov 2 – 9

CFA vs CFP – Which is Better?

One of the most important questions that come to our mind is – which is a better option out of CFA and CFP? The answer is that both are highly admired designations in the field of financial advisory. Any candidate with either CFA charter or CFP mark becomes skilful at handling the financial future of the client. Hence, the choice between CFA and CFP should be purely based on career aspiration as either of the courses can offer an exciting career in finance. So, let us dive in deeper to understand the two designations in more detail in the following sections.

Skills Obtained

After becoming a CFA charter holder, a candidate develops excellent excel modelling skills, analytical ability, decision-making skills, and communication skills. Similarly, a CFP mark holder also acquires strategic thinking, sales & marketing, relationship management, and communication skills.


An aspiring CFA candidate needs to clear 3 levels of examinations and 4 years of professional experience, which can be completed before, during, or after completion of CFA. Hence, the entire CFA program can be completed in a span of 4 years. On the other hand, a candidate who enrolled for CFP needs to clear just 1 level but has to complete 6,000 hours of professional experience, and hence the CFP program can be completed over a period of 3 years.

Eligibility or Experience Required

To become a CFA charter holder, one must complete a bachelor’s degree and have at least 4 years of relevant professional experience. However, there is a flexibility to combine education and professional experience, sequential and not overlapping, to meet the 4-year requirement. On the other hand, a CFP aspirant must have a bachelor’s degree and 6,000 hours of relevant professional experience or 4,000 hours of apprentice experience.


The CFA program is divided into three levels. There is a little bit of overlapping of topics among the three levels. Level I focuses on financial principles, Level II emphasizes financial analysis & accounting, and Level III helps build portfolio management and decision-making skills. The overall syllabus CFA program includes financial reportingFinancial ReportingFinancial Reporting is the process of disclosing all the relevant financial information of a business for a particular accounting period. These reports are used by the stakeholders (investors, creditors/ bankers, public, regulatory agencies, and government) to make investing and other relevant decisions. read more & analysis, ethical & professional standards,  economics, derivatives, equity valuation, quantitative methods, fixed income, alternative investments, corporate finance, portfolio management, etc. On the other hand, the CFP Board mandates the course curriculum to include professional conduct & regulation, general principles of financial planning, investment planning, education planning, retirement savings & income planning, risk management & insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning, financial planning, etc.

Career Opportunity and Salary

A CFA charter holder is offered a job in finance and investment as a portfolio manager, research analyst, consultant, corporate financial analyst, investment banking analyst, relationship manager, financial advisor, etc. On the other hand, as a CFP designation holder, a candidate is offered the role of a financial planner, financial advisor, estate planner, trading & research associate, financial consultant, financial analyst, financial representative, etc.

In the US, the salary of CFA charterholders varies in the range of $56,500 and $120,500 per annum, with an average salary of $95,494. On the other hand, the salary of CFPs varies in the range of $62,500 and $94,500 per annum, with an average salary of $83,123.

Fees and Passing Rates

The CFA exam fees lie in the range of $700 to $1,000 per exam depending on the time of registration. Additionally, there is a $450 one-time registration fee, which means that a CFA program’s total fees will be between $2,550 and $3,450. On the other hand, a CFP program costs between $825 and $1,025 depending on registration time.

Both the exams are equally difficult as can be seen from their moderate pass rate. During 2019, the pass rates for the CFAPass Rates For The CFAThe CFA exam is regarded as one of the most difficult to crack. Your preparation, time management, and sequence plays will all play an important role in your more exams were – Level I: 41%, Level II: 44%, and Level III: 56%. For CFP, the overall pass rate in 2019 stood at 62%, while that of the first-time exam takers was 66%.

Exam Availability

The exams for the three levels of CFA takes place several times during a year. In 2021, the exam schedule is as follows:

Feb 2021May 2021Aug 2021Nov 2021
Level IFeb 16- Mar 1May 18-24Aug 24-30Nov 16-22
Level II May 25- Jun 1Aug 31- Sep 4 
Level III May 25- Jun 1 Nov 23-25

The exams for CFP take place three times in a year – March, July, and November. In 2021, it is scheduled to take place during Mar 9-16, Jul 6-13, and Nov 2-9.

CFA vs CFP – How to Enroll?

For CFA,

  • Create an account at the CFA Institute website before the exam registration. However, if one plans to apply for any scholarship, then they should register much earlier.
  • Make the fee payment for the relevant exam.
  • Schedule testing appointment.

For CFP,

  • Create an account at the CFP Board website and complete the exam registration form.
  • Make the payment for the registration fee.
  • Schedule testing appointment.


CFA vs  CFP, whatever your end choice may be, let it be an informed one. This decision is for your career and hence keep in mind all these pros and cons. I hope I could help in whatever little I could. All the very best :-)

This has been a guide to CFA vs CFP. Here we discuss the top difference between CFA and CFP careers, examination pattern, pass rates, fees, and job opportunities. If you wish to evaluate other financial certifications, you can also checkout –

Reader Interactions


  1. Baelish says

    I am evaluating a career in Finance. Which one will be easier – CFA or CFP?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hello Baelish,
      Strictly between the two, CFP is much easier exam to pass. However, your choice of finance career should depend on what you want to take within Finance – Do you want to move in Corporate finance, Investment Banking etc, then choose CFA, however, if you like Financial Planning (real estate, tax etc) then go for CFP.

  2. Young k says

    I have completed my CPA exam and wondering if I should enroll for the CFP examination. I am 28 years old and don’t want to miss anything. Will this help me in resume building?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Young,

      Given that you already have an accounting background, not sure why you want to take the CFP examination. Do you have keen interest in Financial Planning (real estate, tax planning etc). In addition, you should not the experience requirements as well. Please have a look at this URL. You will have to move into financial planning role within 2-3 years of passing the examination as you are expected to complete the 3 years of client service or 2 years of apprenticeship within 5 years.


  3. Larry Yervandi says

    I am an engineer with 5 years of experience. I want to learn finance and change my career to be financial planner (CFP). Do you it is practical for me think about it now ?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Larry,

      Ofcourse it is practical. If you have keen interest in finance, you can appear for the CFP exam. CFP leads to a job in financial advisory who are nothing but sales guys. You can also look at financial planning for retirement planning, real estate, tax planning among others.


  4. Phillip Abraham says

    I think CFP is making more sense to me with a combination of ACCA P4 i can have a good stand of the whole thing.Thanks Dheeraj

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      sure Phillip! All the very best!


  5. Hai says

    Dheeraj, can you please advise if its make sense to hold both designation?

    • Dheeraj says


      If you wish to make a career in Investment Management (portfolio management) then I think it makes sense. Both the certifications cover Portfolio managemetn pretty exhaustively and will provide you with in-depth knowledge on the same.


  6. Amandeep Dhaka says

    Hi Dheeraj,

    I am studying actuarial science and working as an analyst, I am wondering which one among CFA andd CFP is better for me and which one is paid more ?

    Warm Regards,


    • Dheeraj says

      Hi Amandeep,

      I am not sure why you are looking for either of the two degrees – CFA or CFP. I believe there are advanced degrees in Actuaries that you can take to boost your career growth and interests.


  7. BABU says

    I am very much interested in the CFA but the fees are very high. In this regard, is there any chance to get scholarship backed by the CFA. Please advise me

  8. Mohammad says

    I think the CFP will be better because faster , low cost and easy more than CFP.
    You can use CFP to be your door for CFP.

    • Dheeraj says

      Hi Mohammad,

      It depends on what is your ultimate objective. If you have keen interest in portfolio management and want to connect with investors and advise them, then CFP makes lot of sense. However, if your primary objective is to get into investment Banking, I think CFA makes more sense.


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