Difference Between CFP and CS

CFP or Certified Financial Planner is offered by CFP Board and this course is best for finance professionals that are willing to assist their clients with financial planning services whereas CS or Company Secretary is offered by the ICSI (Institute of Company Secretary of India) and this course is best for aspirants who are willing to gain an expertise in corporate law and finance.

Deciding on a career is never a piece of cake. We all know that, and hence here is an opportunity to weigh the merits and demerits of both and deciding for yourself what suits you the best.

Read on to know about these two credentials in the areas of accounting & financial profession. I hope this could help you steer towards the right direction in your career.


What is CFP?

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a certification awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., or CFP Board, based in the USA. CFP Board is affiliated with no less than 25 organizations globally, which award this certification, and the certified professionals are known as international owners of CFP. It should be kept in mind that the USA and UK boards have different eligibility criteria for this certification.

To earn this credential, a professional should first fulfill the educational criteria and have adequate professional financial planning experience before appearing for the exam. The certification holders must also adhere to the ethical standards and code of ethics, as defined by the CFP Board. This certification helps prepare finance professionals to work in the capacity of financial planners for their clients.

What is CS?

Company Secretary (CS) is a professional designation awarded by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) on completion of Foundation, Executive, and Professional Programme-level exams. A Company Secretary usually acts as the Chief Advisor to the Board of DirectorsBoard Of DirectorsBoard of Directors (BOD) refers to a corporate body comprising a group of elected people who represent the interest of a company’s stockholders. The board forms the top layer of the hierarchy and focuses on ensuring that the company efficiently achieves its goals. read more in matters of legal import and, as such, is supposed to be an expert in corporate laws, securities laws, and matters of corporate governance.

A CS should have the required proficiency in corporate laws and communicate with a high level of efficiency to fulfill his role with greater efficacy. However, CS does not have the power to legally represent or defend his or her client or the company in case of any legal dispute. CS is also responsible for all matters related to regulatory compliance within the company and deals with corporate issues of strategic significance.

CFP vs CS Infographics

Let’s understand the difference between CFP vs. CS with the help of infographics.


Entry Requirements


Educational Criteria: Candidates must hold a Bachelor’s Degree accredited by a body recognized by the US Department of Education. It must be kept in mind that although a Bachelor’s Degree is a requirement for initial certification, it is not a requirement to appear for CFP Certification Exam. It is only within five years of clearing the CFP Certification Exam that a candidate is required to verify his or her Bachelor’s Degree details with the CFP Board.

Additionally, a candidate is required to have undergone a college-level program in personal financial planning or an accepted equivalent, including the financial plan development course registered with the CFP Board.

To ensure that a professional can deliver quality services to the clients, three to five years of professional experience in financial planning is required to earn the right to use the CFP marks.


The eligibility criteria for getting into Foundation Programme is 10+2  pass or equivalent students from any stream (Arts, Commerce, Science) except for Fine Arts. The Executive Programme can be pursued either after completing the Foundation Programme or those with a Bachelor’s Degree or a Postgraduate Degree in any stream (except Fine Arts) can enroll directly into the Executive Programme. The Professional Programme can only be pursued after completion of the Executive Programme.

CFP vs CS Comparative Table

Organizing BodyThe CFP exams are managed and controlled by the Certified Financial Planner Board (CFP Board) of Standards Inc., USA.The CS exams are managed and controlled by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), India.
PatternThe course consists of only one level.The course is divided into 3 levels:
• Foundation course (only for undergraduates)
• Executive program
• Professional program
Duration of CourseMost candidates take around 3 years to complete the course.Most candidates take around 2 to 3 years to complete the course.
SyllabusThe syllabus of the course covers the following knowledge topics:
• General Principles of Financial Planning
• Estate Planning
• Education Planning
• Investment Planning
• Retirement Savings & Income Planning
• Tax Planning
• Professional Conduct & Regulation
• Risk Management & Insurance Planning

The syllabus covers the following papers:
• Governance, Risk Management & Compliances
• Business Management & Entrepreneurship
• Accounting & Auditing
• Business Economics
• General & Commercial Laws
• Company & Tax Laws
• Setting up & Closure of Businesses
• Corporate Reconstructing, Insolvency, Liquidation & Winding-up
• Financial & Strategic Management
• Securities Laws & Capital Markets
• Resolution of Corporate Disputes
Exam FeesThe cost of the course varies depending on the time of registration. The exam fees for early, standard, and late registration are $825, $925, and $1,025 respectively.The cost of the course varies in the range of $400 to $500. Further, commerce graduates and ICAI members and are eligible for certain exemptions.
JobsSome of the common profiles include:
• Estate Planner
• Retirement Planner
• Investment Planner
• Legal Financial Manager
• Risk Manager
Some of the common profiles include:
• Legal Experts
• Strategic Manager
• Corporate Planner
• Chief Advisor to Board
• Executive Secretary to MD/ CEO
DifficultyThe difficulty level of the CFP exams is moderate as indicated from a historical pass rate of more than 60%. The overall pass rate for the exams conducted in 2019 was 62%, while that for the first-timers was 66%.The difficulty level of the exams is quite high as reflected from very low pass rates. The pass rates for the Professional program exams conducted during June 2019 were in the range of 8% to 17%.
Exam DateThe upcoming exams for the year 2021 will take place during March 09-16, July 06-13, and November 02-09.The upcoming exams for the year 2021 will begin on June 01.

Why Pursue CFP?

CFP is a highly coveted designation which adds to the credibility of financial planners in the eyes of their prospective employers and their clients. It is a globally acknowledged credential that helps financial planners to enhance their knowledge and skillsets to be able to better serve any individual by acquiring an in-depth understanding of personal financial planning needs.

In an increasingly transparent modern setting, financial planning is not the sole domain of financially well-off individuals. A financial planner has to guide an average individual to realize their financial goals with a strategic utilization of available resources.

Why Pursue CS?

CS is undoubtedly a highly reputed designation, and it takes a great deal of hard work to clear the exams themselves. However, apart from it being a tough nut to crack, the trust and credibility invested in this designation are what make it so valuable. Practically, a company MD or CEO is supposed to keep with the views of CS on matters of legal significance and seek his or her advice to plan corporate governance policies of the company. This designation enjoys global recognition and brings along with it a high level of credibility as well as responsibility for any professional.

You may also read this complete guide on CS exams for further details.


Finance professionals with a keen interest in helping their clients with their financial planning would better opt for CFP. This would allow them to add skills and knowledge in the area, along with greater trust across the industry as far as financial planningFinancial PlanningFinancial planning is a structured approach to understanding your current and future financial goals and then taking the necessary measures to accomplish them. Because this does not begin and end in a specific time frame, it is referred to as an ongoing more roles are concerned.

CS is undoubtedly a tougher nut to crack and is more suitable for those looking to gain expertise in corporate law and finance. It would bring along plenty of opportunities to work in an advisory role to the Board of Directors within a company and other roles associated with devising and implementing corporate governance policies.

This has been a guide to CFP vs. CS. Here we discuss the difference between CFP and CS along with infographics to compare their career path, exam patterns, eligibility, salaries. You can learn more from the following articles –

Reader Interactions


  1. Jacob says

    This was something very interesting to know about CFP and CS. Thanks for sharing your knowledge this was very useful for me and I am sure most of your readers would have liked this. Can you also explain me the difference between CA and CS, as I am very confused between these two courses.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Thanks for your kind words and I am glad you liked this. To know the differences and detailed information about CA and CS you go through this article – CA vs CS. Here you will get all the answers for your questions. Enjoy Reading!!

  2. Ellis Cole says

    Thanks for sharing this article which really has something new to learn. And I have also read all the related articles you have mentioned below but I was looking for the comparison between CFP and CWM i.e Chartered Wealth Manager. Please share me the same if you have.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Thanks for your kind words. To know the differences between CFP and CWM you can read this article CFP vs CWM. Happy learning!!

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