Personal Financial Specialist Experienced CPA Pathway

What is the PFS credential?
The AICPA’s Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential is for CPA financial planners and CPA tax practitioners who want to formally demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in personal financial planning for individuals, families and business owners.   

There are several ways for CPAs to earn the PFS credential, including the new Experienced CPA Pathway for CPAs who qualify with significant experience (see requirements below). This pathway presents a more streamlined exam and demonstrates the same level of overall rigor and competency as the other approaches.

A career boost
The PFS credential can bring confidence and reassurance to the client relationship, particularly as the impact of myriad uncertainties ripple through clients’ tax and personal finance decisions. In addition, research indicates that people recognize CPAs as trusted advisers and prefer a financial planner who could manage a range of services for them.  A PFS also boosts a CPA’s career options and opportunities for a firm’s growth. In fact, in 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in projected a 27% growth in the need for personal financial advisers over the next six years and 30% over the next 10, saying the best prospects are for those with certifications.

The AICPA wants to help members meet the important financial planning needs of the market and is offering limited-time discounts to facilitate this opportunity for your career and for firms.

The path to PFS
The Experienced CPA pathway requires applicants hold a valid and unrevoked CPA license and meet the following requirements within the 7 years preceding their application for the credential:

  1. 7,500 hours of experience. A minimum of 7,500 hours of PFP-related experience (up to 2,000 of this can be tax compliance work)
  2. 105 hours of education. A minimum of 105 hours of PFP-related CPE which must include the AICPA’s 13-hour online PFS Experienced CPA Education
  3. Experienced CPA assessment for PFS. Pass this streamlined online case study-based exam.

Check off these steps to get started on the path:

  1. Assess your experience level.     
    • Do you work with individual, family, or business owner clients on any of the following topics included in the PFP Body of Knowledge?
      • Tax Planning
      • Estate planning
      • Retirement planning
      • Investment planning
      • Risk management and insurance planning
      • Cash flow planning
      • Charitable planning
      • Elder and special needs planning
      • Education planning
      • Employee benefit and business owner planning
    • When you review your work experience over the last 7 years, have you accumulated a minimum of 7,500 hours in these areas?  Remember 2,000 hours of this total can be tax compliance work.
    • If your answer is yes, then you qualify for this pathway to the CPA/PFS credential.
  2. Review your education.
    • Education in any of the topic areas listed above counts. The 105 hours of PFP-related CPE comes out to 15 hours per year, a number that CPAs exceed to maintain their CPA license.
  3. Purchase both the required education and assessment.
    • The Experienced CPA Education and Assessment are both available on our website. These products will show as list price but are steeply discounted during the introductory period through the end of 2020 with the reduced price showing in your cart.
    • The PFS Experienced CPA Education includes modules on the following topics:
      • Professional standards and responsibilities
      • PFP regulatory and fiduciary landscape
      • Personal financial planning process
      • Cash management strategies
      • PFP in Practice – Case studies applying the standards, planning process, and technical topics.
    • If you have already taken the PFP Practical Applications Certificate education, then this qualifies.  Just review your materials and purchase the PFS Experienced CPA Assessment.
  4. Complete the required education and pass the assessment.
    • Completing the PFS Experienced CPA Education both prepares you to sit for the PFS Experienced CPA Assessment and grants 13 hours of CPE and a digital badge that can be used on your website, client communications and social media.
    • The PFS Experienced CPA Assessment is a psychometrically valid exam is offered and proctored online for your convenience.
    • It tests the application of the PFP Body of knowledge to the case studies discussed in the PFS Experienced CPA Education you have just completed.
    • It is 60 questions long and you will have 100 minutes in which to complete it.

Once you have completed these steps you can apply for the PFS credential.

The PFS presents an opportunity to strengthen your credibility with your clients as you deepen and add value in your relationships. If you are a CPA who has worked with individuals for many years, you know that many of these PFP topics are a regular part of your client relationships, making you likely to already qualify. What better time than now to get your PFS credential and be your client’s rock!

If you have any questions, you can reach the PFP team at