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Personal Financial Specialist, PFS Certification: Details on Examination and Certification for Personal Financial Specialist

Written by AnonymousJanuary 31, 2012
 Personal Financial Specialist

If you’re looking to improve your career in accounting, obtaining an accounting certificate is an excellent first step. Accounting certifications can expand your accounting knowledge and increase your proficiency in a specific area of the accounting field.

Introduction to Personal Financial Specialist Certification

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) is a designation given exclusively to Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) who possess advanced expertise in the following areas:

  • Income taxation
  • Investment planning
  • Insurance planning
  • Retirement planning
  • Employee benefits
  • Estate planning
  • Performance management


The primary focus of CPAs that hold this certification is to increase their expertise in personal financial planning in order to provide a wider range of services to their clients and to perform those services in a more qualified manner.

Along with access to helpful resources reserved exclusively for AICPA members, becoming a PFS

  • Distinguishes you from other financial planners
  • Demonstrates your dedication to continued education
  • Provides a powerful testament to your well-developed financial planning and tax skills, especially coupled with your CPA certificate
  • Opens up the possibility of receiving referrals from individuals in related professions
  • Welcomes you into a community of other personal financial specialists who share your interests and may provide networking opportunities.


Key Steps to Be Certified as a Personal Financial Specialist

To be eligible for PFS designation, you must first be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which entails holding a valid and unrevoked CPA license. Along with this preliminary requirement, the following conditions apply:

You must earn a minimum of 80 hours of personal financial planning education within five years of applying
You must have two years of full-time relevant business or teaching experience within five years of applying
You must pass the PFS Examination

Details of the Personal Financial Specialist Examination

The PFS Examination is a comprehensive test lasting seven hours and 15 minutes. The exam, which contains 230 multiple-choice questions, covers topics fundamental to the profession, including:

  • Professional responsibilities
  • Personal financial planning process
  • Fundamentals of financial planning
  • Income tax planning
  • Insurance planning
  • Retirement planning
  • Employee benefits
  • Estate planning
  • Charitable planning
  • Special needs


Preparing for the Personal Financial Specialist Examination

The AICPA recommends that you prepare for the PFS Examination by familiarizing yourself with the PFS Body of Knowledge found on their website and coupling this with information you’ve obtained through relevant work experience, which the AICPA likens to 3,000 hours of personal financial planning work.

Additionally, prospective PFS candidates have the option of taking a PFS Exam Review Course, which the AICPA offers in both a self-paced and a live class format.

Maintaining the Personal Financial Specialist Designation

Three years after you earn the PFS credential, you are required to fulfill several recertification requirements. In order to maintain the PFS designation

  • You must have a regular AICPA membership in good standing
  • You must have a valid and unrevoked CPA certificate issued by a legally-constituted state authority
  • You must accumulate 60 hours of Continued Professional Education related to the PFS Body of Knowledge
  • You must submit an online statement declaring your willingness to comply with PFS recertification requirements
  • You must pay an annual renewal fee of $350


Governing Board Information

The PFS designation is offered by

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
212.596.6200
www.aicpa.org