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<span style="margin: 0px; color: black; font-family: 'Arial',sans-serif; font-size: 10.5pt;"><strong>Who is a CPA Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS)?</strong></span>

Who is a CPA Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS)?


A CPA/PFS has received the most comprehensive financial planning professional certification available, the Personal Financial Specialist credential. The educational requirements necessary to become a CPA, as well as the experience, skills and credentials make them the best choice to assist clients and potential clients in a holistic manner with any tax, estate, retirement, investment and risk management planning concerns they may have.


Here are some things to consider:


  • Every CPA/PFS is first and foremost a CPA - only CPAs qualify to hold the CPA/PFS.
    • A CPA’s foundational tax expertise and business acumen coupled with the stringent PFS requirements of financial planning knowledge enables the CPA/PFS to uniquely address the financial planning concerns of individuals.
  • Every CPA/PFS has a duty to approach financial planning objectively and without bias; intent on upholding our client’s best interest.
    • CPAs are held to a strict code of professional conduct and standards with regulatory oversight by state boards of accountancy.
    • The CPA/PFS credential builds on the CPA profession’s relationship as a trusted advisor.
  • Every CPA/PFS is a part of the American Institute of CPAs, the largest professional organization for CPAs.
    • This 125-year old profession of CPAs provides a community for the CPA/PFS with an unwavering commitment to values and the highest standard of client care.


How do you know if your CPA can help you with tax, estate, retirement, investment or risk management planning objectively and with your best interest?  They will hold the CPA/PFS credential.

What does it take to hold the CPA/PFS credential? 


  • Education
    • After completing the rigorous accounting college degree and education necessary to obtain the CPA license, the CPA/PFS holder has to obtain 75 hours of continuing education in personal financial planning (PFP) subject areas.
    • Once the CPA/PFS credential is obtained, the CPA/PFS holder must stay current in his or her PFP knowledge with at least 60 hours of additional PFP-related continuing education every three years.


  • Examination
    • With the 14 hour CPA exam behind them, CPA/PFS holders then have to study for and pass an additional comprehensive personal financial planning exam on topics including the financial planning process and tax, estate, retirement, investment, insurance, charitable, and employee benefits planning.  CPAs that have already demonstrated their knowledge of these areas by holding the CFP® or ChFC designations are deemed to have met this examination requirement.


  • Experience
    • In addition to the experience required by their state board of accountancy, CPA/PFS holders must have 3,000 hours of PFP-related experience (or two years of full-time experience) over a five year period.
    • In recognition that tax compliance relationships often form the basis for tax and financial planning experience, up to 1,000 hours of the 3,000 hour requirement can be met with tax compliance experience.

The combined requirements to both obtain and maintain the CPA license and PFS credential and the oversight by both the state boards of accountancy and the American Institute of CPAs assure the public of the technical competence and  fiduciary responsibility of the CPA/PFS credential holder. He or she is someone they can trust.