For parents these days, there’s a huge focus these days on not just getting kids into college, but getting them into the “right” college. And whether it’s realistic or not, many people by default want to plan for their kids getting into recognized Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, or Stanford, in the hopes that studying at a “top school” will help their kids’ future career prospects. Accordingly, it’s perhaps no great surprise that more and more people who are looking to study for their CFP certification are also asking the question of what the “best” or “top ranked” CFP programs are, and whether it matters where you go to get your CFP. Particularly in light of the fact that some of the largest CFP education programs are completely unknown outside of our industry.
In this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1PM EST broadcast via Periscope, I discuss why for most people, it doesn’t really matter if you get your CFP certification from a “top ranked” CFP program or not, and what criteria you should really focus on instead when getting your CFP education.
First and foremost, the primary reason that it doesn’t matter where you get your CFP education is that most clients really don’t care what school you went to school. They just rarely ask. And even when it does happen, it’s not difficult to explain the credentials of an industry -specific educational institution like the American College or the College for Financial Planning – and then move on. Because ultimately, if of getting your CFP marks gives you expertise and confidence that you communicate accordingly, that is the primary benefit of CFP certification! Not getting the “right” institution at the top of your degree.
That being said, tt is worth noting that there are some situations where the school you get your CFP from may matter, at least a little. The first is when you are trying to get a financial planning job. Not a position where you need to go and get clients, but an internal position at a financial planning firm. Because when a firm is hiring someone, they have very little to look at… and as a result, having a school like Texas Tech or Virginia Tech on your resume – since these are schools known to have reputable CFP programs – can at least cast a positive “halo effect” on you. But don’t count on that getting you the job. It might help you get an interview and tilt the scales in your favor a bit, but it ultimately comes down to what you learned in your CFP program. And that means if you ultimately want to land a job, focus on picking the program that allows you to learn the material best, because that is what will get you past an interview to an actual financial planning job!
The other time you may want to consider where you get your CFP is if you plan to go into academia. Although even in academia, it still isn’t about where you get your six CFP education courses per se, but where you get a masters degree or a Ph.D. could truly matter. In this case, you aren’t trying to win over consumers or persuade an employer to hire you, but in academia, school rankings simply matter more. Many schools like to have a good “academic pedigree” for their professors. Yet, even within academia, it’s going to matter what type of job you ultimately want. If you want to help start a new CFP program or primarily teach undergraduates, then where you get your degree won’t matter as much. If you want a tenure-track research position at an R1 research university or business school, then where you get your degree will be more important, even if it doesn’t matter so much where you took your CFP courses.
The bottom line is, for most people getting their CFP certification – especially those who are just wanting to get a job or build an advisory firm getting clients – don’t stress about where you get your CFP education. Instead, stress about finding a program where you can do well, and actually learn the content! Because, in the end, the biggest determinant of your success will be how well you actually learn the material and can confidently use it. Ultimately, this comes down to educational fit – not academic pedigree!