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Designations Glossary

Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF®) 

The Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) mark demonstrates that an advisor has a fundamental understanding of the principles surrounding fiduciary duty, the standards of conduct for acting as a fiduciary, and a process for carrying out fiduciary responsibility. Once accredited, AIF designees are required to agree to a Code of Ethics and complete six hours of appropriate continuing education every year. 

Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst® (AIFA®)

An Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst (AIFA) is an investment professional with an extra level of education and expertise to give clients fiduciary advice. An AIFA designation is offered by the Center for Fiduciary Studies and allows advisors to perform fiduciary assessments for individuals, companies, nonprofits, and other entities. Once accredited, AIFA designees are required to abide by a code of ethics and complete 10 hours of appropriate continuing education every year. 

Accredited Portfolio Management AdvisorSM (APMA®)

The Accredited Portfolio Management Advisor (APMA) is a graduate-level designation program for experienced financial professionals. The program covers the finer points of portfolio creation, augmentation, and maintenance. Topics covered in the program include client assessment, risk/return, investment objectives, bond and equity portfolios, modern portfolio theory, investor psychology, and other topics that are applicable to building appropriate client portfolios. All designation holders are required to complete 16 hours of continuing education every two years.

Accredited Tax Advisor® (ATA)

The Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA) is a leading national credential for practitioners who handle sophisticated tax-planning issues including planning for owners of closely-held businesses and for highly-compensated individuals. Other complex situations include choosing qualified retirement plans and performing estate tax planning. Their expertise covers individual tax returns, business entities, fiduciaries, trusts and estates, as well as tax planning, tax consulting, and ethics. A professional must pass the ATA examination and meet a three-year experience requirement. 

Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM (AWMA®)

An Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWMA) has completed a course of study encompassing wealth strategies, equity-based compensation plans, tax reduction alternatives, and asset protection alternatives. Additionally, advisors must pass an examination that tests their ability to synthesize complex concepts and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations. All designees agree to adhere to Standards of Professional Conduct and are subject to a disciplinary process.

Designees renew their designation every two years by completing 16 hours of continuing education, reaffirming adherence to the Standards of Professional Conduct, and complying with self-disclosure requirements.

Behavioral Financial Advisor (BFATM)

The Behavioral Financial Advisor (BFA) designation is a program designed to educate financial professionals on the integration of behavioral techniques that are founded in traditional finance, psychology, and neuroscience. The integration of these concepts from different fields of study provides a framework for helping clients make better decisions throughout the financial planning process. Professionals are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education annually.

Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA®)

The Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) is a professional designation offered by the CAIA Association to investment professionals who complete a course of study and pass two examinations. The CAIA curriculum is designed to provide finance professionals with a broad base of knowledge in alternative investments. CAIA designees are required to maintain membership in the CAIA Association and adhere to professional and ethical standards. 

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®)

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) is an expert in the unique financial circumstances that surround a divorce. The role of the CDFA professional is to help the client and his or her attorney to understand how the decisions they make today will impact the client’s financial future. The advisor must complete 15 hours of divorce-related continuing education every two years. 

Certified Estate Planner™ (CEP®)

The Certified Estate Planner (CEP) is a financial, legal, or tax professional who has earned a distinctive educational certification through the National Institute of Certified Estate Planners (NICEP); Has completed a rigorous eight-module course of instruction in the field of estate planning; and passed a comprehensive examination.  

Certified Financial Planner™ Professional (CFP®)

To obtain CFP® certification, an individual must pass the comprehensive CFP Certification Examination; pass CFP Board’s Candidate Fitness Standards; agree to abide by CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility; and comply with the Financial Planning Practice Standards, which spell out what clients should be able to reasonably expect from the financial planning engagement. 

Individuals who become certified must complete the following ongoing education and ethics requirements in order to maintain the right to continue to use the CFP marks:

  • Continuing Education Complete 30 hours of continuing education hours every two years, including two hours on the Code of Ethics and other parts of the Standards of Professional Conduct.
  • Ethics Renew an agreement to be bound by the Standards of Professional Conduct. The Standards prominently require that CFP professionals provide financial planning services at a fiduciary standard of care. This means CFP professionals must provide financial planning services in the best interests of their clients.

Certified Investment Management Analyst® (CIMA®)

The Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) designation is administered through the Investment Management Consultants Association® (IMCA®), CIMA certification is the only credential designed specifically for advanced investment consultants. CIMA certification is an international, technical portfolio construction program for investment consultants, analysts, financial advisors, and wealth management professionals. Certificants must have three years of financial services experience and a satisfactory record of ethical conduct, as determined by IMCA’s Admissions Committee.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA®)

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a professional-certification credential in the management accounting and financial management fields. The certification signifies that the person possesses knowledge in the areas of financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics.

A bachelor’s degree or professional accounting certification, two years of work experience, and successful completion of parts one and two of the exam are required.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

A certified public accountant (CPA) is a designation given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). A certified public accountant (CPA) must meet education, work, and examination requirements—including holding a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, or accounting, and completing 150 hours of education.  

Certified Specialist in Estate Planning® (CSEP)

The Certified Specialist in Estate Planning (CSEP) program consists of a curriculum of core and elective courses specifically designed to enhance and expand practical knowledge. Candidates must complete six courses, two electives, and pass a related exam for each. The courses offered in the CSEP program vary basic to advanced levels of knowledge. CSEPs are required to take continuing education courses to maintain their certification.

Certified Securities Operations Professional (CSOP)

The Certified Securities Operations Professional (CSOP) certification is a credential for financial services professionals whose primary function and expertise focus on the execution of processing operations related to all manner of securities. It signifies that an individual working in this field has attained comprehensive training in several professional knowledge areas including Types of Securities, Regulation and Compliance, Controls, Reconciliation and Audit, and Industry Structures. Candidates must pass an examination that covers the knowledge areas including types of securities

Certified Specialist in Retirement Planning® (CSRP)

The Certified Specialist in Retirement Planning (CSRP) program includes a curriculum of core and elective courses. Candidates must complete all five core courses, two electives, and pass a related exam for each. The courses offered in the Certified Specialist in Retirement Planning program vary in level of knowledge from basic to advanced.

Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA)

The Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA) designation signifies that an individual working in this field has attained comprehensive training in the following professional knowledge areas: Fiduciary and Trust Activities, Financial Planning, Tax Law and Planning, Investment Management, and Ethics.

Candidates must meet the experience, education, ethics, and examination requirements determined to be competency measures for wealth management professionals. Every three years, certificants must complete three continuing education credits in Ethics, and 45 credits of continuing education in each of the following four knowledge areas: Fiduciary and Trust Activities, Personal Financial Planning, Tax Law, and Investment Management.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®)

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is conferred by the CFA Institute. A financial analyst seeking membership to the CFA Institute must:

  • Meet eligibility requirements
  • Fully comply with the CFA Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct
  • Study books, journal articles, and other readings designated by the Institute
  • Successfully pass three examinations, each approximately six hours long and administered by the CFA Institute

The CFA is awarded to candidates who have passed the examinations and met the other requirements specified by the CFA Institute.

Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®)

The Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation program focuses on the comprehensive financial planning process as an organized way to collect and analyze information about a client’s total financial situation; to identify and establish specific financial goals; and to formulate, implement, and monitor a comprehensive plan to achieve those goals.

Candidates must pass an examination for the following six required courses and two elective courses to earn the ChFC designation. Candidates must meet experience requirements and ethical standards, including three years of business experience immediately preceding the date of use of the designation are required. 

Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®)

The Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) credential is specifically designed to enhance the knowledge of people employed in the life insurance industry. It requires successful completion of a ten-part course of study that covers the fundamentals of economics, finance, taxation, investments, and other areas of risk management as they apply to life insurance. Enrollment in the CLU program requires that an individual have at least three years of professional experience in the insurance industry, preferably in life insurance. 

Certified Medical Planner® (CMPTM)

A Certified Medical Planner undertakes a yearlong course of study in topics specifically related to financial planning for medical professionals. A CMP has an expertise in catering to the unique needs of doctors in order to meet their specific financial goals.

Concepts like: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA); human resource management and employee outsourcing; medical information technology; and fixed rate capitation and traditional reimbursement are covered.

Certified Retirement Counselor® (CRC®)

The Certified Retirement Counselor (CRC) designation, offered through The International Foundation for Retirement Education (InFRE), recognizes retirement planning professionals who demonstrate a mastery of subject matter, a commitment to the retirement planning profession, and adherence to a code of ethics and continuing education requirements.

The CRC certification examination was designed to ensure that all CRC certificants possess the necessary knowledge and skills to competently fulfill their responsibilities as retirement counseling professionals. Candidates must agree to the Certificate Holder’s Statement indicating adherence to the CRC Code of Ethics. To maintain use of the certification, certificants must annually complete 15 hours of approved continuing education.

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠ (CRPC®)

The Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC) program is offered through the College for Financial Planning® and focuses on the pre- and post-retirement needs of individuals, asset management, estate planning, and the entire retirement planning process using models and techniques from real client situations.

Candidates must pass an examination that tests their ability to synthesize complex concepts and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations. They also must agree to the Code of Ethics, which includes to abiding by the Standards of Professional Conduct and Terms and Conditions. Every two years individuals must complete 16 hours of continuing education.

Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist℠ (CRPS®)

The Chartered Retirement Planning Specialist (CRPS) program is offered through the College for Financial Planning® and focuses on the design, installation, maintenance, and administration of retirement plans. Candidates must pass an examination that tests their ability to synthesize complex concepts and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations. They also must agree to the Code of Ethics, which includes agreeing to abide by the Standards of Professional Conduct and Terms and Conditions. Every two years individuals must renew their right to continue using the CRPS designation by completing 16 hours of continuing education.

Enrolled Agent (EA)

An enrolled agent is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by either passing a three-part comprehensive IRS test covering individual and business tax returns, or through experience as a former IRS employee. Enrolled agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards. Individuals who obtain this status must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years.

Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent (ERPA)

The Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent, or ERPA, is a classification for a professional who is allowed to practice before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS recognizes that retirement plan professionals are highly competent in their field and play an active and critical role in representing employers before the IRS on retirement plan matters.

Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™ (FPQP)

Individuals who hold the FPQP designation have completed a course of study that includes the financial planning process, the five disciplines of financial planning and general financial planning concepts, terminology, and product categories. Individuals must pass an end-of-course examination that tests their ability to synthesize complex concepts and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations.

All designees have agreed to adhere to Standards of Professional Conduct and are subject to a disciplinary process. Designees renew their designation every two-years by completing 16 hours of continuing education, reaffirming adherence to the Standards of Professional Conduct and complying with self-disclosure requirements.

Investment Adviser Certified Compliance Professional® (IACCP®)

The Investment Adviser Certified Compliance Professional (IACCP) Program primarily focuses on the general foundation knowledge that is associated with the job responsibilities and functions that most investment adviser compliance professionals with two years of experience are expected to perform, and does not purport to test on the more specialized knowledge that is associated with a highly experienced and expert compliance professional. 

Juris Doctor (JD)

The Juris Doctor degree, also known as the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, is a graduate-entry professional degree in law and one of several Doctor of Law degrees. The Juris Doctor is earned by completing law school. It has the academic standing of a professional doctorate (in contrast to a research doctorate) in the United States.

Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow® (LUTCF®)

The Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) curriculum combines classroom learning and field training relating to several practice specialties including life insurance and annuities, health and employee benefits, multiline, and financial advising and investments. The curriculum consists of three, nine-week courses, which include eight weeks of instruction followed by a week of study and review for the exam. 

Master of Arts (MA)

Master of Arts (Latin: Magister Artium or Artium Magister) is a type of master’s degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is usually contrasted with the Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree typically study linguistics, history, communication studies, diplomacy, public administration, political science, or other subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing examinations, research, or a combination of the two.

Master of Accounting Science (MAS)

The Master of Accounting Science (MAS) is a graduate professional degree designed to provide students with the 150 credit hours of classroom, but mostly clinical hours, required by most states before taking the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. This specialty program usually runs one to two years and contains 10 to 12 three-semester credit courses. The program may consist of all graduate accounting courses or a combination of graduate accounting courses, graduate management, tax, leadership, and other graduate business electives. 

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree originated in the United States in the early 20th century when the country industrialized and companies sought scientific management. The core courses in an MBA program cover various areas of business administration such as accounting, applied statistics, human resources, business communication, business strategy and finance, among others.

Most programs also include elective courses and concentrations for further study in a particular such as accounting, finance, and marketing. The MBA is a terminal degree and a professional degree. 

Doctor of Medicine (MD)

The Doctor of Medicine (abbreviated M.D., from the Latin Medicinae Doctor) is a medical degree, the meaning of which varies between different jurisdictions. In the United States, the M.D. denotes a professional graduate degree awarded upon graduation from medical school. 

Master of Professional Accountancy (MPA)

The Master of Professional Accountancy (MPA) degree programs are specifically designed for students who desire to work in public accounting and helps prepare them for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. These programs can typically be completed in roughly one year. Some MPA programs offer internship opportunities, additional graduate certificates, and even specializations, such as audit data analytics or financial reporting. Elective courses may vary by program, but most MPA programs require similar core courses that cover topics in accounting ethics, tax reporting, accounting theory, and accounting analysis. 

Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®)

Individuals who hold the Master Planner Advanced Studies (MPAS) designation have completed a Master of Science degree with a major in personal financial planning. The program consists of 36-43 semester credits and delves deeply into personal financial planning or investment-related content using research-based coursework and real-world case studies. All designees must agree to adhere to Standards of Professional Conduct and are subject to a disciplinary process. Professionals renew their designation every two years by completing 40 hours of content-specific continuing education, reaffirming adherence to the Standards of Professional Conduct, and complying with self-disclosure requirements.

Master of Science (MS)

A Master of Science (Latin: Magister Scientiae) is a master’s degree in the field of science awarded by universities in many countries or a person holding such a degree. In contrast to the Master of Arts degree, the Master of Science degree is typically granted for studies in sciences, engineering, and medicine and is usually for programs that are more focused on scientific and mathematical subjects; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the humanities and social sciences. While it ultimately depends upon the specific program, earning a Master of Science degree typically includes writing a thesis.

Master of Science in Taxation (MST)

The Master of Science in Taxation (MST) degree program is designed for professionals seeking to gain comprehensive, practical knowledge of tax accounting, tax law, and tax research, while also achieving a deeper understanding of the broader concepts of tax methodology and tax procedure. The MST curriculum is continually reviewed and revised to ensure that students are receiving relevant, updated information that will create marketable skills in a fast-paced business environment.

Professional Certified Marketer (PCM®)

The Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) program is sponsored by the American Marketing Association (AMA).  The program provides instruction on modern marketing skills by offering multiple specialist tracks include Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, and Marketing Management. Candidates must pass an exam and earn 10 continuing-education credits each year to maintain the accreditation. 

Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

The Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) program allows CPAs to gain and demonstrate competence in providing estate, tax, retirement, risk management, and/or investment planning advice to individuals, families, and business owners through experience, education, examination, and a resulting credential. 

Professional in Human Resources (PHR®)

The Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification demonstrates mastery of the technical and operational aspects of HR practices and U.S. laws and regulations. This credential is for an HR professional who focuses on program implementation, has a tactical/logistical orientation, is accountable to another HR professional within the organization, and has responsibilities that focus on the HR department rather than the whole organization. A professional must earn 60 recertification credits over a three-year period to retain the credential. 

Qualified 401(k) Administrator (QKA)

The Qualified 401(k) Administrator (QKA) credential is offered for retirement plan professionals who work primarily with 401(k) plans. Applicants for the QKA credentials typically assist employers and consultants with the recordkeeping, non-discrimination testing, and the administrative aspects of 401(k) and related defined contribution plans.

Qualified Pension Administrator (QPA)

The Qualified Pension Administrator (QPA) credential was created by the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) to recognize professionals who are qualified to perform the technical and administrative functions of qualified plan administration. QPAs assist employers, actuaries, and consultants in performing functions such as determination of eligibility benefits, computation of benefits, plan recordkeeping, trust accounting and disclosure, and compliance requirements.


No longer offered.

Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®)

A retirement income certified professional (RICP) is a financial professional who specializes in retirement income planning. Once qualified, RICPs advise retirees and near-retirees as to the best way to use the assets they have accumulated for retirement to live comfortably within a realistic budget and not run out of money prematurely.

The RICP program consists of three courses: retirement income process, strategies, and solutions; sources of retirement income; and managing a retirement income plan. The program is designed for financial professionals who already have a broad-based financial planning credential, such as chartered financial consultant, certified financial planner, or chartered life underwriter, or whose businesses already emphasize retirement income planning. Applicants are also required to complete the three online courses and pass an exam. RICPs must adhere to a code of ethics and meet continuing education and reporting requirements.

Registered Paraplanner℠ (RP©)

No longer offered.

Society for Human Resource Management – Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)

Typically, HR professionals who implement policies and strategies, serve as point of contact for staff and stakeholders, deliver HR services, and perform operational HR functions, apply for the SHRM-CP exam. In order to maintain the SHRM certification, a professional must pass the exam and earn 60 professional development credits (PDCs) every three years.