What is a Personal Financial Specialist?

If you are someone who enjoys working with numbers and enjoys advising others who may not have a firm grasp on financial concepts, you may want to know more about the career possibilities a Personal Financial Specialist can offer. Often referred to as PFS, this certification designation is conferred by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to accounting professionals who possess designated qualifications. The overarching body of the AICPA provides a number of benefits to its members of all professional levels. Such benefits include opportunities for professional development, advocacy services, relevant discounts and general guidance. Read on to learn more about why you may wish to aspire to receive PFS status in order to augment your accounting career.

Credential Requirements

Any individual seeking PFS designation must first possess state licensure as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Having achieved this rank demonstrates your capability as a qualified accounting professional, along with the necessary education and experience to provide services that meet the standards and codes of the AICPA. In addition, you must hold at least two years of full-time work experience, or 3000 documented hours, in the realm of offering personal financial planning. This can either be in a teaching capacity or in a business environment.

You may apply for PFS certification prior to holding this experience, but you must gain it within five years of your application. Also, your required work experience, 1000 hours of which can be in the area of tax compliance, must fall under the official PFS Body of Knowledge. Subject areas in this grouping include:

  • Charitable planning
  • Employee benefits
  • Fundamentals of financial planning
  • Income planning
  • Insurance planning
  • Investment planning
  • Performance management
  • Retirement planning
  • Special needs

Those seeking PFS accreditation through teaching experience alone must have been employed as a full-time professor, teaching a minimum of four courses in which the material falls across at least 50% of the subject matter within the PFS Body of Knowledge.

Education Requirements

In order to receive the title of Personal Financial Specialist, you must have completed as least 80 hours of education related to becoming a Personal Financial Planner (PFP) over the last five years. Such education would be that which relates to the PFS Body of Knowledge. Accredited accounting programs should contain such coursework, with each credit hour equating a certain number of PFP educational credit. Approved Counting Professional Education (CPE) credits also count toward needed PFP education hours, along with preparing, teaching and presenting a college or CPE class.

PFS Examination

Finally, before you can receive PFS certification, you must pass any one of three exams within the PFP educational standards. These exams are the Certified Financial Specialist (CFS), the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and the Chartered Financial Consultant (CFC). Each of these exams has its own costs, application process and testing options. Finally, you will need to make sure you have officially applied for the PFS credential with the AICPA, along with the required fee.

Becoming a PFS takes a great deal of dedication and time. However, being able to advertise yourself to clients as a Personal Financial Specialist will help to instill confidence in your professional abilities and to increase your earning potential.