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Anyone working toward a qualified associate financial planner (QAFP) designation will no longer need a two-year college diploma as a prerequisite if they have certain work experience.

Effective April 2024, those who don’t have a diploma can qualify for QAFP certification if they have five years of qualifying work experience, FP Canada said in a release on Thursday. (To become certified, candidates must pass the QAFP exam and meet the educational requirements for the designation.)

Previously, QAFP applicants were required to hold a diploma and have one year of qualifying work experience.

Qualifying work experience may include financial planning–related activities in areas such as investment, tax, retirement or estate planning, among other things, as outlined in the QAFP certification policies.

“For those who have proven their ability to meet the demands of the profession, we’re excited to offer a new path to certification — one that will allow experienced professionals to continue helping Canadians build financial wellness,” said Tashia Batstone, FP Canada’s president and CEO, in the release.

The change makes the financial planning profession more accessible and reflects FP Canada’s commitment to helping more Canadians get financial advice, the release said.

In an emailed statement, Jason Watt, vice-president, professional services, Business Career College in Edmonton, said the change “will position QAFP certification to better compete” with the Canadian Securities Institute’s personal financial planner (PFP) program.

The PFP has a prerequisite of three years’ experience in a financial planning/advising role. In Ontario, the QAFP and PFP are both approved credentials to use the “financial planner” title.

Last year, FP Canada provided exemptions to the degree requirement for the certified financial planner (CFP) designation, including 10 years’ qualifying work experience.

Earlier this year, FP Canada made changes to the QAFP program, including a streamlined path and the introduction of a live interactive client discovery component. The changes are effective for the May/June 2024 writing of the exam.

The certification body also began offering all education in-house for the QAFP and CFP designations.