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What Do Those Initials Mean?

When we look to some professionals for services, such as doctors, dentist, attorneys and veterinarians, seeing MD, DDS, Esq or VMD behind their name assures us of some certain standard of education, training or practice.  For financial professionals, however, there are so many different certifications and designations, it's hard to really know what those initials mean. 

Having a certification or being certified generally means that an individual has some level of proven knowledge of a particular subject.  A designation goes one step further; a designation is a distinctive, earned title, identified and protected by a trade or service mark, which may include descriptions such as certified, accredited, registered, chartered, master, etc. 

Not all certifications and designations are created equally.  A reputable designation or certification is awarded by an accredited, independent certifying body, training organization or institution.  Reputable programs generally require completion of specific coursework, a supervised closed-book exam, work experience, continuing education and adherence to a code of ethics to earn and retain the certification or designation.  

See what it takes to obtain some common financial designations, certifications and licenses that you may come across in your dealings with financial advisors, counselors and educators.  They are listed by the granting organization. 


Association for Financial Counseling and Planning

AFCSM (Accredited Financial Counselor)

CHCSM (Certified Housing Counselor)

Institute of Consumer Financial Education

CCDS (Certified Consumer Debt Specialist)

CCRR (Certified Credit Report Reviewer)

CHECMSTM  (Certified Home Equity Conversion Mortgage SpecialistTM)

Institute for Financial Literacy

CEPF(Certified Educator in Personal Finance)

CPFC (Certified Personal Finance Counselor)

CRHC™ (Certified Residential Housing Counselor)

CCDS™ (Certified Consumer Debt Specialist)

CFA Institute
        CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)

Heartland Institute of Financial Education

        CFEd® (Certified Financial Educator)

CFP Board of Standards

® (Certified Financial Planner)

The American College

ChFC® (Chartered Financial Consultant)

CLU® (Chartered Life Underwriter)

The International Foundation for Retirement Education 
        CRC ®(Certified Retirement Counselor)

College for Financial Planning

RP® (Registered Paraplanner)

CRPC®(Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor)


National Association of Certified Credit Counselors

Credit Counselor Certification

Financial Health Certification


Foreclosure Intervention and Default Counseling Certification

Homeownership Counseling Certification


Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

Registered Principal (Series 24)

Registered Representative (Series 6, 7)

Investment Advisor (Series 65)

PA Department of Banking and Securities

Credit Services Loan Broker

Debt Management Services

Investment Advisor Representative

Money Transmitter

Mortgage Broker

Mortgage Loan Originator

Pawn Broker

PA Insurance Department

Resident Insurance Producer

Title Insurance Agent


(The programs and organizations listed do not constitute endorsement from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency of any kind.)