What Is the Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM (AWMA® ) Designation?

By: Kaplan Financial Education
May 24, 2022
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The AWMA® designation, also called AWMA® certification, is the industry benchmark for wealth management credentials recognized by top financial firms. AWMA® stands for Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM. As a financial professional, you’ve undoubtedly heard of this top-tier certification, but you may be wondering if it’s right for you. In this article, we discuss what the AWMA® designation is and how it can benefit your career.

What is the AWMA® designation?

The AWMA® designation is the certification you receive after successfully completing the AWMA® Professional Designation Program. It is an indication that you can effectively identify, analyze, and recommend strategies for the unique needs of high-net-worth clients. The AWMA® mark assures your clients that you have the education and knowledge to help them achieve their wealth management goals. After earning the AWMA® designation, financial professionals showcase the certification by listing it on their business cards, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and more. The AWMA® certification is also listed by FINRA, a private, self-regulatory organization that regulates certain aspects of the securities industry.

What is the AWMA® Professional Designation Program?

The AWMA® Professional Designation Program is an education program for financial professionals offered by the College for Financial Planning® (CFFP)—a Kaplan company. The program teaches financial professionals how to advise their high-net-worth clients on growing, preserving, and transferring their wealth. Its specialized curriculum contains sections on behavioral finance, working with small business owners, and succession and exit planning. The AWMA® program launched in 2005 and is offered exclusively via CFFP’s digital learning platform. 

Is the AWMA® designation right for you?

The AWMA® offers you a chance to distinguish yourself in wealth management. This designation is right for you if you are:

  • An experienced advisor who wants financial planning credentials to advance your career

  • A producer who is transitioning from product sales into offering a broader range of services

  • An advisor with general financial knowledge who wants to specialize in the unique needs of high-net-worth clients

  • An advisor who wants to pursue the CFP® Certification or a Master of Science degree at a later date

Learn more about the AWMA® program and how to enroll here.

Requirements to earn your AWMA® designation

To earn the AWMA® designation, follow these steps:

  1. Complete an eight-module education program provided by CFFP. There are no prerequisites for this program, and you have 120 days to complete it (including testing and passing the Final Exam). The modules cover getting to know your high-net-worth client; considerations for business owners; income tax strategies for high-net-worth clients; executive benefits planning for high-net-worth clients; estate planning for high-net-worth clients; and fiduciary, regulatory, and ethical issues for financial services providers.

  2. Take and pass the AWMA® exam. There are 80 questions on the exam, and the passing score is 70 percent. According to Analyst Forum, you should plan on studying for about 150 hours.

  3. Agree to abide by a code of ethics.

How long does it take to get the AWMA®  designation?

How long it takes to get the AWMA® designation depends on how quickly you complete the CFFP program and pass the AWMA® exam. You have 120 days to finish CFFP’s eight modules and pass the program’s final exam. We recommend at least 135 hours of study for the course. On average, it takes financial professionals two to three months to earn the AWMA® designation.

What are the benefits of earning an AWMA® designation?

Achieving the AWMA® designation is a huge milestone in your financial career. Some of the benefits of earning the AWMA® mark include:

  • Earning more while working with fewer clients. AWMA® designees have reported that since earning the credential, they are able to attract and maintain higher-net-worth clients, which means they can increase their income while focusing on fewer clients at a time.

  • Getting tangible career benefits. Professionals surveyed with specialized financial designations such as the AWMA® designation reported a 20% earnings increase after earning their most recent professional designation.* 71% of professionals with specialized financial designations, such as the AWMA® designation, reported an increase in their client base after earning their specialized designation from the CFFP.**

  • Differentiating yourself from your peers. Achieving the AWMA® designation signifies you have the qualifications to work with high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients. Some of these clients will specifically look for advisors who have received the AWMA® designation, allowing you to grow your client base and set yourself apart from competitors.

  • Earning stackable credits. Earning the AWMA® designation saves you time and money by allowing you to stack credits. AWMA® designees are qualified to earn credit for completing course FP513 Investment Planning in our CFP® certification education program or receive credit for an elective in our MS Degree in Personal Financial Planning.

  • Fulfilling continuing education requirements. For CFP® professionals who are required to complete continuing education requirements as part of their certification renewal, the AWMA® designation program completion fulfills 28 hours of continuing education. If you currently hold a professional designation from CFFP, completion of the AWMA® program fulfills 16 hours of continuing education as part of the renewal of your current designation.

  • Learning skills that will benefit you and your clients. Completing the AWMA® designation program gives you the most up-to-date financial skills and knowledge you can use to advance your career and serve the unique needs of your high-net-worth clients via behavioral finance and emotional intelligence. 

What does a wealth manager do?

A wealth manager offers comprehensive financial advice to high-net-worth clients. They go beyond providing investment advice by taking a holistic approach to meet the complex needs of their clients. Typical services offered by wealth managers include:

  • Investment advice and management

  • Estate planning

  • Retirement planning

  • Trust services

  • Risk management and insurance planning 

  • Tax planning and accounting services

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to read firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

What is the difference between a wealth manager and a financial planner?

While there is no strict definition for wealth managers or financial planners, there is generally considered some overlap between the two professions and some important distinctions. Wealth management is a comprehensive financial service for high-net-worth clients, typically with $5 million or more in assets. Wealth management services and strategies vary based on the needs of the client, but the overall goal of wealth managers is to help their clients accumulate, protect, and distribute their wealth. Financial planning is generally considered the first step in wealth management. Where the two roles diverge is that wealth managers work almost exclusively with higher-net-worth clients and provide a wider range of financial services. In contrast, financial planners primarily assist with lifestyle planning for clients in all income brackets. 

[Learn more: Is a Wealth Management Career Right for Me?]

What is the difference between a wealth manager and an asset manager?

The main difference between a wealth manager and an asset manager is that wealth managers offer long-term, holistic financial guidance while asset managers focus more on investment management and maximizing returns. Because wealth managers provide a wider range of financial services, they earn more than asset managers. Both wealth managers and asset managers may bill clients based on the amount of money they manage, but wealth managers may also be compensated via an hourly fee or a flat fee. Wealth managers are also more likely to be fiduciaries than asset managers, but it is not a requirement of the profession. 

*This is one of the findings of a quantitative survey conducted by the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company between August 31 and November 18, 2021. For this survey, a sample of 798 2021 graduates of the College for Financial Planning was interviewed online in English. 86% of respondents are practicing financial services professionals and 72% have been working in the financial planning industry for 5+ years. The sample includes 80 graduates who earned a specialized financial designation (ABFP®, ADPA®, APMA®, AWMA®, CMFC®, CRPS®, CSRIC®, FPQP®, LUTCF®, WMS℠) and answered this question.

**This is one of the findings of a quantitative survey conducted by the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company between August 31 and November 18, 2021. For this survey, a sample of 798 2021 graduates of the College for Financial Planning was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 82 graduates whose most recent professional designation earned was a specialized financial designation (ABFP®, ADPA®, APMA®, AWMA®, CMFC®, CRPS®, CSRIC®, FPQP®, LUTCF®, WMS℠) and who answered this question.