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CII Qualifications – which are right for you?

6 December 2017

Which qualifications from the wide range available from the CII should paraplanners choose? Catriona Standingford, managing director of Brand Financial Training, offers some advice based on her many years’ experience.

Many paraplanners struggle to decide which CII qualification best meets their needs.  If you just look at the names, then the Certificate in Paraplanning (units R01-3, J09) looks like it should be the qualification every paraplanner should achieve.  Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.  Many paraplanners choose to study for the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning (units R01-6) instead and others go down the Diploma in Financial Planning route (R0 and J units).  It can get confusing!  So, what are the choices?

Credits and future plans

The Certificate in Paraplanning consists of R01, R02 and R03 which are all exams, and J09 which is coursework whereas the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning consists of 6 exams R01, R02, R03, R04, R05 and R06.  Yet another option is the Diploma in Financial Planning consisting of a mix of R0 and J exams which is suitable for those who already have credits that count towards it.

The Certificate will provide you with 80 credits whereas the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning will provide 100 and the Diploma in Financial Planning provides 140 at various levels.  Based on credits alone, the Certificate therefore looks like the ‘easier’ option as you would expect a qualification providing less credits to be ‘easier’ than a qualification providing more credits.  Whether or not that is true can be argued, but perhaps the more important consideration are your plans for the future.

Some paraplanners have a long-term aim of achieving the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning and Chartered to prove that they have an extremely strong technical knowledge.  If that’s you, then you may choose to go down a Diploma route because much of the Advanced Diploma exam options expand on knowledge learnt in the R0 or J exams.

For example, the Certificate in Paraplanning does not include any of the pensions exams whereas the Diplomas do.  As you need 290 credits to achieve the Advanced Diploma with a minimum of 120 at Advanced Diploma level then you need to have passed at least 4 AF exams.  Whilst it is possible to do this without sitting a pensions exam, it is difficult to ignore and some would question the extent of your technical knowledge if a pensions exam hasn’t been passed.

To achieve the Advanced Diploma you must hold the Diploma in Financial Planning (R0 and J units) or the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning (R01-6).

The Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning is straightforward.  You need to pass R01,2,3,4,5 and 6 which provides 100 credits.  You don’t need to hold any other qualifications to achieve this.

Or you can go down the Diploma in Financial Planning route which is more complicated but depending on any exams you have achieved in the past, it may be worth considering.  You must also hold a Certificate level 3 exam – Certificate in Financial Services, Certificate in Regulated Financial Services Operations or the now withdrawn Certificate in Financial Planning.  This isn’t a huge obstacle though.  For example, for the Certificate in Financial Services you only need R01 and the 10 credit LP2 which is very straightforward, although other pathways are available.  Assuming you have the Certificate level requirement covered, you need 140 credits in total with a minimum 80 at Diploma level to achieve the Diploma in Financial Planning.  So if you have passed other exams you may well find you are well on the way to achieving this qualification already.  You have a wide variety of options within the J and R0 units and you can even use some Advanced Diploma credits towards the required 140 credits.

Another consideration is the sheer number of credits required to achieve the Advanced Diploma.  You could of course sit the Certificate in Paraplanning (80 credits) or the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning (100 credits) but you could do both to gain 130 credits (100 for the Diploma and 30 for J09).  So that would mean passing R01,2,3,4,5,6 and J09.  Is there any such thing as too many qualifications on your CV?

Are you aiming for Chartered?

And then there’s the big one.  Are you aiming for Chartered status?  If so, you need to hold the Advanced Diploma as well as meet the experience criteria.

To meet the qualifications requirement for Chartered, you will need 290 credits.  120 must be at Advanced Diploma level, 40 at Diploma level or above, and the rest can be taken from any level.  As a starting point, you need to know how many credits you already have, and any exemptions you may be able to add to that.  Everybody is different so you will need to contact the CII and ask for your personal Learning Statement.  This is a record of the units you have sat and the credits gained.  Unit passes from other examining bodies may also entitle you to some CII exemptions.

Exams vs Coursework

Another criteria worth considering is the style of units.  Both the Certificate in Paraplanning and the Diplomas are RQF Level 4, however the Certificate requires completion of R01, R02 and R03 exams and J09 which is coursework.  Either Diploma requires completion of exams, and coursework can be avoided.

For candidates who are not good at sitting exams, coursework is a great option as it allows you to display your knowledge and understanding of a subject outside of the exam room.  For others, coursework is not the assessment method of choice – some candidates prefer the exam route so that they can sit the exam on one day and have it over and done with.

Choosing which qualification to go for can be a bit of a minefield, but it’s worth taking the time to research the options available to ensure that you future-proof any decision you make.

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About Brand Financial Training

Catriona Standingford is MD of Brand Financial Training, providing a variety of immediately accessible free and paid learning resources to help candidates pass their CII exams.  Their resource range ensures there is something that suits every style of learning including mock papers, calculation workbooks, videos, audio masterclasses, study notes and more.  Visit Brand Financial Training at


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