One of the most frequent questions I get is “How can I prepare for my exam?” I always tell candidates to start with the study guide or AFC® Online Course. It is essential to work through the study resources, read the texts, make flashcards, and understand the concepts as you prepare for your exam.
But an equally important part of becoming an AFC® is the experience. The AFC® certification requires 1,000 hours of experience, and when it comes to exam prep, this experience is just as important as studying.
Before coming to AFCPE and earning my AFC®, I worked in financial counseling and education in the non-profit sector. I conducted homeownership workshops, helped with repairing credit, and did more tax returns than I can count. When taking my AFC® exam, I found myself drawing on this experience and knowledge base just as much as I did the study materials.
The AFC® exam asks you to “put on your counselor hat” and answer questions with your client’s best interests in mind. Your experience in the field helps you connect the concepts you’re studying to real life. Your experience will help you succeed at the exam, and will ultimately guide you to success as a financial counselor.
If you are struggling to find opportunities to earn your experience hours, or if you are looking for ways to round out the experience you get on the job, check out some of our tips:
Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to give back to your local community, meet your neighbors, and network. Many people get connected with an organization or learn of a job opportunity through their volunteer work. Consider hosting a financial workshop for a local youth group, church, library, or social service organization. Not sure where to begin? Start with your local United Way–they may not have direct volunteer opportunities, but can often point you to organizations that do.
Be a Client. Putting yourself in the client seat can be a great way to experience how others work and can give you a fresh perspective. Consider having a consultation with your banker or setting up a phone call with your 401k representative. Observe them. Learn from their expertise. While time spent as a client won’t count towards your AFC® experience hours, it can open up your eyes to new ideas and approaches.
Look Local. Up to 10% of your experience hours can come from financial trainings, seminars, and conferences. Tap into your local community. With a little digging and networking, you can often find these opportunities in your community for free or at little cost. By finding local opportunities, you’ll also be saving yourself from expensive travel. Getting involved locally is also a great way to network and find new career opportunities.
Guest Contributor: Jarod Taylor, AFC®, Certification Programs Manager, AFCPE®