Career Professional Education Student Success

How the SMU CAPE CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certificate Program Helped James Achieve His Career Goals

Earning a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) certification can be a great way to boost your career and your earning potential.

James Woodall

When James Woodall decided to get his CFP®, he was looking for an education that would give him the tools to excel. “I truly love this profession and fight for my clients as they deserve the best,” James said. “I started doing research and was delighted to see that SMU offered a program that not only taught you the curriculum required for the CFP® [certification], but how to be a great advisor. I realized that was the best way to learn from not just a book, but from mentors as well.”

James enrolled in the SMU CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certificate Program and chose the accelerated Pacesetter Path. He attended classes twice a week with the occasional Saturday class in order to complete the program in 12 months. “It was an amazing bonding experience as we all had a similar goal, get through the program and learn real-world issues during a historic moment in the economy,” said James.

Learn From the Best

Classes are taught by distinguished CFP® professionals in a highly interactive setting. “I loved the instructor’s teaching style, it was a pleasure to learn from him. I mean, who doesn’t like walking into class with some consistently good music playing to get the evening started,” James said. “Also, I can specifically remember each professor seeing how we’re doing mentally and emotionally, that meant more than I can [say]. Over the course of the year, each class had practical, real-life, and current examples that I’ve used as decision points for my clients.”

Through the CFP® Certificate program, James formed a network of finance professionals who he is still in contact with today. Small cohort sizes allow for meaningful connections and the opportunity to learn from your peers. “I truly would say it was a good sign that at times it was hard to get the class started because everyone was excited to catch up [with] each other. Also, it was great being able to have back-and-forth discussions with everyone,” said James.

Advance Your Career

During the program, James took a giant leap in his career and went from working at a large firm to starting his own. He believes the CFP® Certificate program was critical to his success. “That work in the capstone [course] was the foundation for me starting my firm and I use the material I put together in that course with my clients today,” said James. “On top of that, the confidence from taking this course has allowed me to launch a firm with the proper mindset and continue to leverage the SMU network.”

If you are a financial professional who is thinking about working towards a CFP® certification, SMU CAPE can help you reach your career goals. “Having a program like this with working professional advisors that are experts in their field truly put me a leg up above my peers and I would even say my competitors,” James said. “It has truly made me a much better advisor, not just to pass the CFP® exam, but actually as an advisor myself. I really couldn’t recommend it enough.”

Find out more about upcoming start dates for the SMU CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certificate program at