In the competitive field of financial planning and equity management, many industry professionals pursue additional degrees and certificates as a way to set themselves apart from the crowd. Designations and certifications often reassure potential and current clients that their equity professional is knowledgeable, competent and prizes professional integrity. One of these designations is the certified equity professional, or CEP.

Certified Equity Professional Institute

The Certified Equity Professional Institute provides training, curriculum standards and provides the exam for the CEP designation. Founded by equity compensation professionals in 1989 and based out of the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, the institute’s goal is to promote and give the education necessary to ensure that industry professionals have the proper skills and knowledge. Professionals must pass three exams as well as pursue continuing education to earn and maintain their CEP certification. Continuing education is available from sources outside of the institute.

CEP Certification

The CEP certification is an internationally recognized designation that reflects high industry standards. CEP designees must possess a commitment to professional education, knowledge and achievement. States such as Nebraska recognize the CEP as a legitimate designation; to protect consumers, officials looked for the designations offered by an organization with a solid history and reputation, as well as those that required comprehensive subject knowledge and performed rigorous testing. Also, designees had to be held to ethical standards and continuing education requirements, as well as consequences or penalties for noncooperation.

CEP Exams

Each exam tests for a particular level of knowledge. Level I covers basic knowledge, level II tests intermediate knowledge and level III assesses advanced knowledge. Candidates can test as high as they choose. The Certified Equity Professional Institute offers exams twice a year, in June and November, and the complete cycle of tests needed to gain the CEP certification takes at least 14 months. Getting a CEP certification is a challenge: According to Santa Clara University, the passing rates for all three exams are between 56 and 65 percent each. Because you cannot take a higher-level exam until you complete the ones before it, only about one in five who begins the program achieves his certification.

CEP Course

The exam course is a self-study course completed at home. The core curriculum centers on accounting, corporate securities and laws, and taxation. It also features the fundamentals of analyzing, designing and administering equity plans. This knowledge helps industry professionals to assist companies in creating and administering equity programs such as stock option programs, employee stock purchase programs and restricted stock grants. These programs work as incentives for employees by making them part owners in the company.