The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries says 1,500 candidates have signed up to participate in its new Qualified Plan Financial Consultant program.

The QPFC designation program is aimed at sales and investment professionals who want to work in the retirement plan market, according to Bunny Fernhall, chief of pension education at the ASPPA, Arlington, Va.

Successful candidates must pass a series of 4 tests and provide recommendation letters from ASPPA members showing that they have 2 years of retirement planning experience or 3 years of retirement plan investment experience.

Candidates do not need advanced math skills to pass the tests, but the tests are detailed and rigorous, and designation holders will be well-prepared to interpret figures provided by plan actuaries and other plan advisors, Fernhall says.

ASPPA developed the QPFC tests together with the University of Michigan. It also has developed study guides and Web seminars, but it will not require candidates to attend in-person classes, Fernhall says.

The tests cover topics such as ethics, fiduciary issues, plan design and distributions.

Candidates can take 2 of the program exams through the Web but must go to special testing centers in the spring or fall to take the other 2 exams.