"A game of snakes and ladders": FASEA, degrees and equivalent qualifications


In a previous article FASEA: Changing CPD requirements mid-flight, we discussed Continuing Professional Development requirements under the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA).

After assisting a few of our clients navigate FASEA’s requirements and find a path forward, we thought we’d take this opportunity to focus on the qualification requirement.

So, if you’re equally focused on “the completion of a bachelor or higher degree, or equivalent qualification, approved by the standards body as proscribed by s921B(2)”, then this article is for you and your authorising Licensee.

Snakes and ladders: Chance, advancement and reversals

In a world dominated by fortnite and GTA, the old games still resonate.

For roughly 2000 before the iPad, snakes and ladders reinforced how chance and progress are interlinked; regardless of your intentions, you can progress further and faster than you hoped. You can also fall behind, further and faster, than you feared.

If you like playing snakes and ladders, then you are all set to comply with the Relevant Providers Degrees, Qualifications and Courses Determination.

Start to play now, but appreciate that the way to the end may not be as clear or direct as you might hope.

If you are a current adviser recorded on the Adviser register from or before 1 January 2019, you have until 1 January 2024 to obtain a degree or “equivalent qualifications”

If you are a new adviser, you are required to comply now.

Cogito ergo sum ego studere

I study, therefore I am

As a current adviser you might be relaxed and unconcerned by the apprehension your peers are experiencing. You may be thinking, “I have lots of time, 2024 is ages away”.

Please think again.

If chance doesn’t favour you, the worst-case scenario might see you slithering down a 2 to 3-year journey of study. If the odds are in your favour, you might be lucky enough to hit a ladder, and advance ahead with just 1 subject to complete.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know where you are on the Board let alone how, and how far, to progress.

A demonstration game

Meet the players

  • Bjorn, our first player, has been an adviser for 15 years. He graduated in 2018 from Central Queensland University with a Bachelor of Property (Financial Planning) and has not been banned or disqualified.

  • Freda is our second player and has been an adviser for 5 years, and is a graduate from Macquarie University, completing a Bachelor of Commerce Accounting/ Applied Finance in 2018. Like Bjorn, she was registered on the Adviser Register on 1 January 2019 and has not been banned or disqualified.

  • Our third player is Benny, an adviser who graduated overseas, at the University of Stockholm, and in 2012 completed a Bachelor of Business (Economics and Finance). Benny is classified as an existing adviser with a foreign qualification.

  • The last of our players, Agnetha, has not graduated from a University but she has completed a Diploma of Financial Planning. She was a registered adviser as at 1 January 2019 and has not been banned or disqualified.

Your knowledge of FASEA may provide you with a sense of confidence that it’s obvious which player(s) meet, or will meet, FASEA’s requirements for a bachelor or higher degree (or equivalent qualification).


If you’re not, and especially if you are, you might want to re-examine the requirements.

Let the game begin (Assessment and Analysis)


Before Bjorn can move any paces on the board, we have to make sure he was a relevant provider at any time between 1 January 2016 and 1 January 2019. Unfortunately, you can’t simply assume that he was.

Once his status is confirmed his Licensee needs to confirm that he was not banned, disqualified or suspended on 1 January 2019. If he wasn’t, his prospects are improving.

Bjorn has struck it lucky, he gets to move up the ladder.

He’s an existing adviser with an Approved Degree Pathway and his Degree appears on the Corporations (Relevant Providers Degrees, Qualifications and Courses Standard) Determination 2018.

Consequently, by 1 January 2024 Bjorn will only need to complete a bridging course (1 subject Ethics and professionalism (including the FASEA Code of Ethics and Code Monitoring Bodies).

Getting to the finish line for Bjorn, will mean approximately 120 hours of study.


Like Bjorn, Freda was registered on the Adviser Register on 1 January 2019 and she has not been banned or disqualified.

It looks good for Freda, until you realise that her Degree is not listed on the Corporations (Relevant Providers Degrees, Qualifications and Courses Standard) Determination 2018.

So, instead of her inexorable progression, she’s sliding backwards.

Thankfully, she may be able to mitigate her reversal by applying to FASEA to see if her degree can be ‘approved’.

She’ll notice that the list of relevant provider degrees recognises similar degrees (i.e. Bachelor of Commerce Accounting/Applied Finance), so she might be lucky.

Macquarie University would need to apply under FPS002 Program & Provider Accreditation. Even if Macquarie University choose to do this the process may take 6-8 weeks (well in excess of the 120 hours required by Benny).

If Macquarie University are successful, FASEA would update their relevant degree listing available on their website.

Alternatively, if Freda did not want to wait for Macquarie University to apply for approval approval status, she would need to assess if her degree could be deemed relevant.

A relevant degree requires 8 subjects at Australian Qualifications Framework level 7, 8 or 9 in designated fields of study (financial planning, investment accounting, taxation law, finance, business law, investment, estate law, banking or economics).

If Freda’s Degree qualifies as a relevant Degree, she would only need to complete a bridging course, three subjects at AQF 8 which includes 1 FASEA subject.

Getting to the finishing line, completing three subjects, would mean 360 hours of study (less than 1-year part-time study).


Benny’s confidence might exceed his options.

Benny has obtained his qualifications outside of Australia, so they’re not automatically accepted by the internationalists at FASEA.

He is not without options though. He can apply to have his international qualifications assessed to determine whether it can meet the education standard.

The assessment will be done in accordance with FPS005 Foreign Qualifications Policy and FASEA will need to approve the qualification.

If satisfied, Benny’s foreign qualification gives the person qualifications equivalent to a degree or qualification approved by the standards body for the purposes of meeting the education standard under section 921B(2)(a).

FASEA can’t prevaricate. They law requires that it must either approve or refuse the foreign qualification.

If approved, FASEA will add the qualification to their foreign qualification precedent database.

Before the assessment is conducted by FASEA, Benny will need to get his foreign qualification assessed by a Department of Education and Training (DET) approved body and, of course, fees apply.

Once assessed by DET, Benny will then need to submit to FASEA for assessment which will cost Benny $120.

Even if approved, Benny will need to complete the FASEA Code of Ethics Subject. One subject, 120 hours or 2 months part-time study.


While she hasn’t been banned or disqualified, Agnetha has, unfortunately, hit a snake.

She’ll need to either obtain an approved Graduate Diploma (8 subjects at AQF8) or another approved qualification (Bachelor Degree AQF7 or Masters Degree AQF9).

Getting to the finishing line will take Agnetha anywhere between 2 to 3 years of part-time study.


Collectively our players may qualify for a bonus roll of the dice; they can attain credit for Continuing Professional Development as well as gaining credit through assessment of formal, informal and non-formal learning via a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process.

Recognising Prior Learning

RPL is defined in the Australian Qualifications Framework as a process through which eligibility for the award of credit is assessed, through assessment of formal, informal and non-formal learning.  RPL is a legitimate part of the admission process to and completion of certain higher education. 

In the game we viewed, both Freda and Agnetha, may be eligible for RPL.

Continuing Professional Development

In our last article we identified that any further formal relevant education (provided by an Education Provider) may contribute to the CPD requirement. This includes degree equivalent study to meet legislative requirements (such as bridging courses and approved degree studies) and any formal study towards other qualifications and designations relevant to the practice of the Relevant Provider, to a maximum of 30 CPD hours per year. 

It’s small comfort, but committing to obtaining formal qualifications may lessen your CPD obligations a little.

Final observations

It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma
— Winston Churchill, 1939

FASEA’s requirements appear deceptively simple but conceal a complexity that will surprise some advisers.

Don’t delay. Don’t waste time.

If you need help getting to the finishing line, contact us.

We can help establish where you are on the board and get you up the ladder.