A Complete Guide to FINRA's Maintaining Qualifications Program (MQP)

By Julie Mendel, CDEI, SILA-A
Mar 23, 2023
The Complete Guide to FINRA's Maintaining Qualifications Program

The Maintaining Qualifications Program (MQP) is one of the biggest changes the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has made to registration and continuing education for the securities industry in decades.

In short, the MQP allows eligible individuals to maintain their qualifications for up to five years by meeting annual continuing education requirements.

Why Did FINRA Change Their Continuing Education Requirements?

The MQP is FINRA’s push to ensure all registered persons receive timely and relevant training while giving securities professionals more career flexibility.

According to FINRA, these are the MQP’s biggest advantages:

  • The MQP offers an incentive to those who recently had their registrations terminated to stay current on their respective securities industry knowledge.
  • A better trained workforce now that continuing education is required for each registration category every year MQP participants will stay updated with the latest rule changes and amendments, current industry trends, and updated content specific to that registration.
  • It promotes investor protection by keeping the MQP participants as rigorously educated as registered professionals, improving the securities industry’s ability to retain skilled and experienced workers.
  • Offers career flexibility to address life and career pursuits and necessary absences without needing to requalify each time.
  • Enhances diversity and inclusion in the securities industry by retaining a diverse group and encourages the development of diverse skills through diverse experiences.

What does FINRA's Maintaining Qualifications Program (MQP) Change?

The MQP brings several changes to FINRA’s continuing education requirements, including:

  • Five years to maintain qualifications, three more than the previous requirement
  • Regulatory Element is now role-specific for each registration category.
  • Regulatory Element must be completed each year (by December 31), instead of every three years.
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What are the Eligibility and Participation Requirements for FINRA's Maintaining Qualifications Program (MQP)?

The MQP is optional, so the requirements are only for those who opt in and meet the MQP’s eligibility requirements. It’s also worth checking the MQP’s Election Periods to determine when you’re eligible to join.

Those who do not opt into the Maintaining Qualifications Program will be subject to the two-year qualification termination period.

The MQP’s eligibility requirements are:

  • Must have been registered in the terminated registration category for at least one year prior to termination
  • Must elect to participate in the MQP at the time of their Form U5 submission or within two years from the termination of a registration category
  • Not subject to statutory disqualifications during previous one-year registration period, nor between U5 submission and entry into the MQP

Once in the program, participants must adhere to the MQP’s participation conditions:

  • MQP participants must complete all prescribed continuing education (CE) annually by December 31 (a Regulatory Element and a Practical Element—more on those in the next section)
  • MQP participants have a maximum of five years following the termination of a registration category to reregister without having to requalify by examination or obtain an examination waiver
  • MQP participants must not become CE inactive for two consecutive years
  • MQP participants must not become subject to a statutory disqualification

Those who do not meet these requirements while enrolled in the Maintaining Qualifications Program will be automatically removed from the MQP and designated Continuing Education (CE) inactive by FINRA.

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What are the MQP's Continuing Education (CE) Requirements?

Among the biggest changes are the MQP’s continuing education requirements. The MQP requires participants to complete both a Regulatory Element and a Practical Element each year for their continuing education requirement.

FINRA has now tailored the MQP’s Regulatory Element CE content to each specific registration category. Because each Regulatory Element course is based on registration category, those with multiple registrations must complete continuing education in each representative or principal category they hold.

To help determine Regulatory Element CE requirements for each registration category, FINRA created the Regulatory Element Learning Plan Tool.

The MQP’s Practical Element requirement, with course content developed by FINRA and the CE Council, serves as a Firm Element substitute for those enrolled in MQP. These courses cover relevant products, services, and strategies meant to prepare MQP participants for a seamless return to the industry.

How to Enroll in FINRA's Maintaining Qualifications Program (MQP)

Those eligible for the MQP may participate immediately after a registration category is terminated via a full or partial Form U5—or anytime within two years of the registration’s termination date. The two-year termination period remains in effect. The MQP simply offers a way to maintain qualifications for a longer period.

Click here for complete instructions on how to enroll in FINRA’s MQP. All prospective MQP participants must have a FinPro account.