A Review of Major Finance Certifications

Whether to give your career that extra push to get a promotion or to increase your pay, you are probably planning to get professional certification for yourself. Good idea! However, the variety of certifications present in the market is confusing you. Which certification can yield the best result? Which certification is the easiest to complete? Which certification is superior to the rest?

This review of the various financial certifications will help you answer all these questions and more. Each accreditation is different, and depending on your career focus, some of these can be a good fit for you while others, not at all.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

  • Bachelor's degree needed: Yes
  • Number of Exams: 4
  • Exams Dates per year: 4 Windows (9 months)
  • Exam Length: 16 hours
  • Estimated Costs: $4,400
  • Completion Time: 2.5 -5 years
  • Work Experience: 1 Year
  • Career Application: Accounting and Finance

The Certified Public Accountant credential is the most popular, respected, and useful certification in the financial industry. CPAs can perform the same tasks that other professionals with other certifications can. The advantage that CPAs have over others is that they are the only certified professionals licensed by the state government and allowed to write audit reports. They can also give opinions on the financials of publicly traded companies. Among many other perks, CPAs can also represent taxpayers in front of the IRS.

To become a CPA, you have to pass all four parts of the CPA Exam, complete your education, and obtain the required work experience. If you are looking for a career in tax preparation or auditing, then this is the certification for you.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

  • Bachelor's degree needed: No
  • Number of Exams: 3
  • Exams Dates per year: 1 / 2 times per year
  • Exam Length: 18 hours
  • Estimated Costs: $5,450
  • Completion Time: 3 -5 years
  • Work Experience: 4 Year
  • Career Application: All-encompassing

CFA certification is specially meant to train you for a career in the finance and investment world. It expands an individual’s thinking capability to be more analytical about finance, investing, and business operations. With this training, CFAs become great CFOs and Controllers. Most CFAs can extend there working field beyond company management and work for a hedge, investment fund, or on Wall Street.

To become a CFA, one must pass the exams set by the CFA Institute. These exams are much longer and costlier than the reviews for CPAs. If you are looking for a career in the world of finance and investing, then this is the right certification for you.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

  • Bachelor's degree needed: Yes
  • Exams Dates per year: 3 Window
  • Exam Length: 7 hours
  • Estimated Costs: $2,000 – $6,000
  • Completion Time: 4 years
  • Work Experience: 3 Years
  • Career Application: Retail and Wealth Management

From assessing the client’s portfolio to providing personalized financial plans, CFPs are experts in all sorts of financial planning. These credential holders are unique in the aspect that they understand the detailed elements of the client relationship.

To become a CFP, a candidate must pass a rigorous seven-hour test. The study hours vary but average at 1000 hours.

CFAs enjoy an above-average pay, with the average being $140,000 per year as of 2018. However, the pay scale may vary based on the locality of your work and your field experience.

Financial Risk Manager (FRM)

  • Bachelor's degree needed: No
  • Exams Dates per year: Window
  • Exam Length: 8 hours
  • Estimated Costs: $1,500
  • Completion Time: <1 year
  • Work Experience: 2 years
  • Career Application: Risk Management

FRM is a globally recognized risk management specialist designation awarded by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP). FRM credential target only a specific market and maybe a perfect fit for you if you are looking to build a career for yourself in risk analysis and management.

To become an FRM, a candidate must pass a tough two-part and eight-hour-long multiple-choice test.

Successful candidates can build a stable career for themselves in the risk management department of any organization, or start their advisory service by helping clients make prudent investment decisions. An FRM certified professional enjoy an average salary of $50,000 to $125,000 in the US.

Chartered Institute Of Management Accountant (CIMA) Certified Professional

  • Bachelor's degree needed: No
  • Exams Dates per year: 2- 3 exams
  • Exam Length: 90 minutes
  • Estimated Costs: $2,350
  • Completion Time: 4 years
  • Work Experience: 3 years
  • Career Application: Advanced
  • Management Accounting

CIMA credential is a perfect fit for those who are seeking comprehensive, in-depth knowledge in management accounting. The alignment of CIMA’s curriculum with strategic and risk management gives the certified candidate an extra edge from a business management point of view.

To become a CIMA certified professional, one has to pass 12 professional qualification exams in four years and 2 – 3 reviews in each sitting. Successful candidates earn the designation of CIMA Member and enjoy an average salary of $86,600.

CIMA certified professional could build a career as a financial analyst, finance manager, management accountant, and internal audit manager.

Financial certifications can be taken at any point in life. All of them, at their core, are just a way to advance your career. You can start as early as right after completing your undergraduate degree, or consider taking exams like GRE to determine your future path.

Once you have decided on your career path and are focused on who you want to be, the decision to pick the right certification becomes a lot easier. For instance, if you’re going to facilitate taxing advice, then CPA certification is for you, and if you want to create comprehensive financial plans, then you should be a CFA.

Getting a credential is no easy task. Your decision should always be centered on the amount of dedication and investment you are willing to put in for the completion of that certification.