13 Finance Certifications That Will Strengthen Your Resume

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 22, 2022 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated June 22, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

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Obtaining relevant certifications for your chosen career path in finance can help you increase your knowledge and demonstrate your value to an employer. Additionally, some finance careers require that you hold a specific certification in order to obtain your desired job or advance. There are many certifications available for finance professionals, and choosing the right one depends on your specialization and your goals.

In this article, we explore 13 financial analyst certifications, providing descriptions, prerequisites and other requirements for each one. 

What are financial analyst certifications?

Certifications for finance professionals are designations that demonstrate proven expertise in a specific area. Taking the appropriate certification courses qualifies you to offer specific financial knowledge and services to employers and clients. Financial experts who have completed certification courses often display this information after their name in the form of an acronym. For example, Lydia Missler, CPA signifies that Lydia has obtained certification to work as a certified public accountant.

13 financial analyst certifications

Here are 13 financial analyst certification programs available to professionals in this field, along with details about each program:

1. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

The Certified Financial Planner certification is for professional financial planners. It demonstrates an individual's competence, integrity, honesty and diligence regarding financial matters. The CFP Board proctors the CFP exam, and it consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that cover topics like:

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • 6,000 hours of professional experience or

  • 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience

  • Bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited university

  • Passing a background check

  • Passing the CFP exam

  • General finance principles

  • Professional conduct

  • Risk management

  • Investment planning

  • Tax planning

To maintain your CFP, you pay an annual recertification fee and complete 30 hours of approved continuing education (CE) every two years.

Read more: FAQ: How Long Does It Take To Become a CFP?

2. Certified Fund Specialist (CFS)

Certified fund specialists advise clients about investments and buy and sell funds for them. This certification from the Institute of Business & Finance (IBF) demonstrates your expertise in mutual funds and the industry. Accountants, bankers, brokers, money managers, personal financial advisers and other professionals within the financial industry may benefit from this certification.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s degree or 2,000 hours of work experience in the financial services industry

  • Completing six modules in the IBF self-study program

  • Passing the CFS exam

There are three proctored online exams and a case study involved in the certification process. Topics include:

  • Mutual funds, ETF and REITs

  • Closed-end funds

  • Advanced fund analysis and selection

  • Asset allocation and portfolio construction

Certified fund specialists complete 30 CE hours every two years.

Related: What Is Investment Management?

3. Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)

If you're interested in a career as a federal, state or local financial analyst or manager, the CGFM can demonstrate your expertise in this area. This professional certification from AGA covers financial reporting, internal controls, auditing and accounting for government organizations.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • Bachelor's degree

  • At least two years of professional experience in government financial planning

  • Passing three CGFM exams

Exam topics include:

  • Governmental environment

  • Governmental accounting

  • Financial reporting and budgeting

  • Government financial management and control

Upon completion of the exams, you must also agree to abide by the AGA's code of ethics. To maintain your CGFM, you pay an annual renewal fee and complete at least 80 CE hours every two years with a focus on government financial management or related technical subjects.

Read more: How To Become a Money Manager

4. Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA)

The Certified International Investment Analyst designation demonstrates your knowledge of economics, corporate finance, portfolio management, equity valuation and analysis, fixed income valuation and analysis, derivative valuation and analysis and more. The Association of Certified International Investment Analysts (ACIIA) offers this certification.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • Three years of professional experience in portfolio management, investment or financial analysis

  • Membership in a participating national or regional society

  • Passing all CIIA exams

There are three foundation-level exams that cover core topics including:

  • Corporate finance

  • Economics

  • Portfolio management

These exams feature multiple-choice, discursive, short-essay and calculation questions. Two final-level exams cover more advanced corporate finance and portfolio management. These exams include case study questions and an in-depth essay. They cover national or regional legal and regulation topics, respectively. There is no recertification process.

Related: How To Become a Portfolio Manager

5. Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)

The Certified Investment Management Analyst certification is for financial analysts, investment consultants, wealth management professionals and financial planners.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • At least three years of experience

  • Completing the CIMA education program

  • Holding the CIMA certificate in business accounting or other relevant qualifications

  • Passing a background check

The five-hour, computer-based exam covers:

  • Ethics

  • Asset allocation

  • Due diligence

  • Investment policy

  • Risk measurement

  • Performance measurement

Once you’ve completed your exam, you must sign an agreement indicating that you aim to adhere to the Investments & Wealth Institute’s code of professional responsibility.

To maintain your credentials, you complete at least 40 hours of CE credits every two years. You must also complete the compliance requirement annually, which involves disclosing any state or federal complaints or actions and indicating that you will continue to adhere to the organization’s codes, rules and guidelines.

Read more: What Are the Top Certifications for Wealth Management?

6. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

Professionals with Certified Management Accountant certification work in corporate rather than private accounting. The Institute of Management Accountants awards this certification to those who have demonstrated expertise in critical accounting and financial management.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • Bachelor's degree or professional accounting certification

  • Two years of work experience

  • IMA membership

  • Passing both parts of the CMA certification within three years of one another

The two-part exam covers 12 competencies. The most heavily weighted of these are:

  • Decision analysis

  • Performance management

  • Corporate finance

  • Financial statement analysis and planning

  • Budgeting and forecasting

To maintain your CMA, you must have 30 hours of CE credits each year and remain an active IMA member.

Related: Learn About Being an Accountant

7. Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA)

The Certified Private Wealth Advisor certification helps financial professionals who work with private clients to manage their assets. CWPAs provide financial planning services to individuals that have a net worth of at least $5 million, helping them sustain and grow their wealth through advanced wealth management techniques.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s degree or wealth management certification

  • Five years of experience in finance

  • Complete CPWA education course

Exam topics include:

  • Tax strategies

  • Charitable giving

  • Wealth transfers

  • Business succession

  • Asset management

Like the Certified Investment Management Analyst, the Investments and Wealth Institute offers this certification and facilitates its training program.

Read more: What Is Wealth Management?

8. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Tax accountants, tax preparers and financial analysts can benefit from the Certified Public Accountant designation. The prerequisites for a CPA vary by state and include 150 semester hours with a varying number of accounting hours, and the state where you plan to practice determines this as well. Many states require a bachelor's degree. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) offers this certification.

The CPA examination has four sections, which include:

  • Financial accounting and reporting

  • Auditing and attestation

  • Regulation business environment and concepts

You must complete all four components within an 18-month period. Most states require continuing education to maintain your CPA. The number of hours varies by state.

Related: Learn About Being a CPA (Certified Public Accountant)

9. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

Chartered financial analysts typically work with investments rather than financial planning. This certification is appropriate for those who work in institutional money management and stock analysis.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • Three years of professional experience

  • Passing three qualifying exams

You prepare for the trio of exams through self-study, working with a course curriculum that covers:

  • Ethics

  • Economics

  • Equity investments

  • Corporate finance

  • Financial reporting

  • Derivatives

  • Quantitative methods

  • Fixed income types

The first exam includes 240 multiple-choice questions split between two three-hour sessions. The second exam has 21 set questions with 10 in the morning session and 11 in the afternoon. The final exam includes eight to 12 essay questions in the morning session and 11 item set questions in the afternoon. To obtain and maintain your charter, you must first become a member of the CFA Institute.

Read more: How To Become a CFA: A Step-by-Step Guide

10. Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

The Chartered Financial Consultant certification demonstrates your knowledge in all areas of financial planning including investment, estate, tax and insurance planning as well as more niche subjects like small business planning or divorce. This designation from the American College of Financial Services is ideal for financial consultants of all kinds.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • At least three years of professional experience in the finance industry within the last five years

  • Completing seven core courses and two electives

  • Passing closed-book, proctored exams

Exam topics include:

  • Financial planning

  • State planning

  • Retirement planning

  • Income taxation

  • Insurance planning

Upon completion of the exams, you must agree to comply with the American College’s code of ethics and procedures. To maintain your certification, you pay an annual fee, reconfirm your client-facing status, update your contact information and recommit to the standard of ethics each year. Every two years, you complete 30 hours of CE credits.

Related: Financial Planner vs. Financial Adviser: What's the Difference?

11. Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)

The Investment Adviser Association (IAA) issues the Chartered Investment Counselor certification. It focuses on expertise in portfolio and mutual fund management.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • Being a registered investment adviser

  • Holding CFA certification

  • Providing character references

Earning CIC certification requires adherence to IAA’s code of ethics.

Read more: Portfolio Manager vs. Hedge Fund Manager: How They Differ

12. Financial Risk Manager (FRM)

Financial Risk Manager is a professional title the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) offers to those who complete this program. It is a globally recognized credential for risk management in financial organizations such as banks, insurance companies, accounting institutions, consulting firms, corporations, credit agencies and regulatory agencies.

Prerequisites and requirements include:

  • At least two years of professional experience in a field directly related to financial risk management

  • Passing two-part certifying exam

  • Presenting a management portfolio

Exam topics include:

  • Financial theories

  • Risk management concepts

  • Application of risk management tools

The first part of the exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions for examinees to answer within four hours.The second part has 80 multiple-choice questions for examinees to answer within four hours.

Related: Financial Risk Management vs. Chartered Financial Analyst Certifications

13. Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

The PFS certification differs from the other certifications on this list because it is a component of the CPA certification. If you have obtained your CPA and want to pursue a career focused on financial planning, this designation will demonstrate your expertise in insurance, tax, retirement, estate and investment planning. You can get your PFS by passing the relevant CPA exam requirements or by obtaining the CFP or ChFC certification along with your CPA.

The PFS examination has 160 questions. About half are multiple choice, while half are case studies. The case studies typically have short scenarios with two to five multiple-choice questions. There are two longer case studies with up to 18 multiple-choice questions. To maintain your PFS, you must be an AICPA member in good standing, have a valid CPA, submit a signed statement that indicates you aim to comply with recertification requirements and complete 20 hours of approved continuing professional development (CPD).

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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