Top Professional Finance Certifications

A list of the top certifications for finance professionals.

What are the top finance certifications?

If you’re considering a career as a financial analyst, or already working as one, having a professional finance certification can significantly increase your earning power, reputation, and ability to deliver high-quality financial analysis.  This guide will walk you through each of the top finance certifications and designations for professionals looking to advance their careers.

 

List of the top finance certifications:

  1. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification
  2. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification
  3. Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) designation
  4. Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation
  5. Financial Risk Manager (FRM) certification
  6. Financial Modeling Certification (FMC)

 

top finance certifications

 

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification

The CFA designation is highly sought after by finance professionals around the world.  It consists of three levels and takes an average of about 4 years to complete all 3 levels. CFA is definitly one of the top finance certifications.

The main focus of this finance certification is on portfolio management and investment analysis.  The main exam topics include: ethical and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, portfolio management, equity, fixed income, derivatives, and alternative investments.

The CFA designation costs between $4,000 and $5,000 depending on whether or not you have rewrite any exams, and how early (or late) you register for your exams. The pass rate to obtain the CFA certification is about 40%.

Pros

Highly regarded and internationally recognized as a leading financial certification.  It is a requirement for many jobs in asset management and equity research.

Cons

This designation stands out from other finance certifications because the pass rate is so low and the amount of material covered is so vast.  It may be an expensive goal that you never actually achieve.

 

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Certification

Many finance professionals choose to have an accounting designation instead of a finance certification.  CPA is the gold standard in the accounting world and also plays really well in a finance career path.  The CPA curriculum consists of auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation.

The total cost of a CPA certification (start to finish) is about $3,000 and is typically covered by the students’ employers.  The pass rate per exam varies but for a first attempt is about 50%.

Pros

If you want a career in accounting this certification is a must.  If you want a career in finance it can be a great differentiator and excellent for anyone who wants to have the CFO’s job.

Cons

Only has a minor focus on corporate finance, more suitable for accounting jobs, and very challenging content to master.

 

Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Designation

The CAIA certification is focused on alternative investments and geared towards people in asset management and hedge fund industries.  The main topics covered in the CAIA are: ethics, hedge funds, private equity, real assets, structured products, asset allocation, and risk management. CAIA is one of the top finance certifications.

The cost of the CAIA finance certification is about $3,000 (in total) and the program consists of two levels.  The pass rate is about 70%.

Pros

This certification is great for niche areas of finance, such as managing alternative investments like private equity, real assets, and hedge funds.  Only take 12-18 months on average.

Cons

Not as versatile as other designations like CFA or CPA.

 

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Certification

Earning a CFP designation can be a great path for anyone looking at a career in investment or wealth management.  As the name implies, it’s focused on financial planning, which is the retail or high net worth segment of investment management.  CFP is one of the top finance certifications.

CFP is one of the finance certifications that represents great value as it only costs about $1,500 but can be higher or lower depending on how many course materials you purchase.  The pass rate is about 67%.

Pros

Good value and great for retail/wealth management careers.

Cons

This certification has a fairly narrow focus and is not very portable to other finance careers outside of wealth management.

 

Financial Risk Manager (FRM) Certification

The FRM certificate is designed for professionals pursuing careers as risk officers, risk analysts, and other positions in risk management.  The cost of the designation is about $1,500 and takes approximately a year to complete.  The pass rate is approximately 50% for the FRM.

Pros

This is a good path if you want to have a very specific career in risk management and differentiate yourself.  Compared to the above finance certifications the FRM is one of the most niche and targeted.  It’s very cost and time effective as well.

Cons

The FRM designation is not as globally recognized as something like the CFA or CPA.   It’s not portable to other areas of finance outside of risk management.

 

Financial Modeling Certifications

Another popular option for corporate finance professionals is to obtain a financial modeling certification from an Institute like CFI.  Course topics range from how to build a financial model to valuation techniques, and all courses come with certificates.  The Full Access Bundle at CFI is approximately $350 and comes with over 20 courses and over 50 hours of video instruction.

The most popular CFI certificates include:

  • FP&A financial modeling
  • How to build a financial model
  • Business valuation
  • Real estate financial modeling
  • Financial modeling with VBA

Learn more about CFI certifications or browse all CFI courses.

CFI certifications

 

More financial certification resources

At CFI, we are on a mission to help you advance your career.  That means we provide all the tools, training, and templates you need to be a world class financial analyst.

In addition to the financial modeling and finance certifications listed above, we also have a wide range of free resources to help you develop your skills.

Our most popular free resources include: