What is a Professional Finance Certification?
In the world of finance, professional certifications are powerful tools that allow professionals to enhance their profiles and increase both employability and earning potential. These qualifications typically require self-study to prepare for a series of exams, the difficulty of which increases at each level. Holding these designations enhances a professional’s reputation and certifies professional expertise, affords significant networking opportunities, and grants membership in a professional organization.
Key Learning Points
- Certifications are awarded by professional bodies and educational institutions and differ from university degrees in that they focus more narrowly on technical competencies.
- These qualification programs draw upon the knowledge of industry leaders and cover current industry practices, regulatory requirements, and trends. Exam content is updated on a regular basis.
- Obtaining these certifications requires strict discipline and intensive study but sets you apart from peers and testifies to expert knowledge and professionalism.
- While not inexpensive, professional finance certifications are an efficient way to build a credible resume. Top MBA programs normally start from $80,000 and take at least one year as a full-time student, while professional certifications can be pursued while continuing to work. The cost is significantly less than that of an MBA.
The Investment Banker is an online program that reflects the training new analysts receive at leading investment banks. It is challenging and attractive for those who want to demonstrate a level of competence in the industry. It is appropriate whether you are a graduate hoping to land a job in investment banking or a professional preparing for a new role.
The certificate is recognized by leading investment banks, and the program covers the essential skills taught to new analysts, including accounting, financial modeling, valuation, M&A and LBO analysis.
The final exams are similar to assessments at the top firms and are challenging.
The Portfolio Manager certification is designed for those currently working in, or seeking to break into, the asset management industry, with the ultimate goal of becoming a portfolio manager. The course is comprehensive and covers both buy-side fundamentals and advanced portfolio construction.
The course not only gives participants a comprehensive understanding of the portfolio management process but includes the latest trends in the industry, such as ESG and active vs passive investing. Participants can also find out what it’s really like to work in portfolio management in an expert interview with a wealth manager.
Breaking into any area of asset management can be competitive and typically requires previous relevant experience, be it in investment banking or another area.
The PE Associate program covers the fundamentals of accounting, modeling, and valuation as well as the specific tools needed to excel as a junior in private equity, including the PE Fund, legal requirements, and the PE Deal. It is perfect for students, management consultants, or investment bankers looking to break into the industry.
There are very few programs that specifically focus on private equity, and this one has been designed by industry experts to prepare you for a career in private equity. The program is flexible, allowing participants to learn at their own pace with on-demand video, examples, and expert instructor support. This course is designed by 7 industry professionals and takes participants all the way from building foundational skills through LBO structuring and due diligence concerns. It also helps prepare participants for PE interviews.
PE is a very niche area, and recruitment is often conservative. Applicants are usually expected to have experience in investment banking before moving into a PE role.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
The CFA designation is the most prestigious and sought-after qualification. To become a charter holder, it’s necessary to pass three exams and is an equivalent of a master’s degree. The CFA designation is reputed to be the most difficult certification to obtain, which works to the benefit of those who succeed. The focus of the program is on investment analysis and portfolio management.
It is a globally recognized and highly regarded qualification that can open doors in many areas of finance, but mostly in the investment research and management space.
Extremely demanding – the body of material is very extensive and pass rates are low. In addition, it is mostly focused on financial theory and there are no practical exercises such as modeling included.
Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
The FRM certification is designed for those working in a financial risk setting and is offered by the Global Association of Risk Professionals. It can benefit those who pursue a role as a risk analyst or risk manager, but it is also popular in other areas, particularly with money managers who want to upgrade their knowledge of risk.
The qualification can accelerate the careers of risk professionals who are willing to put the hours, but it is also gaining popularity across other functions in the investment industry.
It is very niche and not applicable to most roles. Candidates are advised to familiarize themselves with the syllabus and determine which areas of the material can be useful in their role.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The CPA certification is a good fit for those pursuing a career in accounting and finance. The syllabus covers major concepts in areas such as financial accounting, reporting, auditing, and regulation.
Highly regarded and sought after in the world of accounting. Could be great differentiator at all levels of seniority and across all company sizes.
It is specifically focused on accounting and has very little focus on corporate finance.
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
When it comes to management accounting, CIMA is typically viewed as a global leader. Its qualifications are internationally recognized and may be required for some management positions in finance and accounting. The advanced level qualification offered by CIMA is a good fit for those pursuing careers in corporate finance who would eventually like to become a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Solid and globally recognized qualification – CIMA is the world’s largest professional body for management accountants and offers vast networking opportunities. Nevertheless, the qualification might be more applicable to those working in larger organizations.
As the name suggests, the curriculum is primarily focused on management accounting and those in audit and tax roles may not find it as useful. It also tends to be popular among larger employers and those in the financial sector specifically.
How to find the right finance course for you?
See our guide below to find the right course for you, with key considerations and suggestions.
One of the key drivers in the educational sector today is flexibility – students are seeking access to courses and certifications that will offer practical knowledge and skills, but at the same time will allow them to plan their studies around their own schedule. Therefore, there is growing interest from young and mid-career professionals in professional qualifications, as this is more cost efficient than a traditional university education. Along with their industry reputation, most organizations, for example CIMA, require their members to maintain a high level of professionalism and take an active role in the industry through events such as conferences. This system is popular in the UK as Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and all of our courses as CPD certified and offer candidates CPD points.
Now you have found the right course for you, you might be interested to see who the top firms are in the industry. Access the free download to see who the top 10 firms are in Investment Banking, Investment Management, and Private Equity ranked by revenue or AUM.