Formal education in finance helps you enjoy a related career successfully. However, you can bolster your position by opting for additional certifications. Finance certifications help professionals hone their skills in a particular area. For example, a chartered public accountant (CPA) can help accountants polish their skills and enhance their careers.
Obtaining additional certifications can have a significant impact on your career. They can give you an impressive salary bump and allow you to take on senior management roles in which you can call all the shots. However, keep in mind finance certifications have prerequisites you must follow. Most require a certain amount of professional experience or a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition to this, you must also pass the relevant exam.
Another thing to remember is that obtaining a finance certification is no easy task. It takes a long time. Also, it will require you to study a lot and eliminate any distractions to improve your chances of passing the exam. To help with this, you can check out Wiley Efficient Learning, as they have excellent resources that can help you pass your exam.
With that said, let’s break down everything you need to know about some of the more popular finance certifications for professionals.
1. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
CFA is a highly sought-after certification and is considered the gold standard in the investment industry. It is a voluntary credential offered by the CFA Institute. Investment professionals who clear the exam become experts in security research, asset management, investment tools, asset valuation, wealth management, ethics, portfolio management, and hedge funds.
a) Eligibility criteria
For the CFA, all you need is a bachelor’s degree in any field or four years of relevant work experience. Its low entry barrier is another reason why CFA is popular.
b) The exam structure
The exam for CFA is divided into three parts. It is so because it is impossible to cover everything in one go. The exam is created by the CFA Learning Experience and Assessment Development staff. The exam covers ten topics related to finance, and each part builds upon the last.
In part 1, you should have a basic knowledge of finance and related topics. They can include economics, statistics, and financial accounting. In Part 2, the exam covers the same topics but focuses on their application in more detail. In Part 3, the exam focuses on finance topics and portfolio and wealth management. To get the CFA certificate, you will have to pass each part of the exam (in order).
Obtaining the CFA certificate can help you land jobs in asset management, investment banking, equity research, private equity, wealth management, and portfolio management roles.
2. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The CPA is another gold standard certification, but primarily for accounting professionals. It is specifically designed for accounting and tax consultants and is authorized by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Professionals with the CPA certificate are experts in tax preparation, financial statements, financial planning, internal audition, forensic accounting, and income tax.
a) Eligibility criteria
The CPA requirements are different from state to state. However, most of these include:
- Being at least 18 years of age
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institute or completing 120+ hours in college credits
Some states require completing a bachelor’s in accounting or related fields. Some states also require that you complete 150+ hours in college credits.
Additionally, most states require completing at least 24 semester hours in accounting or business-related coursework. These courses can include financial accounting, taxation, cost accounting, leadership and management, finance, marketing, and business strategy. Some states require that you complete at least 20 credit hours in finance, business law, and management.
b) Citizenship requirement
The majority of states do not have this requirement. However, states like North Carolina require US citizenship before taking the exam.
In the majority of states, you must have a valid SSN. However, some states allow you to take the exam without the SSN. For example, Illinois, Wisconsin, and New York.
d) The exam structure
The CPA exam is divided into four main parts. They are auditing and attestation (AUD), financial accounting and reporting (FAR), regulation (REG), and business environment and concepts (BEC). In addition, the exam has a total of 276 multiple-choice questions.
You have four hours to complete each part of the test, with a total of 16 hours for the entire exam. Each exam is taken individually, and only once you clear it, you move on. Additionally, you do not have to take the exam in a fixed order. For example, you can take the REG exam before the FAR exam.
Furthermore, you must pass each part of the exam within a period of 18 months. Obtaining the CPA certificate can help you land jobs as an internal auditor, government accountant, management accountant, financial analyst, corporate controller, and financial advisor.
Best finance certifications like the CFA and CPA can help take your career to another level with lucrative salaries and upper-management roles. There are prerequisites to these certifications that must be fulfilled, like educational requirements and relevant professional experience. The CFA and CPA are tough to attain, but in the end, all the hard work you put in will be worth it.
Learn more about the finance industry.