5 Global Finance Qualifications You Should Consider Pursuing

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Finance is one of the most actively pursued professions in the world and holds lucrative career trajectories. It’s also one of the most challenging, because many relevant roles require one to have more than a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, such as finance qualifications.

Many people are willing to invest their time and energy for a well established career in finance and choose to take some of the most renowned and challenging examinations in the world in order to obtain professional finance qualifications.

These finance qualifications can unlock many opportunities for you, but are definitely not for the faint-hearted. It takes hundreds of hours of formal training and studying to pass these examinations, not to mention the fees one has to bear to take them. Therefore, it’s important to pinpoint a track that you truly want to focus on and choose a finance qualification that best aligns with your goals.

Below are 5 globally recognised certifications for financial professionals with coverage on test components and useful insights:

1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The CPA is an ideal certification for professionals aiming to have a career in accounting or auditing. The course is much more focused, with emphasis on corporate finance, making it unfit for those considering careers outside of the accounting field .

The exams: The course consists of four components:

  • Auditing and attestation;
  • Financial accounting and reporting;
  • Business environment concepts; and
  • Regulation.

Insights: CPA certification may not take as much time as the CFA and its pass rate is higher than many other financial licensure examinations on average. But professionals who hold the CPA designation differentiate themselves from many other professionals in the financial services industry.

You can find out more here.


2. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

CFA is one of most highly regarded and challenging designations that many financial professionals take up. CFA is also a truly versatile financial certificate. It allows you to pursue different financial career paths, including the likes of investment banking and portfolio management.

The exams: CFA is taken in stages, starting with level 1 and culminating at level 3. This means that it takes at least 3 years to pass all levels with an additional 4 years of relevant work experience to become an officially chartered CFA holder.

CFA has a broad financial curriculum, mainly covering the areas of asset management and equity research. But the exams are roughly broken down into 10 components, such as: ethical and professional standards, quantitative methods, and economics

Insights: You’ll need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited tertiary institution to be eligible to take the exam. Although there’s no restriction on those who don’t hold a bachelor’s degree, it’s still recommended that you hold one of the following majors in order to qualify for the CFA and make your test goals more achievable.

  • Accounting;
  • Economics; and
  • Finance & Business.

You can find out more here.


3. Certified Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA)

CAIA is a very concentrated qualification that focuses on alternative investments, unlike CFA, which also leans toward other investment assets like equity, fixed income and derivatives. CAIA comprises of 2 levels and takes an average of 12 to 18 months to study for and pass the exam.

The exams: Level 1 of this financial examination consists of seven sections, some of which are:

  • Professional standards & ethics;
  • Introduction to alternative investments;
  • Real assets; and
  • Private equity.

Insights: Level 2 continues to be an even more challenging stage with more integrated topics, including: commodities, asset allocation, and institutional investors. The certification is especially highly sought after by professionals looking to thrive in fields such as asset management and hedge funds.

You can find out more here.


4. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

CFP is a specialised designation for anyone seeking to make a career out of financial planning or wealth management. Financial professionals in this category usually handle the entire portfolios of their clients and make major financial decisions for them.

The exams: Test questions for this qualification are distributed among 8 major financial Principle Knowledge Topics. Here are some of them:

  • Professional conduct and regulation;
  • General principles of financial planning;
  • Education planning;
  • Risk management; and
  • Investment planning.

Insights: CFA and CFP are usually similar in nature, but the career possibilities differ based on which one of these two certifications you hold:

  • CFAMore geared towards investment or portfolio management and CFA holders usually manage investment options for individual and corporate investors. They also conduct equity research and handle various asset courses.
  • CFP – Licence holders are more suited for giving personal financial advice to individuals for such purposes as college fund saving, insurance, tax, retirement and real estate with no particular emphasis on investments.

You can find out more here.


5. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

CMA is another broad-based financial designation with numerous careers not limited to banks and financial institutions. CMA license holders may work for a wide range of enterprises and companies, taking major roles in financial decision making.

The exams: The exams consist of two parts: part 1 focuses on financial planning, performance and analytics covering 6 competencies, some of which are:

  • External financial reporting decisions;
  • Planning; and
  • Budgeting and forecasting.

Part 2 is more focused on strategic financial management with 6 more competencies covered, including:

  • Financial statement analysis;
  • Corporate finance; and
  • Decision analysis.

Insights: Again, CPA and CMA are both ideal designations for aspiring accountants, with common examination aspects. The major distinction between the two arises in their career settings:

  • CPA – Designation holders may be found in public and private firms, government institutions, and even as freelance practitioners.
  • CMA – Holders are more employable in corporations and larger industries. Professionals are trained to make more challenging financial decisions in larger businesses and position them to become well-versed CFOs.

You can find out more here.


Other Financial Certifications

Of course, there are other finance qualifications you can pursue, which are recognised worldwide. It is worth noting that most of these certifications are subsets of those explained above, but are no less challenging or less prestigious:

  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) – A subset of CFP
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) – A subset of CFA
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) – For specialisation in insurance
  • Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) – For specialisation in mutual fund
  • Financial Risk Manager (FRM) – For specialisation in risk
  • Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA) – For practical applications with Excel


Related: Pursue the Henley-ICAEW Programme and Graduate with a UK Degree & Professional Qualification


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