A Review of the Top Financial Certifications in Canada

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 20, 2022

Published November 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Receiving a certification helps you be an expert in your field and in Canada, there are several top financial certifications available. A financial designation helps promote your professional understanding in a specific area of study, such as investment management or financial planning. Understanding the various certification programs available in the financial industry can help you better plan your career development. In this article, we discuss four of the top financial certifications in Canada, including the prerequisites and curriculum, certification process, and maintaining the designation.

Related: How To List Your Certifications On A Resume

What are the top financial certifications in Canada?

There are four top financial certifications in Canada for financial planners, analysts, and portfolio managers. These certification programs are nationally or globally recognized as the leading standards in the financial industry. Below are four of the top certification programs to consider for your financial profession:

1. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

One of the top financial analyst designations in investment management is the globally recognized CFA certification. The Chartered Financial Analyst program, overseen by the CFA Institute, provides a comprehensive learning experience in investment portfolio management and analysis. This certification is ideal for financial analysts who focus on investment evaluation, institutional money management, and equity analysis.

Related: How to Create a Finance Analyst Resume (With Steps and Tips)

Prerequisites and curriculum

To apply for the CFA program, you have completed a bachelor's degree or are in the final year of your degree. Alternatively, they will accept a combination of post-secondary education and four years of full-time work experience. In addition, the CFA prefers candidates to have an international passport, complete a Professional Conduct Statement, and take the examinations in English. Once they accept you into the program, you complete an online curriculum that covers the following areas:

  • professional standards and ethical behaviour of financial analysts

  • quantitative concepts and methods, such as probability theory and statistics

  • fundamental concepts of economics, such as supply and demand, the business cycle, and growth factors

  • financial reporting procedures and financial statements

  • corporate governance and stakeholder management

  • equity investments, fixed incomes, and derivatives

  • alternative investments, such as real estate and hedge funds

  • wealth planning and investment portfolio management

Certification process

Once you have completed the CFA program, you can begin the process of certification. First, you write a series of three exams. Each level of the curriculum has a unique exam to test your knowledge and comprehension of the material. The CFA requires you to pass all three levels of tests for the certification. Throughout your coursework, you also submit three professional reference letters and proof of related work experience. Once you complete all requirements, you can apply for the Chartered Financial Analyst Charter, which entitles you to the designation of CFA.

Related: What Is a CFA vs. an MBA? (With Pros, Cons, and Differences)

Maintaining your certification

To maintain your designation as a Chartered Financial Analyst, the CFA Institute requires you to keep your charter membership current and in good standing. They encourage all charter members to complete a specific amount of professional learning throughout the year. The ongoing education can include updates in regulations and best practices, professional skills development, or particular products or services-related training.

2. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

Globally recognized as one of the top certifications in financial planning, the Certified Financial Planner designation is ideal for those working in the financial planning industry. The Financial Planning Standards Council oversees the CFP program and certification for financial planners. The program comprises advanced academic studies, qualified work experience, and national board exams. This certification is ideal for financial planners who focus on helping individuals, families, and organizations achieve financial wellness while planning for the future.

Related: What Does a Financial Advisor Do? (and How to Become One)

Prerequisites and curriculum

To apply for the CFP program, effective April 2022, you have completed a bachelor's degree as a minimum requirement. Once they accept you into the program, you complete several levels of online curriculum that cover the following areas:

  • a core curriculum that focuses on professional ethics and basics in financial planning and investments

  • an advanced curriculum that focuses on specialized areas of financial planning

  • a course as an introduction to professional ethics

  • a professional education program that allows for implementing previous learning

Certification process

Once you have completed the CFP educational requirements, you can begin the process of certification. First, you write a CFP examination. The exam is a six-hour test comprising multiple-choice and long-answer scenario questions. The questions selected for the exam come directly from the FP Canada Standards Council Competency Profile to test your knowledge and understanding of financial planning requirements. Once you pass the exam, you accrue three years of relevant and verifiable work experience. Once you complete all requirements, you can apply for the Certified Financial Planner designations, which entitles you to the title of CFP.

Maintaining your certification

To maintain your designation as a Certified Financial Planner, the Financial Planning Standards Council requires you to keep your certification current and in good standing. As a CFP, they require you to complete three continuing education credits annually. Along with ongoing training, you will maintain a high level of professional ethics and standards and pay the annual certification fee.

3. Chartered Investment Manager (CIM)

For those professionals working with individuals to manage private investment, the Chartered Investment Manager designation is ideal. Recognized as an industry-standard in personal investment management, the Canadian Securities Institute oversees the CIM program in Canada. This certification is beneficial when registering with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada or IIROC. This governing body regulates who can trade debts and equities in the Canadian market. A CIM certification is ideal for investment managers who focus on helping individuals buy and sell equities, stocks, mutual funds, and other investments while responsibly managing their portfolios.

Related: How to Become a Portfolio Manager

Prerequisites and curriculum

To apply for the CIM program, you first complete a series of courses offered through the Canadian Securities Institute. The online curriculum covers the following areas:

  • a study in Canadian securities

  • understanding the essentials of wealth management

  • investment management techniques

  • advanced investment strategies

  • techniques in portfolio management

Certification process

Once you have completed the CIM educational requirements, you can begin the process of certification. As an applicant for the Chartered Investment Manager designation, you have completed a minimum of three years of verifiable and relevant work experience. You also agree to a code of ethics and trademark rules for using the CIM designation. Once you pay your fee along with your application, the Canadian Securities Institute verifies your educational and work experience requirements and issues you an annual license and registration as a Chartered Investment Manager.

Maintaining your certification

To maintain your designation as a Chartered Investment Manager, the Canadian Securities Institute requires you to keep your registration current and in good standing. Every year you pay a registration fee and recommit to the professional code of ethics. In addition, over two years, they require you to complete a minimum of 30 hours of ongoing educational training, with 20 hours being committed to professional development and 10 hours focused on regulatory compliance.

4. Registered Financial Planner (RFP)

One of the most prestigious and widely recognized designations within financial planning in Canada is the Registered Financial Planner certification. The Institute of Advanced Financial Planners oversees the RFP program and certification for financial planners. This intensive certification program comprises previous academic studies, peer-reviewed financial reports, and several exams. This certification is ideal for certified financial planners looking to advance their commitment to their profession in helping people grow their personal wealth.

Related: 12 Jobs You Can Get With a Degree in Finance

Prerequisites and program

To apply for the RDP program, you first determine your eligibility to become an associate member of the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners (IAFP). The prerequisites include having a bachelor's degree or equivalency and three or more years of experience in financial planning. You also can provide three character references from the financial planning profession, with at least one being a current RFP member. If you meet the requirements, you pay a registration fee to become an associate member and begin your training, which they expect you to complete within 18 months.

Certification process

Once you have registered as an associate member with the IAFP, you have 18 months to complete specific criteria. You submit three reference forms, along with a written financial plan and letter of engagement for peer review. You also write the RFP exams that cover industry knowledge, regulatory compliance, and professional ethics. Because most of the educational requirements of a Registered Financial Planner happen before becoming a member of the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners, there is no specific curriculum you complete. After completing the necessary requirements, they give you the title of an RFP.

Maintaining your certification

To maintain your designation as a Registered Financial Planner, the Institute of Advanced Financial Planners requires you to keep your registration current and in good standing. Every year you pay a registration fee and recommit to the professional code of ethics. In addition, they require you to complete a minimum of 30 hours annually of ongoing educational training. Training includes ethics, estate, tax, and insurance planning, client counselling, retirement benefits, and enhancing interpersonal skills.

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

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