How to Earn Different Types of Finance Certificates

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 2022

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.

Working in the financial sector can be an interesting and rewarding career. There are many certificates in finance, each covering different topics and providing career opportunities based on the specific credential. By learning about the different types of financial certifications, you can determine which approach suits your interests and career goals. In this article, we define finance certificates, list the leading financial credentials and their uses, and detail how to get a certificate to grow your career.

What are finance certificates?

Finance certificates are professional credentials issued by an official authority that empowers an individual to perform a specific financial service. Depending on the certificate, a different governing body issues the credential and determines ethical standards and best practices. For example, financial advisors answer to the Investment Industry Regulatory Association of Canada (IIROC), while the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) relates to chartered accountants. Each certificate enables you to advance by legally entitling you to perform a new financial activity.

Read more: 10 Financial Positions You May Want to Consider Pursuing

Types of financial certificates

There are many types of financial certificates, as these credentials enable professionals to perform advanced financial duties. Finance is a massive market sector, so there are several types of certificates, including:

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

A well-respected finance certification, this credential has global acknowledgment. It shows that the certificate-holder proved their knowledge, competencies, ethics, and experience. CFPs can fully understand clients' financial situations at the most complex level. They assist clients in building a long-term financial plan by offering advice and providing guidance.

Qualified Associate Financial Planner (QAFP)

This certificate is a globally recognized credential that empowers professionals to offer holistic financial planning services. QAFPs can work on basic financial planning needs, assisting clients in creating financial plans. The testing ensures that they have high ethical standards, along with the knowledge and skills necessary to offer these services responsibly.

Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA)

This is an advanced certificate in the finance field that prepares experienced accountants with various competencies. CPAs attend a post-graduate program that provides detailed accounting information. It equips these professionals with the industry's most advanced accounting skill set. To qualify for a CPA designation, candidates require 30 practical hours of relevant work experience and proficiency in the following areas:

  • Management accounting

  • Strategy and governance

  • Audit and assurance

  • Taxation

  • Finance

  • Financial reporting

  • Problem solving

  • Written and oral communication

  • Ethics and professionalism

Chartered Investment Manager (CIM)

This financial certificate enables the CIM to manage client portfolios and to act on the account holders' behalf based on their professional discretion. They specialize in investment strategies with wealthy clients and perform asset management to a high ethical standard. To earn a CIM certificate, you take the Canadian Securities Course, followed by wealth management, advanced investment, and portfolio management. The credential also requires two years of relevant experience within the preceding five years.

Related: How to Become a Portfolio Manager

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

A financial analyst with this certificate possesses the knowledge and techniques necessary to work in the investment industry. The certificate is technically a charter, issued to those who complete the program and possess relevant work experience. It comprises a three-component test that covers portfolio management, wealth planning, asset valuation, and investment tools. Professionals with a CFA designation can work in senior positions related to management for assets, investments, risk, and overall actuarial sciences.

Read more: A Review of the Top Financial Certifications in Canada

How to get a finance certification

Obtaining a finance certificate is an achievable goal that can help you advance your career. By following these steps, you can pursue the ideal certificate for your goals:

1. Earn your undergraduate degree

To learn the fundamentals of finance, economics, and business, the first step is pursuing an undergraduate degree in a relevant field. Common majors include accounting, economics, business administration or management, statistics, and mathematics. Many finance certificates require proof of competencies that only certain courses address. When planning for your finance certification, ensure that your courses account for that credential's specific requirements.

2. Gain industry experience

Many certifications require a certain amount of experience in specific areas. Identify a starting position that counts towards the hour requirements of your ideal finance credential. You can start working in the finance industry in an entry-level role after graduation. Examples of beginner jobs for educated candidates include positions as junior accountants, credit and financial analysts, tax associates, claims adjusters, and underwriters. The work provides you with a practical understanding of financial applications in the workplace.

Read more: What Is Process Improvement and How Can You Utilize It?

3. Specialize your set of skills

Specializing your competencies at work can help you advance your career. For example, a Chartered Professional Accountant performs a different role than a junior accountant. While you work, consider ways to focus your skills. Discuss your desire to advance with management and human resources. Offer to manage special projects and accept more responsibility. Depending on where you work, there are many opportunities to specialize in financial skills. For instance, if you work as a junior analyst and want to become a Chartered Financial Analyst, you can ask to work on specific files, such as budget or credit data analysis.

4. Research different certifications

After you gain experience in the finance industry, you can use that informed understanding to decide on a certification. Some finance professionals expect to work in taxes and develop a passion for auditing. Taking an honest account of your interests and finding a certification that aligns with those goals is important. Once you earn a finance certificate or charter, it shows that you're an expert in your field. It provides opportunities for senior positions, something employees usually retain over the long term. Ensure that you find a direction in finance that suits your interests.

Read more: Top Common Finance Titles (With Salaries and Primary Duties)

5. Discuss options with your supervisor

Many employers support the professional development of staff members by accommodating any necessary time off work and often paying for the certificate course in whole or in part. By communicating with your supervisor, you can tell them what you seek professionally and discuss how that can benefit the company. In many situations, the employer pays tuition for the coursework contingent on the employee continuing to work for the company for an agreed duration. This allows the business to recuperate its investment.

6. Enrol in a finance certificate program

Identify qualified institutions that offer financial certificates since a recognized program is essential to the certificate's validity. As most programs operate through official channels that hold the legal rights to the service, it's fairly straightforward to identify the correct provider. Enrol in the finance certification program and take the classes. Some programs are available online, while others require in-person attendance. In-person classes typically take place during the evening to accommodate standard work schedules in the financial industry. Complete the curriculum and pass the tests, then execute your graduation paperwork and obtain your certificate.

7. Obtain a license and registration

Some financial services run through federal programs, such as the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA), whereas other certifications rely on provincial regulation, such as Chartered Professional Accountants. Employees with proper certifications are eligible for licensing, while independent contractors require the sponsorship of a financial firm. Depending on where you work and your finance job, your certificate likely connects with one of these agencies:

  • Canadian Securities Administrators

  • Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada

  • Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada

  • Provincial Insurance Regulators

  • Provincial Securities Commissions

8. Apply your certification in the workplace

Once you have your financial certificate, you can pursue more responsibilities at work. If your employer supported your education, then there's usually an arrangement for you to use your skills to continue working at the company. You can use a financial planning certificate to pursue clients and build a professional portfolio.

In large businesses, you can apply your financial skills by shifting roles in portfolio management for major clients. With smaller companies, you can legally use the certificate to solicit clients and offer a broad suite of financial services. Most professionals gain experience by applying their certification before pursuing a promotion and higher salary.

Read more: What Is a Promotion Letter? (With Template and Example)

9. Keep your certificate effective

Finance professionals require ongoing professional development to remain current on legislation changes. For example, professionals in finance stay apprised of industry developments such as trade restrictions or new tax incentives. To account for the frequent changes in financial regulation, most certificates require renewal after a certain period. Most professional agencies offer annual renewal services for a fee. When you complete the license renewal, you officially declare that you're professionally capable. Signing the document indicates you obtained any relevant professional upgrading to fulfill the position's duties.

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

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