Finance Certifications

If you have trouble understanding the difference between a CFA, CFP, CIC, ChFC or any of the other financial certifications, you're not alone. While certifications aren't everything, educated investors (and your potential clients) give extra credit to those who have them, recognize that candidates put in long hours of study, and that they meet the highest ethical and professional standards.

Certified Financial Planner ® (CFP®)

Those with the CFP® designation have demonstrated competency in all areas of financial planning. Candidates complete studies on over 100 topics, including stocks, bonds, taxes, insurance, retirement planning and estate planning. The program is administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. In addition to passing the CFP certification exam, candidates must also complete qualifying work experience and agree to adhere to the CFP Board's code of ethics and professional responsibility and financial planning standards. A financial planner works with individuals to help them understand their options and make financial decisions suited to their personal financial situation and goals. Since, because of the nature of their work, a lot of trust is placed in these individuals, the CFP Board posts information on the financial planning process and current licensees, allowing clients of CFPs to verify if their financial planners' designations are in good standing. The last thing anyone needs is to choose a CFP whose certification has been revoked. Click to learn more.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®)

This designation is offered by the CFA Institute (formerly the Association for Investment Management and Research [AIMR]). To obtain the CFA charter, candidates must successfully complete three difficult exams and gain at least three years of qualifying work experience, among other requirements. In passing these exams, candidates demonstrate their competence, integrity and extensive knowledge in accounting, ethical and professional standards, economics, portfolio management and security analysis. CFA charterholders tend to be analysts who work in the field of institutional money management and stock analysis, not financial planning. These professionals provide research and ratings on various forms of investments. Click to learn more.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

The Certified Management Accountant credential is the advanced professional certification that delivers tangible value. It demonstrates your command of the critical accounting and financial management skills demanded by today’s dynamic businesses, translating into significant career opportunities for you. The first CMA exam was offered in 1972, and the program will soon celebrate 40 years as the gold standard certification for accountants and financial professionals in business. Find out why more than 30,000 professionals worldwide—and today’s top global employers in business—have valued this essential credential. Click to learn more.

Certified Fund Specialist (CFS)

As the name implies, an individual with this certification has demonstrated his or her expertise in mutual funds and the mutual fund industry. These individuals often advise clients on which funds to invest in and, depending on whether or not they have their license, they will buy and sell funds for clients. The Institute of Business and Finance (IBF), formerly known as the Institute of Certified Fund Specialists, provides training for the CFS, and the course focuses on a variety of mutual fund topics, including portfolio theory, dollar-cost averaging and annuities. The knowledge these CFS designees hold is kept current through their continuing education requirements. Click to learn more.

Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

Individuals with the ChFC designation have demonstrated their vast and thorough knowledge of financial planning. The ChFC program is administered by the American College. In addition to successful completion of an exam on areas of financial planning, including income tax, insurance, investment and estate planning, candidates are required to have a minimum of three years experience in a financial industry position. Like those with the CFP designation, professionals who hold the ChFC charter help individuals analyze their financial situations and goals. Click to learn more.

Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)

Given by the Investment Counsel Association, this is a designation that CFA charterholders who are currently registered investment advisors can study for. The focus of the CIC program is portfolio management. In addition to proving their high-level expertise in portfolio management, these individuals must also adhere to a strict code of ethics and provide character references. Individuals who hold the CIC charter tend to be some of the major players in the financial world, such as those who manage large accounts and mutual funds. Click to learn more.

Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)

This designation focuses on asset allocation, ethics, due diligence, risk measurement, investment policy and performance measurement. Only individuals who are investment consultants with at least three years of professional experience are eligible to try to obtain this certification, which signifies a high level of consulting expertise. The Investment Management Consultants Association offers the CIMA courses. Individuals who hold CIMA designations are required to prove their expertise through continual recertification, which requires CIMA designees to complete at least 40 hours of continuing education every two years. CIMA designation holders tend to have careers with financial consulting firms, which involve extensive interaction with clients and the management of large amounts of money. Click to learn more.

Chartered Market Technician (CMT)

To achieve this designation, an individual must pass three exams offered by the Market Technicians Association (MTA) and agree to adhere to the MTA code of ethics. Individuals with the CMT designation have a demonstrated expertise in the field of technical analysis. Often CMTs will work for hedge funds and money management firms. Click to learn more.

Certified Public Accountant and Personal Financial Specialist (CPA and PFS)

Those holding the CPA designation have passed examinations on accounting and tax preparation, but their title does not indicate training in other areas of finance. So, those CPA holders who are interested in gaining expertise in financial planning in order to supplement their accounting careers need to become certified as personal finance specialists (PFS). The PFS designation is awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to those who have taken additional training and already have a CFP designation. Click to learn more.

Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)

This designation is issued by the American College, and those who hold it work mostly as insurance agents. The CLU designation is awarded to persons who complete a 10-course program of study and 20 hours of exams. The course covers the fundamentals of life and health insurance, pension planning, insurance law, income taxation, investments, financial and estate planning, and group benefits. Click to learn more.

Certified Treasury Professional®

This certification is attractive to individuals who want to obtain a position as a Corporate Treasury Official and is the only professional credential in cash management. The CTP credential, formerly the Certified Cash Manager (CCM), is widely regarded by treasury and finance professionals as one of the leading credentials in the field of corporate finance and treasury operations. It demonstrates a high standard of professionalism and a commitment to performance. Click to learn more.

Certified Government Financial Manager ® (CGFM)

This is the premier certification for Federal, State, and Local analysts and financial managers. Click to learn more.

Certified Healthcare Financial Professional ® (CHFP)

The CHFP® (Certified Healthcare Financial Professional) certification is designed mid-level healthcare professionals with a minimum of 3-5 years management experience in healthcare provider operations. CHFP certification demonstrates your qualifications to senior management, co-workers, and the industry – highlighting your commitment to the profession and to maintaining up-to-date skills and knowledge. Click to learn more.

Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA)

Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA) is a global finance designation offered by the Association of Certified International Investment Analysts (ACIIA) to financial professionals; candidates may be financial analysts, portfolio managers or investment advisors. (The CIIA is sometimes described as "the European Version of CFA" having a global recognition; it is also seen as a successor to the earlier CEFA qualification.). The ACIIA is recognised and promoted by both ASIF and EFFAS representing financial analyst federations in Asia and Europe. ACIIA is the international umbrella organisation for national and regional associations of investment professionals representing over 60,000 portfolio managers, analysts, investment advisers, asset managers and fund managers etc. worldwide. The uniqueness of the CIIA designation is that it tests members both at the local level from the countries they are appearing and having cleared those country specific exams can only appear for ACIIA common international level exams. This way it maintains standards both at the national and international levels. Click to learn more.

Certified Merger & Acquisition Advisor (CM&AA)

The Certified Merger & Acquisition Advisor ("CM&AA") designation is awarded by the Alliance of Merger & Acquisition Advisors and their academic partners Loyola University Chicago, or DePaul University to professionals that evidence mastery of the M&A body of knowledge and a commitment to staying abreast of new developments in the field of investment banking and mergers and acquisitions. It also recognizes professional achievement and competence, serves as a tool to both attract and serve new clients, provides identification with other professionals in the field and potentially stimulates career advancement. CM&AA professionals are accredited experts in one or more professional fields (i.e. CPA, accountant, lawyer, corporate finance, valuation expert, CFA, or MBA with Wall Street type investment banking experience) and understand the overall investment banking process for selling and buying middle-market companies (revenues typically ranging from $5 million to $500 million). Click to learn more.

Chartered Economic Analyst (ChEA)

The Chartered Economic Analyst (ChEA) is a professional designation conferred by the National Institute of Continuing Education (NICE). The designation was created in the spring of 2006. To receive authorization to use the designation, a candidate must attend a series of classes and pass a final examination that tests the candidate on their understanding of economics principles, the application of said principles, and a thorough understanding of the ethics of doing so. Click to learn more.

Energy Risk Professional (ERP)®

The Energy Risk Professional (ERP)® designation is awarded by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) and is the first and only global certification for energy professionals. Designed to measure an energy risk professional's ability to manage risk in a real-world energy environment, Certified ERPs represent major energy companies, financial institutions with direct and indirect investments in energy, consulting and technology firms with energy-related practices, and government agencies. Click to learn more.

Financial Risk Manager (FRM)®

Financial risk management is one of the top skill sets to have in the financial services industry today and offers excellent visibility and outstanding earning potential. The Financial Risk Manager (FRM)®designation is awarded by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP), and is the leading certification for financial risk managers throughout the world. FRMs have demonstrated their knowledge and skills through rigorous examination and relevant professional experience. The FRM Program ensures that Certified FRMs have mastered the critical competencies necessary to manage risk in the global financial markets. Click to learn more.