Professional Designations in Finance

On 12/28/2010, in Career, Formal Education, by Jordan Wilson

In my last post, I compared the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designations.

A bit of an apples and oranges comparison.

This post will briefly discuss comparable financial designations.

Career Paths in Finance

Previously, I have linked to this Investopedia article that provides a laundry list of designations. It is still a good source of information.

In Canada, The Globe and Mail has two articles which help explain the various designations you may encounter.

The first aggregates designations by emphasis of work performed.  That is, does the holder focus on financial planning or investment management?

The second article compares the Certified Financial Planner and Personal Financial Planner designations. A better comparison than CFP versus CFA.

The articles are okay and provide a nice little overview, so are worth a read.

I am surprised that they overlook a couple of areas.


One, the Masters of Business Administration (MBA).

A very popular pursuit for many that desire a career in finance.

I think combining an MBA with a Business or Commerce undergraduate degree can be overkill and not worth the time or cost. But combining an MBA with a non-business degree (e.g. engineering, sciences, etc.) can provide excellent synergies.

Perhaps it is not included in the list as the MBA is an education degree and not a financial profession or designation. However, many finance employees hold MBAs and nothing else.

Accountant or Lawyer

Two, a professional accountancy designation or certain lawyers.

I refer primarily to Chartered Accountants (many of the Commonwealth countries) or Certified Public Accountants (US).

Accountants that have extensive training in personal taxation. Also, those that have experience in planning activities related to estate, succession, business, or retirement.

These skills may also be found in tax or estate lawyers as well.

There are many areas in which professional accountants and lawyers specialize. If you plan to enter the world of finance as an accountant or lawyer, make certain you focus on the relevant subsections during your training.

The same rule applies if you are considering a lawyer or accountant for advice. Make sure they have the specific skills you require.

Much of financial planning relates to taxation. How to avoid, minimize, or defer its impact on one’s wealth.

Many CFAs, CFPs, or other financial designations have relatively weak expertise as relates to tax issues. Relative that is to a tax accountant or lawyer.

If you want to enter the world of financial planning, possessing tax expertise will be an advantage. However, as tax accountants and lawyers will be relatively weak in investment training, adding direct finance credentials will nicely round out your knowledge base.

The downside with this career path is the time and cost involved to become a tax expert, either as an accountant or lawyer.

A second potential issue is that you will want to charge for your expertise. You may find that you are an expensive option for potential clients. So bear that in mind.

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