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Professional Finance Designations

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This week I discussed with university students various professional financial designations. As well, potential career paths that the different finance related certifications may offer.

There are a multitude of available financial designations. Three common ones include: Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and even Chartered Accountant (CA) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Today, I want to quickly link to a few posts I have previously written on this topic.

CFA Versus CFP Versus CA/CPA

Before embarking on any path to a professional designation, you need to understand the differences between the various programs. All may be finance related, but in differing degrees.

For example, a CFA may perform more analytical work or deal more with corporate matters than a CFP. Perhaps managing a mutual fund, analyzing equities, structuring investment products, or working on an Initial Public Offering. The CFP may work more with individual clients. Perhaps advising clients on proper asset allocations, appropriate financial products for their portfolios, selling them funds or insurance, maybe even providing rudimentary tax advice.

In “Careers as a CA/CPA, CFA, or CFP” [4], I look at the different designations. As well, I link to other articles and posts which delve a little deeper into each career path.

Many lawyers and MBAs [5] work in finance related positions. Those too are viable options.

For example, consider a career in Investment Banking. All of the above, except the CFP designation, should open the door for opportunities (subject to your area of specialization).

Many Other Designations

There are many possible financial designations [6] out there in addition to the above.

The names and numbers seem to shift yearly, so stay current. Investopedia [7] is always a good source for information.

CFA is a Challenging Route

In representing the CFA Society at the Career Fair, I mainly discussed the CFA designation and career options.

I tried to emphasize that it is a very challenging program.

Pass rates are low [8] for exams. Level I writes twice a year (June/December) and Levels II and III only once per annum (June). If you do not pass, you have a significant wait before being able to resit.

In this post I look at the CFA exam process [9].

And add a few thoughts on improving the odds of passing [10] each Level.

After passing the exams, you also must accrue relevant work experience [11] before earning the designation. Make sure you understand what does and does not qualify. No sense spending at least three years writing exams and find your work experience is inadequate.

CFP is also a Good Career Route

In my opinion, very different career than with a CFA [12]. But different does not mean bad.

This post adds further thoughts for those considering a CFP designation [13].

I believe that the CFP designation is much easier to attain than the CFA or financial accounting designation. That may impact the choice of some students.

Think Outside the Box

Finance work is one part technical skills, one part industry knowledge.

You cannot audit a car dealership without knowing something about car dealerships and manufacturers. You cannot value an oil company without understanding the industry. And so on.

If you want to improve your chance of landing a job, you should try and add some industry knowledge to go with your technical training. If you do, you will be in the minority. Most young finance professionals concentrate almost solely on the finance skills but ignore the practical side.

Develop some industry specific knowledge [14] while still in school. Or in your summer job or extracurricular activities.

Improve your soft skills [15] that are crucial in any position [16]. For example, if you cannot effectively communicate, your superior technical skills will mean nothing.

Further Information

For further information on the Canadian CFP designation (country specific certification), visit the Financial Planning Standards Council [17]. The Counsel is the governing body for the CFP designation in Canada. For those in other locations, google “CFP Australia [18]” (or your own country) and you will quickly find the right website.

For further information on the CFA designation, visit the CFA Institute [19]. CFA designation is global, so one stop shopping. But local chapters may offer seminars, assistance with exams, joblines, etc. A local Society usually reflects a critical mass. So they may be city, state, province, or country sized. For example, CFA Society Los Angeles [20] versus CFA Society Saskatchewan [21] versus Swiss CFA Society [22].

For further information on financial accounting designations, google your own country’s governing body. In Canada, the national body is the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants [23].