The Top 5 Financial Certifications

In the unceasing journey of navigating the financial labyrinth, a multitude of distinguished certifications lay ready to be procured. Consider these – Certified Financial Planner or CFP, Certified Public Accountant or CPA, Chartered Financial Consultant or ChFC, Chartered Financial Analyst or CFA, and Chartered Investment Counselor or CIC – the revered quintet, the five most sought after badges of honor in the financial arena.

It’s no hyperbole to proclaim the financial industry as a veritable titan, a juggernaut, a dynamo outpacing itself year on year. A prediction put forth by Forbes with confidence, dictates a growth pattern set to follow a 7% annual climb, steadfast until 2020. Opportunities, like stars in the night sky, are strewn across this vast industry. No surprise then, that a sea of eager faces are drawn to its promising shores.

According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 2 million workers populated the financial services landscape in the year 2018. Don’t be mistaken, this number is no stagnating pond. It is a thriving, swelling river, anticipated to grow by an astonishing 25% come 2024.

Now, let’s dissect these certifications, revealing their heart and soul.

First up, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP). A diamond in the rough, it is one of the most desired and prestigious designations in the world of personal finance. But like any diamond, it is born out of extreme pressure – a rigorous examination implemented by the Board of Financial Planning Standards and Ethics. Even after obtaining the coveted badge, your journey doesn’t cease. You’re required to step onto the battlefield of continuing education courses every three years to uphold your certification.

Enter the realm of the Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The services offered here are like the two sides of a coin, two faces of the same mountain – tax services and financial management consulting. Becoming a CPA demands a hefty 150 hours of education, flying above and beyond an undergraduate degree in accounting or business administration. Moreover, you must triumph over a national exam administered by the very gatekeepers of this profession, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, who, quite like their CFP counterparts, have their own continuing education demands.

Now, let us delve into the enigmatic world of the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). Operating much like a CFP, but casting its specialized gaze upon asset management for the deep-pocketed, the high net worth individuals. Like a knight on a quest, you need to gather 120 hours of education, journeying past an undergraduate degree in finance or business administration. Survive the test presented by the Investment Management Consultants Association International, and the title is yours.

Prepare to engage with the mighty Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). Earning this certification is comparable to scaling a formidable mountain; demanding at least seven long years of painstaking study. Completing the gauntlet includes accruing 3,000 hours of qualifying work experience. Candidates must also conquer not one, not two, but three different levels of gruelling six-hour examinations. These exams span a plethora of topics – economics, ethics, mathematics, portfolio management and more, before the coveted charter by the CFA Institute is within their grasp.

Lastly, we visit the niche world of the Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC). This certification, a specialized branch of the CFA tree, is exclusively designed for those immersed in investment counseling and portfolio management. To even be considered for a CIC designation, an aspirant must be actively engaged at an Investment Adviser Association-member firm, boasting at least five years of experience as a registered representative or registered investment adviser representative under the purview of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

The financial industry can often appear as a colossal endeavor, a mountain to climb, a beast to conquer. Yet, fear not! With the guidance provided in this article, you have taken your first step into a wider world. We have explored the quintet of financial certifications, each with its unique characteristics and demands. You are now better prepared for the adventurous journey that awaits you in this exciting field. Remember, the path of learning is long and winding, but the view from the top is worth every step.