The 10 Best Finance Certifications for Your Career

Finance certification

Is the world of crunching numbers, calculating tax deductions and analysing business projections fun and exciting? It depends on whether you get excited by saving a department 4.2% in the next two quarters or not. If you do, then a career in finance, business or accounting is the right choice to make.

While you’re saving companies a large amount of cash, you’ll be earning a handsome salary in the process. Though this is true, it still takes a lot of hard work, study time and money to attain the qualifications necessary to gain employment at a corporate head office. To be at the top of this ultra-competitive industry, you need to have a treasure trove of certifications.

So, whether you’re a novice in the industry or a seasoned veteran – it might be time to finally earn or enhance your credentials. Here are the best financial certifications for your career.

1. Certified Public Accountant – CPA

Area: Accounting

Exam fee: $1,500 (£1,193)

Average salary: $73,800 (£58,702)

A CPA license is a requirement needed to serve as a tax preparer, accountant or financial analyst. If you have this title, then you can work the industry in any corner of the globe as it is the most widely recognised financial qualification in the world. The CPA will provide guidance on a diverse array of financial issues, ranging from organising your portfolio of investments to reducing your tax burden.

Although it does require more than 100 hours of coursework and a comprehensive examination, the work you put in is a worthwhile investment as this is one of the most lucrative careers to enter.

2. Chartered Life Underwriter – CLU

Area: Insurance

Exam fee: $371 (£295)

Average salary: $65,082 (£51,767)

When you wish to concentrate on life insurance and estate planning, then a CLU qualification is essential. What makes this certification worth the expense is the fact that you study other topics, such as group benefits, retirement planning, income taxation and health insurance. This is a good certificate to list on your résumé, especially since it’s for an industry that is offering all sorts of products and services.

If you want to advance your career, this is a highly sought out qualification to possess, as financial institutions and insurance firms are always attempting to find talent with eclectic knowledge. It can be attained by completing the eight-course programme and exam at an accredited university.

3. Certified Financial Planner – CFP

Area: Finance

Exam fee: $595 (£473)

Average salary: $66,125 (£52,597)

To become a CFP, students will need to meet four key criteria, including formal education, successful completion of the CFP exam, possess relevant work experience and showcase professional ethics.

Once you demonstrate these elements, then you will have acquired the formal recognition of expertise in financial planning, insurance, retirement, estate and taxes. It should be noted, though, that this certification demands attendance to annual education seminars to not only sustain skills but to also learn new proficiencies.

4. Chartered Financial Analyst – CFA

Area: Finance

Exam fee: $450 (£358)

Average salary: $142,400 (£113,267)

Financial analysts are integral to the investment industry because the primary role of the position is to measure and assess the financial condition of companies and assets. To excel in this role and climb the ladder to the top, a CFA designation is necessary because it determines the competency level and overall integrity of financial analysts.

To become a financial analyst you should already hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institute, have 48 months of professional work experience, pass Level I of the CFA Program exam and also provide professional references.

5. Certified Fund Specialist – CFS

Area: Finance

Exam fee: $595 (£473)

Average salary: $48,492 (£38,571)

The mutual fund industry is a multi-trillion-dollar business that buys and sells billions of dollars in products to clients every day. To say that companies that offer mutual funds only hire the best of the best would be an understatement – there is a reason why mutual funds tend to outperform single investors.

The Certified Fund Specialist exam is also one of the oldest certification designations in both the mutual fund industry and the overall finance sector. To obtain your qualification, you must pass the NISM Series V-A: Mutual Fund Distributors Certification Examination.

6. Certified Government Financial Manager – CGFM

Area: Government

Exam fee: $109 (£87)

Average salary: $125,051 (£99,468)

A CGFM was created by the Association of Government Accountants in the US back in 1994. It is meant to be the standard-bearer of financial acumen and ethics in government, a gold standard for measuring government financial management professionals. It has been marketed for more than 20 years as a tool that elevates most financial professionals – young and old.

To successfully land yourself a role in government financial management, you apply for your certification, which includes extensive forms, exams and proof of experience and higher-education qualifications.  

7. Certified Valuation Analyst – CVA

Area: Business

Exam fee: $2,375 (£1,889)

Average salary: $80,000 (£63,633)

Some of the hottest jobs on Wall Street, Bay Street and in the City of London are merger and acquisition consultants, financial officers and investment analysts. These are some of the biggest in-demand positions around that always require young blood. To get hired by a firm that works in these fields, you will need to earn the Certified Valuation Analyst designation.

To get your certification, you need to already have a business degree, work experience in business valuation and stellar references before passing the five-hour multiple-choice exam and maintaining your membership with the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA)

It should be noted that this certification requires professionals to perform a minimum of 36 hours of continuing education courses.

8. Accredited in Business Valuations – ABV

Area: Business

Exam fee: $380 (£303)

Average salary: $90,000 (£71,585)

Yes, even certified public accountants still need additional certification, but only if these professionals calculate the value of businesses. This designation is known as Accredited in Business Valuation or ABV. Managed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), candidates must submit an application, pass the exam and meet minimum work and education requirements.

Since the CPA niche and the overall accounting industry is really competitive, the ABV gives you an edge over your competitors.

9. Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst – CAIA

Area: Finance

Exam fee: $1,250 (£994)

Average salary: $91,953 (£73,141)

Trying to get your foot in the door at a hedge fund, real estate investment firm or venture capital group can be as hard as trying to understand British humour. Not everyone can do it.

That said, by attaining the CAIA professional designation, which requires two levels of examinations, you can gain employment as a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst, earning an income assessing hedge funds, private equity, derivatives and funds of funds.

10. Financial Risk Manager – FRM

Area: Finance

Exam fee: $1,350 (£1,074)

Average salary: $90,771 (£72,201)

Risk is everywhere. Even during booming times in global commerce, there is a risk. You cannot help it. But that is why financial institutions, large corporations and organisations will hire those that specialise in this area and successfully pinpoint the opportunity and identify the risk. It is basic finance, after all!

Now, there are multiple variants of the Financial Risk Management qualifications, but the one that is recognised worldwide is the FROM issued by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP). This is utilised by individuals who want to apply their expertise at banks, regulatory agencies, asset management firms and insurance companies.

It certainly is a risky business.


Within the world of finance, there are plenty of avenues to explore from balancing the books at a government agency to determining alternative mutual funds that are different from what the industry typically recommends. There is an eclectic mix of courses to sign up for and finance certifications to earn when you are finding a career or changing jobs.