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Finance Certifications and Certificate Programs

Students seeking a career in finance can seek certification programs at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. These certifications give students the background and knowledge needed for careers in a variety of financial areas.

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Essential Information

Finance involves the practice of making financial decisions and allocating monetary resources. A wide range of certificate and certification programs in finance are available at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. Additionally, numerous educational programs for working professionals could lead to credentialing as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

Prerequisites for these programs may include a high school diploma or its equivalent as well as SAT/ACT scores for an undergrad certificate. A bachelor's degree and GRE scores are required for a graduate certificate or CFA certificate, and a Ph.D. or other advanced degree is required for a CFP certificate.


Undergraduate Certificate in Finance

A certificate in finance may be earned concurrently with a bachelor's degree at some educational institutions, generally as part of the upper class curriculum. Students take specific finance courses in order to meet the requirements for the certificate, which is then awarded in conjunction with the bachelor's degree.

Generally, minimum requirements such as the grade point average in high school and ACT or SAT scores are reviewed for admissions by schools offering finance certificate programs at the baccalaureate level. Often, there are course prerequisites in economics, math and statistics; therefore, completion of the program must be planned for in the freshman and sophomore years. Other finance certificate programs may be structured differently, and what may be a prerequisite course in one program may be a core part of the required curriculum in another.

Certificate programs in finance generally require a core set of courses focusing on financial assets and risks, banking regulations and the markets. Students also select from a range of electives that suit their interests. Students usually must complete an independent project or thesis as part of the curriculum requirements. Courses may cover:

  • Corporate finance
  • Economics
  • Financial investments
  • Banking
  • Restructuring corporations
  • Quantitative analysis

Graduate Certificate in Finance

Busy, working professionals often look to post-baccalaureate certificate programs in finance to hone their financial, accounting and business skills in order to further their career goals. Graduate-level certificate programs give students knowledge of international finance and economics and in-depth information on topics such as corporate finance processes and principles.

A bachelor's degree is required for graduate-level programs leading to a certificate in finance, and the GRE is usually required. Generally, applicants are expected to be employed in a field related to finance, such as banking, investments or the financial division of a corporation.

Courses within a graduate-level certificate program generally cover topics such as asset valuation, mergers, acquisitions and global finance in great depth. Core courses generally include the following:

  • Financial analysis
  • Managerial accounting
  • Economics
  • Corporate finance

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Credentialing

Achieving the designation of Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) requires the applicant to complete three examinations, possess a bachelor's degree and have two years of related work experience. Additionally, CFA's must agree to abide by a code of ethics. This course is appropriate for analysts who want to understand global investment principles; the designation is recognized worldwide.

To enter the CFA program, a student must have four years of qualified work or education requirements. Requirements include a bachelor's degree, four years of work experience or a combination of both.

Those admitted to the program receive a curriculum from which to study for the annual exams. The first exam is offered twice per year, in June and September, and the second and third exams are offered once per year. Successful completion of all the exams is mandatory, but there are no limits to the number of attempts allowed.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Certification

As a professional certification process sponsored by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, the CFP requires those interested to meet specific educational requirements, pass an exam, have 6,000 hours of related work experience and agree to abide by a code of ethics.

In order to sit for the CFP examination, students must complete a program that is registered with the CFP Board or already possess certain credentials, such as that of a certified public accountant, a licensed attorney or a Ph.D. in economics. There are a variety of formats and levels at which the educational programs are offered. To complete the certification process, students must also provide proof of completion of a bachelor's degree within five years of passing the examination.

Topics included as part of registered programs of study focus on helping others plan their financial future and generally include courses such as the following:

  • Financial planning
  • Insurance
  • Risk management
  • Employee benefits
  • Retirement planning
  • Income taxes
  • Investments
  • Estates

Popular Career Options

A certificate in finance often serves as a stepping stone for students interested in earning a degree in a different field while still learning about economics and business. The following careers are often pursued by those completing a certificate program:

  • Accountant
  • Financial officer or planner
  • Fund manager

Graduate-level students may use their certificates to obtain supervisory and managerial positions such as the following:

  • Managerial accountant
  • Financial manager
  • Investment and portfolio manager

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial analyst positions are expected to grow by 12% from 2014-2024. The median annual salary is approximately $80,310, according to BLS data from 2015. As more people invest their earnings, analysts who manage the funds and planners who help guide investors are expected to be in demand.

Students aiming towards financial careers can find relevant education through certification programs offered at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. These certificate programs can prepare students for employment in various financial fields.

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