Here’s why it’s a good idea to become an investment analyst:
Most people (and businesses) with money want to invest it, whether through real estate, retirement planning, appropriate risk management, or something else.
However, almost none of them will be experts on the subject— they’ll need help to make the right decisions with their money.
That’s where you come in. With some schooling and a good investment analyst certification, you can be the person others turn to in order to make their money make money.
But which financial certifications should you choose? There are dozens of different certifications, ranging from investment banking to financial risk management, and everything in between. In order to make the decision a little easier however, I’ve researched and ranked the best investment analyst certifications below.
Each of these will lead you down a solid career path, but some are better than others.
These rankings were determined by education requirements, salary range, and job availability.
Keep reading to check out our findings!
#1 Chartered Investment Banking Analyst (CIBA)
A CIBA works primarily within the world of corporate finance and investment banking. As a result, their skill set is highly specialized.
In order to work as a CIBA, you’ll need to understand US GAAP and IFRS accounting standards, key financial modeling concepts, and be able to analyze the credit quality of companies. Plus, you’ll need to thoroughly understand every step of the M&A process.
CIBA Education Requirements
Currently, there are no education prerequisites before starting the CIBA certification program— the program itself is all the education that you need.
The program consists of 5 professional certificate courses you need to complete. Each of these week-long courses cover the various topics you’ll need to know in the working world. Once you’ve finished each course you’ll be asked to take a final exam; once you’ve passed all five, you’re ready to start working as a CIBA!
CIBA Salaries and Careers
On average, CIBAs make between $45K and $47K annually. That’s pretty good, especially considering it’s a job you can get without having a degree. As a result, you save money on education before earning a livable wage.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of investment banking analysts is expected to increase by 5 percent from 2019 to 2029— faster than the average for all occupations. This is largely due to an increasing amount of financial products and the need for in-depth investment knowledge for different geographic regions.
#2 Chartered Financial Analyst Certification
A CFA is considered by many to be the gold standard financial certification for investment analysis. This is largely due to the amount of knowledge required to become a CFA and the difficulty of the CFA exam. Generally, CFAs use their financial knowledge to help clients make investment decisions and enhance financial markets.
CFA Education Requirements
As you might expect from one of the best finance certifications, CFA Institute has strict educational requirements for aspiring Chartered Financial Analysts.
In order to get started, you need 4 years of work experience and a bachelor’s degree. You also need an international passport — don’t be too surprised, this is a globally recognized certification — and then you have to meet their professional conduct admission criteria. Only then can you start the process to become a CFA.
Becoming a chartered financial analyst requires you to pass 3 sequential exams. These are very difficult and only have a pass rate of around 43%, so you’ll want to look into a good CFA prep course to help you study.
CFA Careers and Salaries
The high education requirements for a CFA really pay off once you enter the workplace. Typically, a starting salary for a CFA is around $61K a year— but more experienced financial professionals can quickly find themselves making upwards of $80K a year.
Additionally, job outlook is very good for CFAs due to their high demand. The BLS currently reports the job outlook for CFAs between 2019 and 2029 as 5%. However, they also expect there to be a great deal of competition, so you’ll have to really know your stuff if you want to compete!
Best CFA Prep Course: Wiley Efficient Learning
Wiley CFA Review course has some of the best study materials to help you become a Chartered Financial Analyst. In addition to your standard video lessons, mock exams, and study notes, they have one of the largest collections of practice questions in their test bank. Use their materials and you’ll have a much better chance of becoming a CFA!
#3 Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) Certification
Aspiring investment consultants should consider becoming a Certified Investment Management Analyst. The CIMA professional skill set involves a great deal of consulting expertise, so it’s a great choice for investment professionals who want to enter that field.
All CIMAs are specialized in topics such as asset allocation, due diligence, ethics, investment policy, and more. Because of that, CIMAs tend to work in investment firms managing large accounts or interacting with clients.
CIMA Education Requirements
Before you can become CIMA certified, you must have at least 3 years of work experience in financial services. Plus, you also need to possess a satisfactory ethical record as determined by the Investments and Wealth Institute (IWI). Once you’ve met both prerequisites, you’ll be able to take the CIMA certification examination. The test is 140 questions long and you’ll have 5 hours to complete it— and you’ll be certified as soon as you pass.
CIMA Careers and Salaries
Typically, someone with a CIMA certification can expect to make between $75K and $80K a year in a consulting position. If you stick with it long enough, you can even make as much as $114K— but positions like these are rare. Either way, this is a good career to get into if you want to make a great living as a financial professional.
Job outlook is also very promising. Investment firms will always need the skill set that a CIMA brings to the table, which means you’ll be an appealing candidate for a ton of financial analysis and financial management positions. Just look at the AICPA’s CIMA job board to see for yourself!
Best CIMA Prep Course: Wiley
Wiley was designed to make financial training easy and accessible, which makes them an excellent choice for anyone starting down this career path. Each of their courses conveys information in clear and friendly language through exam practiced kits and focused video lectures.
#4 Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
Becoming a Certified Financial Planner means you’ve been formally recognized as an expert in the areas of financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning, and retirement.
But most importantly, certified financial planners have a fiduciary duty; every decision they make must have their client’s best interests in mind. This duty makes them much more reliable in the eyes of their employers— which naturally increases their demand in the job market!
CFP Education Requirements
The process to become a CFP is more difficult than almost any other certification. To start with, you must have both a bachelor’s degree and 3 years of full time personal financial work experience. After meeting those requirements you’ll be required to complete a specific list of financial planning courses.
Next, you’ll need to meet the CFP Board’s strict ethics guidelines and pass a background check. Only after doing all of that can you attempt the CFP exam and become certified upon passing.
CFP Careers and Salaries
The good news is that all the hard work becoming a CFP will pay dividends— just like a well-managed portfolio.
A CFP can expect to make an average of $97K a year when starting out. If you’re skilled, experienced, and lucky, you can even make up to $200K a year as a Financial Analyst. Obviously, competition for these positions is extremely fierce— so you’ll have to be the best of the best to get to that point.
As a CFP, your job outlook is also pretty good. The financial services industry is expected to grow 4% in the next 10 years. Plus, because of demanding time requirements and an aging workforce, you’re going to see less competition over the next few years.
Best CFP Prep Course: Wiley Efficient Learning
Wiley’s course catalog is huge, and it includes a robust review course for the notoriously difficult CFP exam. You can expect a similar quality level to their CFA course offerings, but their CFP course also keeps you on track with an estimate of your exam score. The score will increase as you work through more material, so you’ll know the precise moment when you’re best prepared to take your exam and pass!
#5 Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Designation
Working with a CAIA certification is pretty different from the others on this list. That’s because a CAIA works with alternative investments. CAIA is a specialized charter geared towards managers of hedge funds, private equity, funds of funds, and venture capital.
CAIA Education Requirements
In order to become a chartered alternative investment analyst, you must either have a Bachelor’s degree or 4 years of experience in the financial services industry. Assuming you meet those requirements, you’ll be required to complete a CAIA review course followed by a 2-level exam.
CAIA Careers and Salaries
Alternative Investment Analysts can expect to make anywhere from $50K to $75K a year. But unlike other certifications, their pay is highly variable, so your salary might not be as high as others in your field. It’s still worth getting this designation, but you need to set your financial expectations at a reasonable level.
However, the good news is that CAIA job outlook is positive— they’re projected to grow 6% in the next 8 years. Most of the available jobs are in larger companies, such as investment banks and private equity firms. These companies regularly work with alternative investments, so someone who’s CAIA certified is an excellent fit.
Best CAIA Prep Course: Wiley Efficient Learning
Surprise! Again, you can expect a large test bank, intricate performance tracking, and lots of helpful video lectures with Wiley’s CAIA review course. They also offer a free trial that can give you a glimpse into how the online dashboard works and provide a sample of the practice materials written by their highly qualified instructors.
Other Investment Analyst Certifications To Consider
Although the designations listed above are our top picks for ambitious professionals, there are several others that may be worth considering. If none of the above titles interest you, check out some of these honorable mentions:
Financial Risk Manager
Financial risk managers (FRM) are globally recognized as the best possible candidates to deal with risk in financial markets. Anyone hoping to succeed with this title needs strong risk assessment and asset management skills. These skills will be used to identify and avoid threats to the success of your company.
FRM Education Requirements
There are no education or professional requirements to enroll in the FRM program. Instead, you’ll need to worry about work experience after passing the exam.
Prospective FRMs need to pass Parts 1 and 2 of the FRM exam within a four-year span. Exam results will expire if four years pass after the first exam without completing Part 2. Next you’ll need to complete two years of full-time work experience. In total, candidates have five years to complete and submit the necessary work before their test results expire.
FRM Salaries and Careers
Becoming an FRM is a very lucrative career choice. Typically, an FRM can expect to make around $100,000 each year— however, this can increase quite a bit as you gain more experience and move up in a company.
Job outlook for this position is also excellent. The BLS reports that the job outlook for this position is expected to grow well above average at 17% over the next 10 years. As a result, this is the best possible time to get started in this career!
Chartered Financial Consultant
Chartered financial consultants (ChFC) are experts in financial planning duties and responsibilities. This certification is similar to CFPs, but the educational and work requirements are a bit more lax overall.
ChFC Education Requirements
There is no educational requirement for starting the ChFC program, but it’s highly recommended that you complete a 4-year degree in finance first. However, anyone interested in this career does need to complete a minimum of three years of full time work in finance. You can start the ChFC licensing process after completing this prerequisite.
Applicants for this certification need to complete an 8-part college level course and pass a final exam. Plus, you’ll need to complete a professional recertification program each year to maintain your designation. All courses are created by the American College.
ChFC Salaries and Careers
Anyone with a ChFC can expect to make an average base salary of $79,000 a year. Your official position will most likely be a financial advisor or financial planner. Additionally, job satisfaction is fairly high for people with this designation.
Positions for ChFCs are expected to grow 6% by 2030. This matches the averages for all job outlooks, making this career path a safe bet for anyone interested in finance.
Chartered Investment Counselor
Chartered investment counselors (CIC) are financial professionals recognized by the Investment Advisor Association. This is more of an upgrade to your CFA designation instead of a separate certification.
CIC Education Requirements
CICs don’t have any educational requirements, but they do have strict requirements for work experience. You must complete five years worth of work experience in an eligible position at minimum. Plus, you need a letter of reference from a chief executive officer and 3 additional letters of recommendation. Lastly, you need to hold a CFA designation.
You’ll earn your certification as soon as you meet these requirements. There’s no test— meeting the prerequisites is enough to prove your competency.
CIC Salaries and Careers
Investment counselors can expect to make a base pay of $89,569 per year. Those with more experience can see a salary increase as high as $150,000 annually, but these positions are extremely rare overall.
Job outlook for financial advisors is expected to grow slightly below average at 5% in the next 10 years. Despite that, this is still a worthwhile designation to pursue, especially if you’re already working on your CFA certification.
Chartered Life Underwriter
A chartered life underwriter (CLU) is a financial professional that specializes in life insurance and estate planning. To earn this certification, you need a deep understanding of life insurance planning and a strong set of ethics.
CLU Education Requirements
Anyone interested in becoming a CLU must have at least three years of full time experience in a related field. You must then complete an 8-course program teaching you everything you need to know about life insurance. Finally, all candidates need to pass an exam for each of the eight courses they take.
All CLUs must also complete 30 hours of continuing education credits every two years to maintain their designation.
CLU Salaries and Careers
According to Payscale, CLUs can expect to make a base salary of $78,000 a year. This can increase up to $114,000 annually further down the line. Additionally, the location of your work and cost of living can influence your salary.
Job outlook for insurance underwriters is actually in decline at the moment. According to the BLS, job outlook is expected to decline by 2% in the next 10 years. Because of that, you may want to consider a different certification if you’re looking for more job stability.