Wanting to become a certified investment management analyst?

You’re in good company.

Picture this: A world where people and businesses are swimming in money, eager to dive into the ocean of investment opportunities—be it the glitzy realm of real estate, the promise of retirement planning, or the thrill of risk management.

But here’s the catch – they’re lost in this vast ocean, looking for a guide. And guess who that could be? You! 🌟

With the right education and a shiny investment analyst certification badge on your chest, you become the go-to guru, the money maestro, and the one who turns financial risk management dreams into reality.

“But wait,” you ask, “which certification should I chase?”

Fear not! Amidst the maze of financial certifications out there, from the glitz of investment banking to the nuances of risk management, we’ve got your back. We’ve delved deep, sifted through the clutter, and ranked the crème de la crème of investment analyst certifications for you.

Some might lead you to hidden treasures, while others open doors to golden opportunities. And how did I rank them? By looking at the education they demand, the gold coins (salary!) they promise, and the doors (job opportunities!) they open.

So, are you ready for the adventure? Dive in and discover the path that’s perfect for you!

#1 Chartered Investment Banking Analyst (CIBA)

A CIBA works primarily in 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, and 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 five professional certificate courses you need to complete. Each of these week-long courses covers 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 $157K annually. That’s amazing, 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 $185K a year— but more experienced financial professionals can quickly find themselves making upwards of $322K a year.

Additionally, the 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: Analyst Prep

Analyst Prep’s course catalog is expansive, encompassing a comprehensive review course for the challenging CFP exam. The quality mirrors their CFA course offerings, but the CFP course adds an edge by providing an ongoing estimate of your potential exam score. As you progress through the material, this score refines, guiding you to the optimal moment when you’re primed to take the exam and succeed!

#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— You’ll be certified as soon as you pass.

CIMA Careers and Salaries

Typically, someone with a CIMA certification can expect to make around $95,000 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.

The 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: Analyst Prep

Analyst Prep’s course catalog is expansive, encompassing a comprehensive review course for the challenging CFP exam. The quality mirrors their CFA course offerings, but the CFP course adds an edge by providing an ongoing estimate of your potential exam score. As you progress through the material, this score refines, guiding you to the optimal moment when you’re primed to take the exam and succeed!

#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 three 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 in becoming a CFP will pay dividends— just like a well-managed portfolio. 

A CFP can expect to make an average of $131K a year when starting out. If you’re skilled, experienced, and lucky, you can even make up to $234K 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 by 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: Analyst Prep

Ever checked out Analyst Prep’s courses? They’ve got this solid CFP review that’s as top-notch as their CFA stuff. And here’s the cool part: as you study, they give you a running score estimate. So, the more you grind, the clearer it gets when you’re all set to take that exam and nail it!

#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 $60K to $158K 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’s job outlook is positive— they’re projected to grow 8% in the next few 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: Analyst Prep

Buckle up for an expansive test bank, pinpoint performance insights, and a treasure trove of insightful video lectures with Analyst Prep’s CAIA review. Curious? Dive into their free trial! It not only offers a sneak peek into their intuitive online dashboard but also showcases a taste of practice materials, crafted by their top-tier experts.

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 $178,000 each year— however, this can increase quite a bit as you gain more experience and move up in a company.

The 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 16% 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 $85,000 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 (CICs) 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 $100,000 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.

The 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.

Kenneth W. Boyd is a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the author of several of the popular "For Dummies" books published by John Wiley & Sons including 'CPA Exam for Dummies' and 'Cost Accounting for Dummies'.

Ken has gained a wealth of business experience through his previous employment as a CPA, Auditor, Tax Preparer and College Professor. Today, Ken continues to use those finely tuned skills to educate students as a professional writer and teacher.