From CFP to CPA: 6 Financial Certifications and How To Choose the Right One for You

Managing your finances, figuring out how to pay your taxes, and planning for the future can be confusing and sometimes frustrating. Luckily, there are a variety of financial professionals you can consult to help you sort and manage your finances. With some professional help, you can set yourself up for long-term financial success.

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First, you’ll need to decide what part of your financial life you need an advisor for, according to Forbes. Before you sit down with a financial professional, consider what you’re looking for. Maybe it’s as straightforward as helping you file your taxes or start a retirement account. Perhaps your needs are more complex, like creating a college fund for your child, setting up a trust or estate, or navigating complex tax strategies.

Overall, the best financial professionals are the ones who can help you with all your financial needs and create a plan for your financial success.

Here are six common financial certifications, according to the Financial Management Association. Each of these individuals can assist you in different ways depending on your needs.

1. Certified Financial Planner (CFP®)

A Certified Financial Planner (or CFP) is someone who has demonstrated competency in all areas of financial planning. This includes completing studies on over 100 topics, including but not limited to retirement planning, estate planning, insurance, bonds, stocks and taxes. In addition to passing the CFP certification exam, candidates must also complete qualifying work experience and agree to adhere to the CFP Board’s code of ethics. This includes professional responsibility and financial planning standards. The CFP program is administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.

2. Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

A Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) is someone who has demonstrated extensive knowledge of financial planning. In addition to successful completion of an exam on areas of financial planning, including investment and estate planning, insurance and income tax, candidates are also required to have a minimum of three years of work experience in a financial industry role. Similarly to a CFP, a ChFC helps individuals analyze their financial situations and goals. The ChFC program is administered by The American College.

3. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®)

A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is someone who has demonstrated competence, integrity, and high-level knowledge in accounting, economics, ethical and professional standards, security analysis and portfolio management. To obtain the CFA charter, candidates must pass three difficult exams and have at least three years of qualifying work experience. Most often, CFAs are analysts who work in the field of stock analysis and institutional money management, typically not financial planning. The main function of a CFA is to provide ratings and research on various forms of investments. This CFA program is administered by the CFA Institute, formerly the Association for Investment Management and Research (AIMR).

4. Certified Management Accountant (CMA®)

Someone who is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) has demonstrated their expertise in advanced accounting and financial management knowledge. Generally, financial planning, control, analysis and decision support are the main areas that a CMA focuses on. The CMA exam itself consists of 12 content domains organized into two exam parts, including multiple-choice and essay questions. The program is administered by IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants).

5. Certified Fund Specialist (CFS)

Someone who has a Certified Fund Specialist (CFS) certification has demonstrated their expertise as it relates to all aspects of the mutual funds industry. A CFS typically advises clients on which funds to invest in and buys and sells funds for clients, if they’re licensed to do so. Knowledge and expertise held by CFSs are maintained through required continuing education. The CFS program is administered by the Institute of Business and Finance (IBF) (formerly known as the Institute of Certified Fund Specialists), which provides training and courses that focus on a variety of mutual fund topics, including annuities, dollar-cost averaging and portfolio theory.

6. Certified Public Accountant and Personal Financial Specialist (CPA and PFS)

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Someone who is a CPA has passed examinations on tax preparation and accounting. However, their title does not reflect training in other areas of finance. CPAs who are interested in becoming financial planning experts to supplement their accounting careers need to become certified as personal finance specialists (PFS). For those who already have a CFP designation, the PFS program is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

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This article originally appeared on From CFP to CPA: 6 Financial Certifications and How To Choose the Right One for You

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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