It is no secret that the finance industry is incredibly competitive to get into. Applicants look for myriad ways to stand out from the crowd and boost their CV. One of the key differentiators is the level, type, and quality of education an applicant receives. Once considering only stellar grades at high-level institutions it is still the case that competition for roles is high.
Beyond the traditional bachelors and masters education, many applicants look to external qualifications to equip their CV with enough firepower to land them a foot in the door. But with a plethora of roles, qualifications, and diverging requirements/pre-requisites, students often find navigating the landscape difficult when looking for the ‘best’ qualifications in the finance industry.
When looking for a qualification in the industry, the optimal point would be one that maximises both industry recognition and rigour – i.e. the optimal qualification would be well recognised in the finance industry and rigorous enough that you are well prepared to undertake any future role. Inevitably, some qualifications satisfy one recognition more than rigour and vice-versa.
One of the most coveted finance qualifications is the Charted Financial Analyst (CFA) certification. With global recognition and rigorous assessment, it is widely acknowledged as a good filter when looking for top candidates given the difficulty to complete all three levels. And while it is regarded as a top qualification (given the very low pass rate of 20%), it is specialised on portfolio management and investment analysis with a strong emphasis on theoretical content which uses very little practical applications such as Microsoft Excel.
Other well recognised and rigorous qualifications include: Charted Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and Financial Risk Manager (FRM). All of the above qualifications, while rigorous in their own right, only equip a student with a skillset limited to a certain part of finance e.g. Accountancy, Risk Management, Financial Planning etc.
With an ever-rising demand for practical quant finance expertise, a popular qualification is the Certificate in Quantitative Finance (CQF). The CQF emphasises a combination of traditional financial mathematics and exposing students to the latest techniques in Data Science and Machine Learning.
At the core of the search for the ‘best’ financial qualification is a question that needs to be answered: what are your aims within the finance industry? Finding a balance between the recognition and rigour is essential but what those look like is subjective depending on where in the industry you want to end up.