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How to Earn an Online Certificate as a Financial Analyst

written by: Ashley Hansen•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 10/13/2010

Financial analysts help their clients make investment decisions. If you enjoy math and managing money, online certificates as a financial analyst are a great way for you to earn a living with your talents. Learn where to go to earn this certificate and what career advantages you can get as a result.

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    Getting Your Certificate Online

    Most financial analysts have a bachelor's degree in finance, business administration, accounting, economics, or statistics. This is highly recommended as a starting point if you are interested in pursuing a career as a financial analyst. Since most financial analysts already have a career before obtaining certification, online courses and exams are preferable to acccomodate their busy schedule.

    Several organizations offer programs where individuals can achieve a certification online including the American Academy of Financial Management (AAFM). Their Financial Analyst Designate (FAD) requires seven years of industry experience and completion of an accredited degree in a related field. Candidates apply online, pay a $300 fee, and then take an annual examination that tests their skills as a financial analyst. The AAFM also offers certifications that relate to a financial analysts' career like Master Financial Manager, Certified Valuation Manager, and Chartered Portfolio Manager.

    Another organization that offers online certifications for financial analysts is the CFA Institute, which offers certifications as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). This is a more time intensive certification than the certification offered by the AAFM, but it is offered to financial analysts with fewer years of experience. Requirements for this certification include a bachelor's degree in a related field or four years of experience in the industry. A series of tests and essays cover topics like economics, securities analysis, accounting, asset valuation, and portfolio analysis. Cost is considerably higher---between $1000 and $1500---but this certification is more highly regarded than the AAFM certification.

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    What to Expect in a Career as a Financial Analyst

    Wondering if becoming a financial analyst is the right career path for you? Considering earning some online certificates as a financial analyst? As a financial analyst, you are responsible for providing information and advice to clients. Your clients will consist of individuals or businesses making investment decisions. While financial analysts sometimes work independently, many work for banks, pension funds, and insurance companies. Some financial analysts are hired directly by a client to work for them full-time. Financial analysts can estimate the asset value of a client by looking at income, expenditures, and tax rates and help the client to find the best investment opportunities for their situation. Some financial analysts focus on a particular aspect of their field like portfolio management or risk analysis. Others specialize in a certain industry like utilities or exports.

    Financial analysts typically work in an office setting during normal business hours although special projects and research often require overtime work. Financial analysts may travel often to visit with clients. Although it is not necessarily a high-stress career, the field is competitive and may be commission-based, and deadlines are always looming. Financial analysts need to be able to juggle multiple projects, communicate professionally and effectively with clients, and complete detailed research on a regular basis.

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    Advantages to Certification

    Certifications exist as a way for financial analysts to further their career and demonstrate their expertise, knowledge, and understanding of their chosen career path. Certification can increase the confidence of a financial analyst's clients as well. Since some certifications require periodic testing, the analysts' skills are sharpened regularly. Certification also includes a financial analysts in a community of certified professionals, which gives them access to special workshops, conferences, networking opportunities, and news and updates in their field.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial analyst online certification is increasingly common and is recommended by employers. Additionally, certified financial analysts have a great chance of receiving a promotion or a raise. The median annual salary for this position is $73,150. However, certification may help a financial analyst advance to take on bigger clients with more extensive portfolios.

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    Conclusion

    If you're serious about pursuing a career as a financial analyst, getting certified online is a worthwhile investment. CFA certification is highly regarded because of how much time and dedication it takes to complete the certification process. Besides the longer time commitment, the CFA certification also costs more. For those who are short on time and money, the AAFM certification is ideal. Achieving your online certificates as a financial analyst will prove to be of great value to your career.