If you’re a senior finance professional, you may be interested in hearing what the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) has to say. It estimates that a CFO with an FP&A certification makes 8% more than one without such credentials. But this doesn’t apply only to CFOs; controllers and senior financial analysts with FP&A certification can make 10% to 16% more than their non-credentialed counterparts.
These certifications go way beyond traditional Excel-based accounting and forecasting, or what you can find out in general books written for CFOs. They give you the experience you need to conduct operational modeling, financial reporting, and data analysis. You know the tech sector is constantly evolving and keeping your skills sharp is a necessity.
But why do you need FP&A certification? I’ve got you covered with a breakdown of the multiple benefits. To guide you in your research, I’ve put together a list of the 10 best FP&A courses to help you grow your career.
The Benefits of FP&A Certification
For anybody in finance, from entry-level financial analysts to CPAs, education and certifications are a necessity. For FP&A professionals in increasingly complex positions, completing courses and earning certifications can be a great way to demonstrate your expertise and increase your value to employers.
In the realm of financial analysis, having the right certifications goes a long way in advancing your career. The difference between staying in your current position and earning a spot in senior management might just be a single credential.
You know that credentials can help you earn more. Sure, years of actionable experience definitely matter, but, when all other things are equal, professionals with certifications almost always outperform noncredentialed employees in terms of salary.
Increased Marketable Skills
FP&A courses can play an instrumental role in helping you develop and nurture any core competency that is essential in the modern and technologically-driven financial landscape. The importance of skills like SQL reporting has moved beyond your organization’s tech department, which means that a CFO who can hold their own with these tasks may be highly valued by employers.
Common Aspects of FP&A Courses
Before I list the top courses and certifications for aspiring and existing FP&A analysts, let’s go over some common aspects of these courses to help you know what to look for when deciding which one is right for you.
It’s all about leveraging data to model the future. Professionals who can forecast spending, revenue, and other financial metrics with a high level of accuracy help position companies for stability and growth.
Your budgets are critical in helping leaders make intelligent business decisions. Strong FP&A professionals can provide the data required to make accurate budget choices and support a company’s growth and profitability.
It’s not all about the cash flow. Financial modeling takes real-world problems and scenarios and applies complex mathematics and analytics to arrive at conclusions that drive better business decisions.
You’re a numbers pro, but you also need to make your information digestible to stakeholders who may not be comfortable with financial topics. If you don’t develop the ability to turn data into easy-to-understand dashboards or other tools to communicate information, you won’t be able to easily collaborate with teams. Many courses can help make you an effective communicator who can easily partner with others throughout the organization.
Financial planning skills let you move from basics like the balance sheet to corporate strategy and plans that support stability for an organization.
The Best FP&A Certifications and Courses for SaaS Finance Pros
When choosing a certification program, you should consider whether the fundamentals of the courses meet your needs. Before going through enrollment, make sure you fully understand the cost, time, and exam requirements. I’ve made it easy to get started with some high-level research about 10 certifications and courses below.
Course #1 - Certified Corporate FP&A Professional Credential From the Association for Financial Professionals (FPAC)
To get started with this certification, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in finance or a finance-related field. If you’re currently enrolled in a program, you can apply if you’re within two years of graduation. You’ll also need FP&A experience in a work environment that totals 3 years of full-time work. That means 35 hours of work a week, with 50% of those hours going toward work on financial analysis, budgeting, financial modeling, forecasting, and financial strategic planning.
You do not need to complete any additional coursework for this certification. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can take the exams.
- Cost: The cost of the exam for AFP members is $1,025 for the early deadline and $1,125 for the standard deadline. The cost is $1,420 and $1,520, respectively, for non-members.
- Length: The exam is administered in two separate appointments for Part I and Part II. The first part takes up to 180 minutes, and the second takes up to 270 minutes.
- Exam information: You have 60 seconds to answer multiple-choice questions on the examples. Each example is comprised of 140 or more questions, but some questions are ungraded pretest queries. The pass rate for the exams is between 41% to 52%, and you need a scaled score of 500 or higher to pass.
Course #2 - Financial Planning and Analysis Modeling Certification From Wall Street Prep (FPAMC)
Through eight modules, this job-focused certification program teaches important practical skills, including forecasting and long-range financial planning using current best practices and operating models. The course is NASBA-registered and offers 31 Continuing Professional Education credits.
- Cost: $499.
- Length: The self-paced course contains a total of 30 hours of content and a recommended 6-week timeline.
- Exam requirements: Once you complete the course, you can take the FPAMC exam anytime in the next 24 months. You must score 70% or higher to receive the FPAMC certification.
Course #3 - The Budgeting and Finance Course From the Corporate Finance Institute
As the name implies, this course is all about the business budgeting process, which includes forecasting. If you want to build your abilities to budget within a strategic framework, build robust budgeting processes, track performance and variance analysis, and apply techniques in Excel, this one’s for you. The course is entirely online and is self-paced.
- Cost: You can purchase a subscription to some of CFI's educational programs for just under $300 a year which covers your access to courses and certificates of completion.
- Length: It takes around 7 hours to complete the entire course.
- Exam requirements: You must pass quizzes and interactive exercises within the course to obtain a certificate of completion. For each quiz, 80% is the minimum passing score, but you can retake modules as needed.
Course #4 - Certified Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst From CFI (FMVA)
CFI’s FMVA certification gives you options. You can select from 39 hands-on courses to complete this one, with 16 courses being required. The required courses include financial analysis fundamentals, business valuation, operational modeling, and budgeting and forecasting. Though the site doesn't explicitly list the number of CPE credits this course offers, CFI does tout that membership with them offers opportunities to earn over 300 credits.
If you’re not entirely confident that you can jump right in, you can start with seven optional prep courses.
- Cost: Self-study costs $497 per year and full immersion costs $847 per year. The courses and final exam are included in this cost.
- Length: The time it takes you to become certified depends on how many courses you take before taking the exam. Course completion times range from 1.5 to 12.5 hours, depending on the course.
- Exam requirements: You must pass the exam with a 70% or higher to earn your FMVA certification.
Course #5 - Chartered Financial Consultant degree From the American College of Financial Services (ChFC)
Are you a finance pro with an entrepreneurial streak? Maybe you’ve been looking to break into financial consulting. A ChFC credential can help you do that. This degree arms you with the skills and knowledge you need to jump into advanced financial planning.
- Cost: The tuition is around $5,895, but it can vary depending on the courses you need.
- Length: The program is designed to be completed in 24 months or less, and the modules are 100% online.
- Exam requirements: Each course within the program has its own completion and exam requirements.
Course #6 - The Best-Practice FP&A Course From Paul Barnhurst and Ron Monteiro
This course is a course designed by finance pros for finance pros. It's meant to offer practical guidance and skills that can help you build your FP&A expertise. This FP&A certification includes four instructor-led sessions, and students are provided with templates, books, and other tools.
- Cost: The cost of the course is $500, which includes free access to resources, two short instructor consultations, and a certificate of completion.
- Length: The four course modules are 2.5 hours each.
- Exam requirements: There is no exam.
Course #7 - Master Key Financial Analyst Skills With LinkedIn Learning
Would you rather dip your toes in the water before diving in? You can explore FP&A topics with a learning path on LinkedIn Learning. Think of this as a kind of bootcamp, with course options including Corporate Financial Statement Analysis, Financial Modeling Foundations, and Data, Economic Modeling, and Forecasting With Stata.
- Cost: You can get started with a 1-month free trial. Then you pay $39.99 per month or $19.99 per month billed annually for access to LinkedIn Learning.
- Length: Modules range in length, but there are many options that take only an hour or two, allowing busy CFOs and other professionals to learn when they can.
- Exam requirements: Courses typically include quizzes throughout the modules, and you earn a certificate of completion by going through the entire course.
Course #8 - Leading With Finance From Harvard Business School
No matter which stage of your career you’re at, if you want to keep your skills sharp, you may benefit from this course offering by Harvard Business School. It includes modules on financial analysis, finance vs. accounting, creating value, valuation, capital allocation, and other topics that might be relevant to individuals growing their careers in finance.
It can also be a good starting point for non-finance professionals who want a better understanding of the niche.
- Cost: The course costs $1,750, and that covers two certificates of completion.
- Length: The six modules are self-paced, but Harvard recommends 6-7 hours of study per week for 6 weeks.
- Exam requirements: There are no exams, but participants must complete all coursework and assignments to receive a certificate of completion.
Course #9 - Advanced Financial Modeler Credential From the Financial Modeling Institute (AFM)
If you want to show that you’re a master of financial modeling, the AFM credential from the Financial Modeling Institute is perfect for you. The exam process is rigorous, but you’ll come out of it with a credential that is valued by many employers. The exam is only offered four times a year, so make sure you plan ahead for this one.
- Cost: The exam costs $695. That fee gets you a year's access to learning resources and the FMI community to help you prepare for the exam.
- Length: Preparation time depends on the person and their knowledge of the material. Plan for several hours or more for the exam itself.
- Exam requirements: You can take the exam online with virtual proctors. You will need Excel installed on your computer prior to the exam.
Course #10 - Chartered Financial Modeler Credential From the Financial Modeling Institute (CFM)
If you have the AFM credential through the Financial Modeling Institute, you can move on to earn the Chartered Financial Modeler credential. The process is very similar, but the exam is offered even fewer times a year than the AFM exam is.
- Cost: The $695 exam fee also affords you access to the learning materials and FMI community so you can prepare for the exam.
- Length: Expect the exam to take 4 hours. How much time it takes each person to prepare for the exam will vary.
- Exam requirements: You can take the exam online with virtual proctors. You will need Excel installed on your computer prior to the exam.
Other Things to Consider When Evaluating FP&A Certification Options
Always consider how you learn best and evaluate your comfort level with the topics before you sign up for a certification exam or course. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I prefer self-paced or instructor-led learning? If you struggle with time management or focus, you may need external motivators. If you're trying to get certified while balancing a busy career and life moments, a self-paced program may be the better option for you.
- Will online courses work for me? Most, if not all, of the options above involve online learning. If you know that you learn best in a classroom environment, you may want to consider courses at a local university or college.
- Does the course include professional certification? Some of the courses above come with "certificates of completion." Those are simply pieces of paper that say you completed a course. If you want a credential you can add to your resume, you may want to opt for courses that prepare you for a professional certification exam.
By now, it’s no secret that certificates and courses can help your career. It's never too late to learn and the industry is constantly evolving, so there are always new skills to master and credentials to earn.
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