Which Financial Qualification Should You Choose? CFA vs. CAIA, FRM and IMC

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By Sophie

We’ve had interesting discussions about CFA vs. MBA before, and whether it’s a worthwhile investment. However, that’s not the only alternative qualifications many of us consider in our pursuit of career advancement. With the various professional qualifications available, it can be quite daunting at first when faced with so many unfamiliar acronyms. 

In this article, I’ll demystify and compare investment-related qualifications such as CFA (which you all know and love), CAIA, FRM and IMC. Although it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but it would give you a flavour of what qualifications suitable for your career goals and aspirations. 

In short – based on the pass rates, cost, difficulty and global recognition of the “value” of these qualifications:

  • CFA covers the broadest range of financial topics, adds value to a wide range of financial careers, in particular asset management and securities research –> a challenging qualification but offers the widest career options.
  • CAIA is narrowly focused for the asset/fund management sector and it’s a useful addition if you’re in the sector already.
  • FRM is also narrowly focused, globally recognised qualification for financial risk professionals –> great for risk management roles.
  • IMC is only available in the UK, covers only 30% of Level 1 CFA curriculum, considered an entry-level qualification in investment firms to demonstrate regulatory competence. Most tend to do CFA after that.

CFA® – Chartered Financial Analyst
Topic areas
Portfolio management, securities analysis, ethics, economics, financial accounting
Number of exams required
3
Exam frequency
Every June and December for Level I, every June for Levels II and III
Designation requirements
  1. 4 years of qualified investment work experience;
  2. become a regular member of CFA Institute;
  3. adhere to CFA ethics and professional conduct;
  4. apply for membership to a local CFA member society; and
  5. complete the CFA Program
Exam fees and costs
USD450 one-off enrolment fee plus USD650-1,380 exam fee per Level, depending how early your register for the exams. Official fees only, usage of additional third-party materials will cost more
Related sectors
Investment analysis, portfolio / asset management, securities research, pension, insurance, corporate finance
Pass rates
Charterholders worldwide
100,000+


FRM® – Financial Risk Manager
Topic areas
​Risk modelling, market risk, credit risk, investment management risk, operational and integrated risk.
​Number of exams required
2
Exam frequency
Every May and November
Designation requirements
  1. Pass both FRM papers;
  2. a minimum of 2 years professional full-time work experience in the area of financial risk management or another related field;
  3. maintain membership
Exam fees and costs
USD400 one-off enrolment fee plus USD350-650 per paper depending on how early you register for the exams.
Applicable sectors
Financial risk management
Pass rates
FRM Part I: about 40-50%
FRM Part II: about 50-60%
Charterholders worldwide
About 30,000


Topic area
Alternative assets, asset allocation, portfolio management, risk management
Number of exams required
2
Exam frequency
Every March and September
Designation requirements
  1. Pass both papers;
  2. hold a bachelor’s degree, or the equivalent, and have more than 1 year of professional experience, or alternatively have at least 4 years of professional experience; 
  3. abide by Member Agreement;
  4. pay membership fees;
  5. provide 2 professional references
Exam fees and costs
Initial enrolment fee USD400 plus USD1,150-1,250 exam fee for each paper
Applicable sector
Portfolio / fund management, asset allocation, consultant, marketer, risk manager, securities analyst
Pass rates
Level I: 60-70%
Level II: 55-70%
Charterholders worldwide
About 9,000


Investment Management Certificate (UK only)
Topic area
Covers about 30% of CFA Level I material
Number of exams required
2
Exam frequency
Can be taken any day up to 1 year from registration
Designation requirements
Pass both IMC papers
Exam fees and costs
Unit 1: GBP260
Unit 2: GBP280
Applicable sector
​Investment management, investment support, sales & marketing, investment administration
Pass rates
65-80%

You can find more details in our Beginners’ Guide to IMC article.

Do you have a CAIA, IMC or FRM? Share your experience with the community with your comments below! How do these qualifications compare to CFA and what impact do they have on your career so far?
Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan

 

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