Financial services have become increasingly specialized to meet the varying needs of a more sophisticated and demanding clientele and to reflect the complexities of global capital markets. A full discussion of the recondite nature of these markets, and the many professional certifications that have arisen to better arm professional cadres to address them, is beyond the scope of this article. Here, we review three credentials in particular: the Chartered Financial Analyst, the Certified Financial Planner and the Commodity Trading Advisor.

Requirements for Certification
To understand career opportunities for individuals with such credentials, it is helpful to understand the requirements to obtain them.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
The requirements to become a charterholder are threefold: One must have four years of relevant work experience, complete three rigorous examinations that build on the fundamentals of financial analysis and portfolio management, and adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct issued by the conferring body, the CFA Institute.

Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®)
Here, as well, there are three requirements to become a CFP® Professional: One must have three years of relevant work experience, complete a two-day, 10-hour board exam and adhere to the Certified Financial Planner™ Board of Standards' Standards of Professional Conduct.

Commodity Trading Advisor (CTA)
Commodity trading advisors counsel investors on the purchase and sale of commodities contracts. Compared to the two foregoing professional designations, the professional's role and responsibilities are a bit more circumscribed. The requirements to become a CTA are the following: submit to a background check, pass the national commodity futures exam (FINRA Series 3, a professional license) and register with the appropriate professional association or government agency.

The CFA and CFP® certifications are earned through accrual of applicable work experience and examinations. In this sense, the path is similar to that taken by the medical student. He or she completes medical school and then apprentices through fellowship and residency before donning the white coat. Unlike the medical student's pursuit of a medical doctor's license, however, the CFP® and CFA are not prerequisites to managing money or offering planning services. To become a Commodity Trading Advisor, one must pass the Series 3 exam and register with the appropriate self-regulatory organization (SRO) and government agency before holding oneself out to the public as a CTA. The Series 3 is a professional license, as is one to practice medicine or law.

Professional Experience
What constitutes acceptable work experience? To answer that is to understand the basic skills that underpin what these three sorts of professionals do.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
A CFA analyzes financial data as part of the decision making process, be he or she a practitioner or supervisor of one. Additionally, the (aspiring) charterholder may teach any number of topics that are within the CFA Institute's Body of Knowledge (BOK). Charterholders aspire to greater knowledge, are intellectually curious, adept thinkers and strong with numbers. What follows is a partial list of some of the more common professional roles taken from the CFA Institute's website. Bolded titles are the author's emphasis on some of the most typical jobs of which one thinks when hearing the acronym CFA.

Accountant
Actuary
Auditor
Client service representative
Compliance analyst/officer
Consultant
Corporate chief financial officer
Corporate finance analyst
Derivatives analyst
Economist
Financial adviser
Financial journalist/editor
Institutional sales professional/business development (buy and sell side)
Investment banking analyst
Investment consultant
Investment strategist
Investor relations
Mutual fund sales
Portfolio administrator
Portfolio manager
Private client investment adviser
Product/software developer
Professor/instructor
Quantitative investment or risk analyst
Real estate investment manager
Regulator
Relationship manager
Securities trader
Securities underwriter
Security/investment analyst
Supervisor of investment firm
Valuator of closely held business
Venture capital analyst


Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®):
A Certified Financial Planner™ Professional helps individuals, professionals and business owners with all manner of financial planning decisions. A successful planner is intellectually curious, facile with numbers and enjoys working with people. An interdisciplinary certification, the CFP® encompasses insurance, education, investment, tax, employee benefit and estate planning. Planners may often serve as generalists in a quarterback role, marshaling all of the parties to a client engagement or may be "a foot wide and a mile deep." An example would be a rollover specialist who assists wealthy individuals in managing assets in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). In the eyes of the CFP Board of Professional Standards, acceptable work experience "must fit within at least one of the six primary elements of the personal financial planning process."

The Financial Planning Process Examples of Qualifying Work Experience

Establishing and defining the relationship with the client Financial advisor, tax planner (CPA with or without an active license, Enrolled Agent, tax attorney), insurance agent, general securities representative, registered principal, Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), attorney with or without an active license, estate planner.

Gathering client data
Analyzing and evaluating the client\'s financial status
Developing and presenting the financial planning recommendations
Implementing the financial planning recommendations
Monitoring the financial planning recommendations

Commodity Trading Advisor (CTA):
A commodity trading advisor counsel clients on the purchase and sales of commodity futures contracts. While a CTA may be an entity as well as an individual, this discussion focuses on the requirements of the latter. CTAs are risk takers and streetwise in the ways of markets. Often they work as traders in the manage futures segment of the hedge fund industry. Successful traits of this professional include an ability to think on one's feet quickly, analyze multiple scenarios and outcome and manage risk.

The Bottom Line
The evolution of financial services has given rise to a plethora of opportunities for those with the right skill set. CFA charterholders fill many different roles. Their common understanding of markets and products suits them well for these opportunities. CFP® Professionals help individuals plan in a multidisciplinary framework, addressing some or all steps in the six stage financial planning process. Finally, CTAs are facile in the study of futures markets, often serving a critical role in the managed futures domain of the hedge fund industry. But the career opportunity/skill set nexus does not stop here. As with healthcare, the number of highly specialized professional cadres who have arisen to address the profession's growth and complexity continues and will continue to evolve.

Related Articles
  1. Career Education & Resources

    The Top RIA Deals of 2015

    It was a big year for change within the RIA industry. Here are 2015's biggest mergers, acquisitions and buyouts.
  2. Professionals

    Is A Stockbroker Career For You?

    Becoming a stockbroker requires a broad skill set and the willingness to put in long hours. But the rewards can be enormous.
  3. Professionals

    Buy-Side vs Sell-Side Analysts

    Both sell-side and buy-side analysts on Wall Street spend much of their day researching companies in a relentless effort to pick the winners.
  4. Professionals

    Broker Or Trader: Which Career Is Right For You?

    Both brokers and traders buy and sell securities, but there are some subtle differences between the two careers.
  5. Professionals

    A Day In The Life Of A Public Accountant

    Here's an inside look at the workdays of two experienced CPAs, to give you an idea of what it might be like to pursue a career as a public accountant.
  6. Professionals

    A Day in the Life of a Public Accountant

    There’s no typical day in the life of a public accountant, but one accountant’s experience may shed some light on what the career entails.
  7. Investing Basics

    How to Become A Self-Taught Financial Expert

    Becoming a self-taught financial expert may not be as daunting of a task as it seems.
  8. Professionals

    Financial Career Options For Professionals

    A career in finance can take a business professional down many different paths.
  9. FA

    The Basics of The Series 79 Exam

    Passing the Series 79 exam is usually necessary for anyone who wants to work in investment banking.
  10. Professionals

    10 Steps To A Career In Hedge Funds

    The first step to getting your hedge fund career started is to be sure you really want to work for a hedge fund. If you do, it’ll show in your actions.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What’s the difference between the two federal student loan programs (FFEL and Direct)?

    The short answer is that one loan program still exists (Federal Direct Loans) and one was ended by the Health Care and Education ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do financial advisors have to find their own clients?

    Nearly all financial advisors, particularly when new to the field, have to find their own clients. An employer may provide ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Do financial advisors get drug tested?

    Financial advisors are not drug tested by any federal or state regulatory body. This means you may receive your Series 6, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Is a financial advisor required to have a degree?

    Financial advisors are not required to have university degrees. However, they are required to pass certain exams administered ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Do financial advisors have to be licensed?

    Financial advisors must possess various securities licenses in order to sell investment products. The specific products an ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Do financial advisors need to meet quotas?

    Most financial advisors are required to meet quotas, particularly if they work for firms that pay base salaries or draws ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  2. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  3. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  4. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  5. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
Trading Center