According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are 177 not-for-profit schools in the US that offer finance-related certificates.1 Certificates in finance are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and vary widely in program length, emphasis, and number of credits. Finance certificate programs can be useful for students new to the field who are interested in entry-level positions as well as seasoned professionals who want to brush up their skills or master a new area of finance. Due to their condensed nature, certificates in finance are commonly specialized, allowing students to focus on one or more areas of finance without having to take the general education coursework that is typically required in associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs.
Table of Contents
- Program Options
- Core Concepts
- Select Schools with a Certificate in Finance
- Jobs with a Certificate in Finance
- Frequently Asked Questions
Certificate programs in finance can be divided into undergraduate and graduate certificates. Undergraduate finance certificates are introductory in nature and typically designed for students who are new to the field. They provide a foundation in financial theory and its practical applications. Typically, undergraduate finance certificates require between 12 and 18 credit hours and take between one semester and 18 months to complete. They can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis and some or all of the coursework may count towards an associate or bachelor’s degree at the same school. As such, undergraduate finance certificates are often pursued concurrently with complementary associate or bachelor’s programs.
Graduate certificates, also known as post-bachelor’s or post-baccalaureate certificates, in finance are typically specialized programs for working professionals in the field who want to gain new skills and knowledge, learn about a new area of finance, change positions, or increase their earning potential. Graduate certificates in finance also typically take between 12 to 18 credit hours and nine to 18 months to complete. Some certificates may transfer to the school’s Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Finance (MSF), or other complementary programs.
Other schools offer non-credit finance certificates, sometimes referred to as professional certificates or professional development certificates. Since the coursework in these programs is not for college credit, they are usually not considered undergraduate- or graduate-level. Their purpose is to provide financial career-focused training to students.
Finance certificates–including undergraduate, graduate, and professional–may take shape as certificates in:
- Computational Finance
- Corporate Finance
- Finance and Policy
- Finance Innovation
- Financial Analysis and Valuation
- Financial Data Analytics
- Financial Management
- Financial Planning
- Financial Technology (FinTech)
- Quantitative Finance
Online Degree Formats
It is common for certificates in finance, especially those at the graduate level, to be offered online or in a hybrid format to allow for maximum flexibility and attract working professionals. Undergraduate certificates are more likely to be on-campus in a traditional format, but some programs may include online options. For professionals wishing to advance their careers, a graduate certificate online may be the best option so that they can continue working and complete the certificate at a more flexible pace. Similarly, many professional certificates are offered online.
The admission requirements vary for finance certificates, especially between undergraduate graduate certificates. Undergraduate certificates are commonly open to current students of any major and some may require some prerequisite coursework. Graduate certificates typically require a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school with a minimum GPA, along with the completion of prerequisite coursework, and are sometimes open to current graduate students only. Some of these programs accept a bachelor’s degree in any field, while others, especially more specialized programs, require a bachelor’s degree in finance or a related subject. Many professional development certificate programs do not require prerequisites or a formal admission process to enroll. A high school diploma or equivalent may be required and a professional background in the field may be preferred. Other common admission requirements include a current resume, a personal statement, and official transcripts.
Core Concepts and Coursework
With only 12 to 18 credits required, only three to six courses are in most finance certificate programs; these vary widely by the type and area of focus of the certificate. Courses that may be included in a certificate in finance are:
- Corporate Finance
- Financial Data Science
- Financial Institutions and Markets
- Financial Modeling
- Financial Tools and Methods
- Foundations of FinTech
- International Finance
- Managerial Finance
- Options and Futures
- Portfolio Management
- Principles of Finance
- Risk Management
Select Schools with Certificate in Finance Programs
Traditional Undergraduate Programs
At Northwestern University, students can pursue a Financial Economics Certificate that prepares them for careers in finance or to study at a higher level in related fields such as law and business. Students will learn skills such as how to devise finance strategies; analyze mergers and acquisitions; research capital budgets; analyze asset management choices and portfolios; develop risk-management strategies; facilitate meetings with clients; and build financial models. Admission is for current Northwestern undergraduate students only and prerequisites and corequisites are required in calculus, microeconomics, probability, and economics/statistics. The certificate curriculum includes four courses: Principles of Finance; Investments; Derivatives; and Topics in Financial Economics: Derivatives II. Coursework begins in the Spring term with Principles of Finance and the other three courses can be taken in any order. Northwestern also offers a Post-baccalaureate Finance Certificate program for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject.
The University of West Florida (UWF) offers a 12-credit hour undergraduate Certificate in Finance. This certificate, housed within the College of Business and Department of Accounting & Finance, provides a well-rounded introduction to various areas of finance. Coursework begins with the three-credit prerequisite Managerial Finance. Students then take an additional four courses: Financial Markets and Institutions, Financial Statement Analysis, Financial Theory and Practice, and Investments. UWF offers the Certificate in Finance both on campus and online.
Traditional Graduate Programs
The University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business offers a five-course graduate-level Finance Certificate program that consists of Master of Business Administration (MBA)-level courses and can be completed in as little as 18 months. Credits earned in the certificate program can be applied towards the online Iowa Professional MBA for students enrolled in both programs. The Finance Certificate is offered in an in-person format at Iowa’s Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Quad Cities locations. Five courses–one mandatory course, Managerial Finance, and four electives–are required for the certificate; most of the courses are 11 weeks in length and meet one night per week, from 6:00 PM to 9:40 PM. Some electives may occasionally be offered online. Topics studied in the program include corporate investments, risk management, financial decision-making, wealth management, and principles of financial management. A prerequisite undergraduate course in accounting is required for entry. Students can start the program in any semester, and no entrance exam is required for admission.
The Center for Economic Policy within the University of Chicago’s (UChicago) Harris School of Public Policy offers a unique graduate-level Certificate in Finance and Policy, which is STEM eligible for international students. Graduates of the certificate program typically enter the public financial sector of government and central banking, or the private financial sector. The certificate is both theoretical and practical in nature, emphasizing field knowledge of financial markets, instruments, and theory; quantitative and analytical skills; and the practical application of skills in the professional environment. Any UChicago graduate student can complete the program, but students who are not already in the Harris School of Public Policy must complete a separate application form. Two core courses and one elective are required for the certificate and a minimum of a “B” must be attained in all courses. Students can choose from core courses such as Applied Financial Management, Financial Investments for Public Policy, and Corporate Finance. Elective courses include Macroeconomics for Public Policy; Practicum on Inequality, Household Finance, and Tax Policy; and Fiscal and Monetary Policy in the 21st Century. Students are encouraged to attend two speaker events during their second year as co-curricular activities.
Online and Hybrid Programs
At Cornell University’s eCornell, students can earn executive certificates in many areas of finance, including Financial Management, Financial Success for Nonprofits, and FinTech.
ECornell’s Executive Certificates are developed by Cornell faculty for professional development and are offered 100% online. Small cohorts of students (fewer than 35) interact and learn together to gain skills they can use in their organizations. The Financial Management Executive Certificate consists of six two-week courses that can be completed in three months total with an estimated four to six hours of effort each week. Graduates will be able to apply the financial analysis frameworks learned to new projects, analyze debt-equity ratios, and communicate operational strategies to colleagues. The FinTech and the Financial Success for Nonprofits Executive Certificates consist of four two-week courses that can be completed in two months with approximately three to five hours of effort required per week. The certificates count towards 32 to 38 professional development hours (continuing education units or CEUs) and the Financial Management Certificate can be applied toward various human resources and project management recertification requirements.
Boston University (BU) Metropolitan College’s (MET) Graduate Certificate in Financial Management can be taken completely online, on-campus, or in a blended format and can be completed in nine months. Designed for financial services leaders and managers who are decision-makers at their companies, four required four-credit courses (16 credits) comprise the BU Graduate Certificate and are shared with MET’s Master of Science (MS) in Financial Management. The required courses include Financial Markets and Institutions; Mergers and Acquisitions; Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management; and one additional course such as Derivative Securities and Markets. Graduates of the program will be qualified to work in roles in cash management, capital budgeting, and risk management. The program can also prepare students to sit for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam. Applicants to the BU MET program must have a bachelor’s degree, which can be in any subject, and must submit all transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.
Jobs with a Certificate in Finance
People who graduate from certificate programs in finance may qualify for a variety of jobs, which depend heavily on the level and focus area of the certificate, as well as the previous experience and education of the individual. Some possible job titles include:
- Budget Analyst
- Business Owner
- Chief Financial Officer
- Credit Analyst
- Financial Analyst
- Financial Examiner
- Financial Manager
- Insurance Underwriter
- Loan Officer
- Personal Financial Advisor
Frequently Asked Questions
How much can I make with a finance certificate?
The salaries for graduates with a finance certificate vary based on many factors. First, there are undergraduate and graduate certificates in finance, and those with graduate certificates tend to have greater earning potential than those with undergraduate certificates. Second, there are many different types of finance and financial certificates available, and the focus area of your certificate will impact the jobs you qualify for. Lastly, since certificates in finance can be acquired before beginning a career or at any point during a career, the level of experience will contribute to earning potential. For example, financial and investment analyst jobs sometimes require graduate-level education; the average annual salary for these jobs is $107,580.2 However, entry-level jobs in finance, for which an undergraduate degree holder would typically qualify, such as financial examiner, pay less; for example, financial examiners earn an average annual salary of $89,880 and credit analysts earn an average of $88,430.2
What can you do with a certificate in finance?
An undergraduate certificate in finance can qualify you for some entry-level jobs in the field, while graduate and professional certificates can help you move up in your current organization by qualifying you for more senior positions and/or add skills and knowledge that can make you more effective at your job.
How long does a certificate in finance take?
A certificate in finance generally takes between two or three months to 18 months to complete, depending on the type of certificate. Finance certificates are often offered on a part-time basis to accommodate working professionals. They are also often offered as add-ons to other degrees, with curricula that can integrate with the other coursework.
Can I get a finance certificate online?
Absolutely! Particularly at the graduate level, certificate programs in finance are available online and in hybrid or blended formats. These programs typically offer more flexibility for working and busy students.
What’s the difference between a finance certificate and finance certification?
A certificate in finance is awarded by a college or university after the required coursework is complete. It is an educational credential such as an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. Certification in finance is a professional credential offered by an organization, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute’s CFA charter designation and the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board’s CFP credential. To qualify for financial certification, you must meet educational requirements, including required coursework, gain work experience, and pass an exam. It is worth mentioning that certificates and certification are not mutually exclusive; formal certification can be pursued in addition to a degree program such as a certificate.
1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Finance and Insurance, 2020: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/naics2_52.htm