Compare CFI Programs with Other Financial Certifications

Trying to decide if CFI's Financial Certification Programs are right for you? We understand it can be difficult to decide when choosing a partner to help grow your professional skillset, so we have created this guide to help you compare and contrast our Certifications with others.

Compare Program Details

We'll cover the key differences between CFI and other Financial Certifications, including:

  • Preferred Learning Style
  • Overall Goals
  • Program Cost
  • Entry Requirements
  • Time Requirements
Program Corporate Finance Institute (CFI) CFA Institute GARP FMI AICPA ACCA
Time Required < 1 year > 3 years > 1 year < 1 year > 2 years > 3 years
Available Programs FMVA, BIDA, CMSA, CBCA, FPWM, FTIP+ Specializations CFA Level I, Level II, Level III FRM Part I, Part II AFM, CFM CPA CA
Teaching Style Self-paced, instructor-led, Practical, real-world skills  Self-paced, self-led, Theory focused Self-paced, self-led Self-paced, instructor-led Self-paced, online resources Self-paced, online resources
Unique Selling Point Finance-focused data skills certification, hands-on, real-world resources N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Community Members-Only CFI Community, LinkedIn Community Voluntary online learning communities Voluntary online learning communities Exclusive FMI community N/A N/A
Minimum Entry Requirements None Bachelor’s Degree or 4000 hrs of professional experience N/A N/A Bachelor’s Degree with a min. of 150 credit hrs of coursework Advanced Placement Exams
Certification Pass Exam Pass Exams, complete 4 yrs of work experience (experience gained prior, during or after passing exams can be applied) Pass Exams, complete 2 yrs of work experience (experience gained prior, during or after passing exams can be used) Pass Exam Pass uniform exam, and complete state requirements Pass exams, complete 3 yrs of work experience


Review the upfront expense of accessing the learning materials and any additional costs associated with certificates and final exams.

Self Study $497 annual subscription $350 one-time fee $400 one-time fee $195 for fundamentals in financial modeling $999 annual membership $350 annual subscription
Full Immersion $847 annual subscription NA NA $695 for advanced financial modeling  N/A N/A
Exam Fee $0 $900+ $600+ N/A State-specific exam cost Variable exam fee per level


Compare & contrast assessments:

  • The process of taking exams
  • Requirements for passing
  • Any additional experience necessary before obtaining certification
Exam Format Online, multiple-choice, open-book, 2-3 hrs, unlimited retries with an active subscription (1-month cooldown period) Testing Center, closed-book, multiple choice & essay questions, 2 hrs 15 min for level 1, 4 hrs 24 min for level 2 & 3 Testing Center, closed-book, multiple choice & essay questions, 4 hrs Online, Proctored, Closed-book, Excel-based, 4 hrs, unlimited re-tries over 12 months Uniform CPA exam PLUS state requirements (US), Testing Center, closed-book | 16-hrs, four 4-hr sessions | one 4.5-hr session for internationals Testing Center, closed-book, 3-hrs
Exam Dates Anytime February, May, August, November May, August, October, November February, April, July, October (CFM offered only in Oct) N/A March, June, September, December
Exam Results Immediate Within 60 days of taking the exam for Level I & II, 90 days for Level III ~ 6 weeks after taking the exam Within 10 weeks of taking the exam 1 - 2 weeks after taking the exam ~ 6 weeks after taking the exam
Avg. Pass Rate 80.89% across all programs 41% Level I, 45% Level II, 52% Level III 46.2% Part 1, 57.2% Part 2 40% - 60% 53.5% 57.48%
Certification Pass Exam Pass Exams, complete 4 yrs of work experience (experience gained prior, during or after passing exams can be applied) Pass Exams, complete 2 yrs of work experience (experience gained prior, during or after passing exams can be applied) Pass Exam Pass the uniform exam, and complete state requirements Pass exams, complete 3 yrs of work experience

CFI vs CPA Career Paths

What's the difference between CFI and CPA Career Paths?

  • CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant, the designation you need to be a legally recognized accountant. Many of CFI’s content team are CPA holders. 
  • CFI offers role-based and skill-based learning content that is highly practical and designed for you to use immediately on the job.

How can CPAs leverage CFI?

  • CPAs can take CFI courses to earn CPE hours, or in other words, credits needed to maintain their CPA designation.
  • CFI's programs help build knowledge on a broader scope and give you a competitive edge in the industry. Our training complements the CPA designation by helping solidify a true understanding of how to apply theory to answer questions you may receive on the job.

CFI Accreditation 

  • CFI is accredited by the Better Business Bureau® (BBB). To maintain accreditation standards, CFI follows the BBB Standards per the BBB Standards for Trust.
  • CFI is also a recognized continuing education provider by the CPA Institutions in Canada and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) in the US for CPE credits.
  • CFI is also #1 Rated for Online Finance Courses on G2.

Interactivity and Hands-On Learning

Many other finance designations take a theoretical, textbook approach. At CFI, we believe the most valuable method of learning is hands-on, using authentic data to analyze real-world scenarios. With CFI, you’ll learn to read financial statements, analyze the information, and even build financial models from scratch. You can learn more about our hands-on training tools here.

Deciding which Platform is Right for You

Ultimately, your choice should depend on your budget, the time you have to commit to learning, and whether you want to focus on theory vs real-world experience.

We believe that at CFI, we’ve built an exceptional suite of courses and resources to help you thrive as a finance professional. But, we also understand many factors go into making a purchasing decision!

Below is a quick guide on how CFI plans could help you shape your career path.

Choose Your Career Path with CFI

Follow the links below to learn more about each of our Certification Programs and the potential career paths you can unlock by earning a CFI Certification. Our Interactive Career Map can also be helpful in planning your future career in finance!

Certification Program Designation
Business Intelligence & Data Analyst BIDA®
Capital Markets & Securities Analyst CMSA®
Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst CBCA®
Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst FMVA®
Financial Planning & Wealth Management FPWM™
FinTech Industry Professional FTIP™

Frequently Asked Questions

How would CFI help my career?

  • CFI certifications will provide you with a well-rounded education on the material you study. This will allow you to jump into a new or current role with job-ready knowledge.

How would CFI complement my CPA? 

  • CPAs must earn CPEs annually to maintain their designation. CFI has a course library containing hundreds of hours of CPE-eligible content for CPAs to choose from each year.
  • CPAs also benefit by taking the theoretical approach offered by the CPA certification and putting it into practice with CFI case studies, skills assessments, spreadsheets, and more. 

What can I expect the courses to be like? 

  • CFI courses cater to interactive, hands-on learners. All of our courses have interactive exercises, strong visuals, videos with graphs, charts, examples, and thorough explanations.

What does the subscription price include? 

  • Self-study and Full-Immersion subscriptions include CFI’s entire course catalog. You can complete as many courses, programs, specializations and learning paths as you’d like, as long as you hold an active subscription. 
  • Your digital blockchain certificates, assessments, and final exams are also included in the price. 

Can I take your course/certification without prior experience in finance/investment or without a bachelor's degree?

  • Yes! We create programs to teach and help develop and strengthen skills for learners at any level. We do not require a degree or experience in the finance and investment industry. 

What our Learners Have to Say

Deepen Knowledge Base and Better Application of on-the-job skills

  • "The Power BI courses and FMVA courses were a great refresher and gave me skills I did not have."
  • "As a business manager and investor, learning more about finance it's always helpful."
  • "CFI provided me with the tools needed to understand how the banking system works In order to have better negotiation and better deals"

Improved Technical Efficiency and Productivity

  • "I have considerably improved my modeling skills, needed in everyday work"
  • "The courses allowed me to develop best habits around how to set up Corporate Finance & Accounting spreadsheets. This took me up a few levels in terms of job performance, which was noticed by my boss and her boss. : )"
  • "As a comptroller in a government entity responsible for all budget, accounting, and tracking all resource requirements. Through training from CFI, my financial analytical and excel technical skills have improved greatly. This helps reduce the amount of time to complete tasks and management decisions/solutions."

Everyday Utility for Seasoned Professionals (CPD, lifelong learning, value)

  • "CPD credits. Continual education. Relevant topics. Good self-managed pace"
  • "Great & handy platform, continuously updates (i.e. new courses), diversified offer, low fee"
  • "Your service is invaluable for helping explain complex topics. As a seasoned professional, I already know a vast array of technical topics. But your courses cement the knowledge even better and show the best way to present conclusions at a summary level. With two professional designations (CPA & CFA), your courses help me meet my annual PD requirements in a cost-effective way and in a very meaningful way (i.e. I learn, or reinforce, a ton)."

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