Are you a financial professional? Are you looking for your big break? Perhaps you are working on an undergraduate degree in financial services and wondering what certifications you should pursue. Whether you are new to the numbers game or a seasoned vet, you have every right to be confused about your next step.

There are more professional certifications than you can count. They all sound very similar. They are all a big investment in upfront time, treasure, and talent. Choosing between them can often feel like choosing between strawberry cheesecake and key lime pie. Allow me to make a case for a relative newcomer.

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The first class of CIMA certificates graduated in 1988. That is 26 years as of this writing. That is opposed to the CFA which was started in the U.S. in 1963, almost twice the number of years. But the age of a certification is not an indicator of how useful it is. Times change, and certifications have to change with the times. Newer times call for newer certifications. The CIMA was devised to meet the needs of our shifting global realities.

Benefits of CIMA

CIMA stands for Certified Investment Management Analysts. According to the governing body, CIMA professionals manage more assets and have more experience than most financial professionals. The certification helps advisors improve their practice and deliver an exceptional experience to clients.

Three of the six benefits listed are:

Ethics—All CIMA professionals must adhere to IMCA’s Code of Professional Responsibility, and enforcement of disciplinary violations is handled by a professional review committee of peers.

Rigor—The CIMA certification process takes most candidates nine months to a year to complete, but only one in three individuals who start the CIMA certification process will successfully finish.

Differentiation—CIMA certification stands out in a crowded marketplace as the only financial services credential in the U.S. to have met an international standard for personnel certification (ISO 17024) and earned accreditation by American National Standards Institute.

Ethics is the place where certifications live. If clients do not trust you, they will not hire you. In the world of high finance, branding based on ethics is a smart move. CIMA applicants will already have a track record in the business. The CIMA designation means that you don’t just know what you are doing, but that you are someone who can be trusted. If there is anything more important than competence, it is reputation.

For good or ill, one of the benchmarks used to determine the quality of a financial certification is how difficult it was to get. Almost all certifying bodies boast of how difficult their process is. The most common measurement of a tests difficulty is the percentage of people who pass vs. those who fail. If a lot of people tend to fail the test the first time around, it is considered a badge of honor for those who passed.

That year of completion is on top of an established career in finance. The average CIMA holder has This is not something you are taking fresh out of high-school, nor college for that matter. Of the 6,100 certificates, 84% have more than 10 years experience in management investment. Over one-third have advanced degrees. This is not for the academic lightweight.

CIMA is differentiated in a variety of ways. First, it is relatively rare. With 6,100 certificates, it is not the sort of thing that hiring managers see everyday. It identifies you as a person who is on top of her game and up to date with the latest trends. That is because holders have to be re-certified every two years. With this certification, you can’t get away with out of date information. Finally, it is the only certification in the U.S. to have met the ISO, and earned accreditation by American National Standards Institute. That is serious differentiation.

When it comes to professional certifications, there are many choices you can make. CIMA is not your only good choice. But as of now, it is one of the best.

Tom Drake

Tom Drake

Tom Drake writes for Financial Highway and MapleMoney. Whenever he’s not working on his online endeavors, he’s either doing his “real job” as a financial analyst or spending time with his two boys.