Over the past decade, the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) profession has exploded, becoming the 13th fastest-growing role in the United States. The FP&A professional harnesses a wide range of skills including strategic and critical thinking, communication, tech savvy data analytics, technical accounting and finance skills, leadership and collaboration. The expectations of good FP&A only continue to grow.
To fill the range of skills both those new to FP&A and experienced practitioners are increasingly turning to a raft of new FP&A training courses. These are often designed by those who have been there and done that in FP&A and offer advice on the best and most modern techniques to deliver instant value to companies. But are these courses worth it? If so, which is the best certification to choose among the host of options now available? What do the different courses cover?
Firstly, the benefits of an FP&A certification are threefold:
- Making yourself more marketable
- Keeping up to date with skills
- Earning a salary increase
Discussing marketability, Casey James, Manager, Financial Planning and Analysis Manager, at The Cheesecake Factory, says: “For me as a hiring manager, it’s important to see that somebody qualifies for the FP&A role. If I know you are certified I know you have done the work and you are pursuing the job I am looking for.” Secondly, the need to stay up to date with skills is particularly crucial since COVID-19. FP&A professionals are increasingly asked to go beyond their comfort zones, with courses providing ample opportunity to network with students and course mentors on how to handle unexpected situations. Finally, many of the offerings analyzed below suggest something close to a 10% bump in earnings after completing a course. Here for instance are the numbers presented for the FPAC credential (taken from 2019 AFP Compensation Survey Salary difference for FPAC Credential holders vs non-holders).
|Job Title||Average Dollar Difference||Average % Base Salary Difference|
|Director FP&A||$9, 266||6%|
|FP&A Senior Analyst||$2,985||3%|
That said, let’s dive into the 5 FP&A Training Courses that are attracting the most traction and buzz (in no particular order).
|FP&A course||Hours||Cost||What students say|
|LinkedIn Learning: Become a Corporate Financial Planning Analyst||32||$29.99||Harsh Jain, student at MIT, “It provided me with a sea of knowledge in FP&A.”|
|FPAC||80-100||From $1025||Jake Bailey, III, Split Rock Resources: “My career took off when I earned the FP&A certification – I moved into a controller and director of finance position.”|
|FPAMC||30||$499||VP of Finance: “It’s the only cohesive training connecting the dots of accounting, technical finance and corporate strategy.”|
|FP&A Bootcamp||10||$900||Daniel Espinosa, Blueair: “Christian comes with energy, experience, and passion that I witnessed first-hand when transitioning into a role he previously held.”|
|CFI||7||From $41/month||Angel Turnbull Jr, iVita Financial: “I’ve worked in FP&A for 18 years and I still found this course very informative.”|
1. LinkedIn Learning: Become a Corporate Financial Planning Analyst
Good old LinkedIn Learning provides a course for FP&A. Become a Corporate Financial Planning Analyst is led by a team focused on providing the core skills and counts seven instructors in the online watch-as-you-go structure. Though this is on demand and not interactive there is plenty to digest. The course moves zippily across 16 modules from finance foundations, to giving business presentations all the way to learning SQL programming. The online watchathon includes names such as Rudolph Rosenberg, Group Chief Financial Officer at Excelya teaching modules of the course including making business projections using Excel.
Like all LinkedIn Learning courses, you can pay for an individual course with pricing varying from $20 to $50 (including VAT) or alternatively sign up for a monthly subscription at $29.99 a month or an annual plan at $239.88 working out at $19.99 a month.
2. Certified Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis Professional (FPAC).
Though only eight years old, this is the grandaddy of courses and the most famous on the market. The FPAC establishes a set of core competencies for the corporate financial planning and analysis profession and addresses areas that are “not necessarily covered by traditional accounting degrees” in their words. The first part of the exam tests candidates’ ability to gather, interpret and communicate financial information. The second part probes the ability to analyze financial information, build financial projections and use technology and software. Relatively recent bonus: The AFP also recently announced that current holders of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA and FCCA) credentials are both eligible to waive Part I of the Certified Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis Professional (FPAC) exam. The cost for an AFP member is $1025 (early bird deadline) or $1125 (standard price). Or for non-members of the AFP it is $1420 (early bird deadline) or $1520 (standard price). It is roughly 80-100 hours of study time.
3. Financial Planning & Analysis Modeling Certification (FPAMC) by Wall Street Prep
The Wall Street Prep offering involves eight self-paced modules online as part of their FP&A Modeling Certification. Developed by FP&A professionals, the course teaches how to forecast detailed operating models step-by-step, create long-range plans with built-in scenarios, and craft both short- and long-term projection models and construct data visualizations that bring numbers to life. The cost for this is $499
4. FP&A Bootcamp by Christian Wattig
FP&A Bootcamp was explicitly designed for professionals who work full-time. It focuses on the most relevant FP&A skills. There are no introductions or philosophical discussions – every minute is full of advice you can implement immediately.
It’s for finance professionals who want to develop their FP&A skills, business leaders who recently took over forecasting and planning responsibilities, and anyone who needs to tell the financial story of their business.
FP&A Bootcamp is a live online course delivered via Zoom. That means students learn with (and from) a community of peers and by applying what they learn right away via exercises and group discussions. The time commitment is a total of 4 to 5 hours per week (for two weeks), depending on if you join the optional Q&A sessions. There are no required assignments outside of the scheduled workshops.Christian Wattig is FP&A Lead at Squarespace (formerly at Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Avon). The online classroom teaches over 8 hours covering everything from telling the financial story of the business, finance business partnering, planning, and financial modeling. (Disclosure: Datarails sponsors this course though it is entirely independent of us). In addition, the investment is 100% risk-free. If you attend the sessions, actively participate, do the exercises, and still don’t find the course valuable, you will get a refund. In Christian’s words: “The course is relevant, even if you already have 3, 5, or even 20 years of experience. That’s because it doesn’t teach theory that you may or may not already know. Instead, it’s a skills class that challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and improve your skills, no matter your starting point.” There is even a useful form for reimbursement. The cost is $900.
5. CFI: Budgeting and Forecasting
Corporate Finance Institute’s (CFI) Budgeting and Forecasting course is a 7-hour online and self-paced course covering the fundamentals of, well, budget and forecasting. It is one part of the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)® certification, which includes 29 courses.
The financial budgeting course alone makes up about 8% of the overall FMVA certification. It teaches students about the entire budgeting process from start to finish, including how to create a disciplined culture of budgeting in your organization, the various methods for building budgets, techniques to analyze results, and how to increase the chances of organizational performance improvements.
The cheapest option is a self-Study Subscription to CFI which starts at $41 a month. More benefits are offered for $70 a month which includes access to tools and feedback on financial models created. Overall the FMVA takes 100 hours to complete.
Whichever course is chosen the chance to enhance skills in a collaborative and closed setting will undoubtedly enhance your immediate FP&A skills and long term career prospects.