Professional Designations and Credentials
Investment professionals might hold a variety of designations and other credentials, offered by a multitude of organizations. FINRA’s Professional Designations Database provides information about many of the designations you might see used, including prerequisites and other requirements for obtaining and holding such designations.
FINRA does NOT approve or endorse any professional designation, nor does a designation’s inclusion in this database imply that FINRA considers the designation to be acceptable for use by a registered representative. Furthermore, state securities regulators may prohibit or restrict the use of certain listed designations by registered persons and investment adviser representatives.
The FINRA database is provided to assist investors in evaluating the professional designations that an investment professional may hold. FINRA is not responsible for and cannot verify information from sources other than FINRA and does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information.
This database is by no means inclusive of all financial professional designations and, specifically, doesn’t include those related to employee benefits or to finance degrees from accredited colleges or universities.
In addition, before you engage an investment professional, dig deeper than just their name and professional credentials. Learn more about choosing an investment professional.
Submit or Update a Professional Designation: Organizations issuing professional designations may submit their securities or investment professional credential for possible inclusion in FINRA's database by completing our Professional Designation Form. Updates to existing designations in the database should also be filed using this same form. FINRA reserves the right to determine which designations are appropriate for listing.
Professional Designation Accreditation
Some state securities and insurance regulators don’t allow financial professionals to use a designation unless it has been accredited by either the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB), a subsidiary of the American National Standards Institute, or the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the certification program accreditation body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (I.C.E.). Find accredited designations using ANAB or NCCA search tools.
Securities Industry Registrations
The securities industry is highly regulated. Federal and state agencies, as well as non-governmental regulators like FINRA and the securities exchanges, oversee the activities of securities professionals. This includes registered principals, who are actively engaged in the management of a firm's investment banking or securities business, and registered representatives, who are involved in a firm's investment banking or securities business.
Both firms and individuals must be registered with FINRA to conduct securities transactions and business with the investing public. Individuals might also be required to meet state registration requirements. Additionally, firms must meet certain membership standards to attain registration.
For someone to become a registered financial professional, their securities firm must file with FINRA a Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration or Transfer, commonly referred to as Form U4. The form provides considerable information about a person’s work history, outside business activities and disclosures including criminal and civil actions, and regulatory actions.
In addition, individuals seeking to become registered financial professionals must pass one or more qualification exams, administered by FINRA, to demonstrate competence in their particular securities activities.
Each registered financial professional receives a unique CRD number that’s used throughout their career in the securities industry. Investors can look up an individual’s registration information using FINRA BrokerCheck.
Once registered with a brokerage firm, an individual must comply with FINRA rules, federal and state securities regulations, and the firm's policies to maintain the registration. These rules include mandatory continuing education through programs offered at the firm and industry-wide levels.
Related Rules and Regulations
The following rules and resources apply to use of professional designations and credentials by investment professionals:
- FINRA Rule of Conduct 2210 prohibits brokerage firms and brokers registered with FINRA from referencing nonexistent or self-conferred degrees or credentials or from referencing legitimate degrees or credentials in a misleading manner.
- FINRA Regulatory Notice 11-52 reminds firms of their obligations regarding the supervision of registered persons using senior designations.
- Be aware that financial analyst, financial advisor, financial consultant, financial planner, investment consultant or wealth manager are generic terms or job titles and might be used by investment professionals who don’t hold any specific credential or license.
- Also be aware that the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest limits the circumstances under which a broker-dealer is allowed to use the term “advisor” (or “adviser”) in the firm’s name or in the titles of its registered representatives. For more information, read Frequently Asked Questions on Regulation Best Interest.
- Many states have enacted regulations or legislation, or issued special notices, regarding the use of professional credentials by registered financial professionals. Contact your state securities regulator for more information.