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Certification, Education Are Critical for Career Advancement

  • By AFP Research
  • Published: 5/19/2020


Higher education and professional certification each play a critical role in the career advancement of financial professionals, according to the 2020 AFP Compensation Survey. These factors continue to help practitioners take the next step in their careers, as well as increase their earnings potential.

The 2020 AFP Compensation Survey collected data on total compensation earned by financial professionals during calendar year 2019, as well as data on base salaries effective January 1, 2020. AFP conducted the survey in February 2020. Though there was some apprehension about the economy and fears of a looming recession, the severity of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic had yet to unfold. Though the world was taking notice of the new virus labeled by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic, its impact on the global economy had not been realized.


Financial professionals who hold certifications such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and AFP’s Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) and Certified Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) certifications are more likely to gain upward mobility in their careers than peers who do not.

Treasury analysts who hold a CTP earned, on average, 8% more ($5,358) in 2019 than their colleagues who did not possess the certification. Other titles that benefit from CTP certification include treasurer, manager finance/FP&A, director finance/FP&A and controller. 

The survey also found that financial professionals who hold the FP&A certification earned 5% more, on average, than did their peers without the certification. Incumbents with the following job titles benefit the most from having the FP&A certification: CFO (a difference of $26,104), FP&A analyst ($3,281) and director FP&A/finance ($2,329).

Higher education, e.g., having an MBA, also continues to play a role in both career advancement and salary earnings. In 2019, financial professionals with an MBA earned 11% more (in base salary) than did their counterparts with just a bachelor’s degree or high school diploma/associate degree.


While having a certification or an advanced degree certainly helps financial professionals advance their careers, survey respondents pointed to more tangible criteria when asked about career advancement. Respondents cited increased job responsibility (88%) and contribution to profitability (61%) as counting the most towards upward mobility in the treasury/finance department.


Treasury and finance professionals earned an average 3.7% base salary increase in 2019, according to the 2019 Association for Financial Professionals Compensation Survey. The Management tier saw the largest jump at 4.3%. The Executive and Staff tiers each saw an increase of 3.3% and 3.6%, respectively.

In 2019, 72% of organizations awarded bonuses to their employees, up from the 2018 figure of 69%. The average bonus amount for executive-tier decreased from nearly $82,000 in 2018 to just under $65,000. This year’s figure is more in line with the 2017 and 2016 figures, which tells us that 2018 was more of an outlier.


The results of the 2020 AFP Compensation Survey suggest it is worth a financial professional’s investment to earn a professional certification or higher degree, since holding those certifications or degrees tends to lead to higher incomes and upward mobility. The survey also reveals the impact that taking on more responsibility and contributing to the bottom line can have for practitioners. Those two factors will likely only grow in importance in 2020, as the pandemic is forcing companies to do more with less.  

Comprehensive 2020 AFP Compensation Survey results are available here.

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