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Want to Be ‘Certified Crypto Expert?’ You Need 11 Hours and $229

(Bloomberg) -- To pass the chartered financial analyst exams and put the “CFA” letters on your resumè, at least 900 hours of study are recommended. Hitting the books for 300 to 400 hours is advised for the certified public accountant exam, which is usually taken by prospective CPAs who have completed an undergraduate degree in the subject.

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However, to become a “Certified Cryptocurrency Expert,” or CCE, all you need is $229 and time for 11 hours of online coursework offered by Blockchain Council. If that’s too much of a time commitment, you can receive a “Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Certificate” elsewhere by taking just four hours of coursework, passing a 20-question test and shelling out $795.

The lack of a widely recognized professional accreditation in the cryptocurrency industry has left a vacuum that a variety of organizations are trying to fill, and Bitcoin’s rally to records this year is stoking interest in them. Yet as with many topics involving crypto, there are questions about what exactly — if anything — is worth the investment.

Contributing to the proliferation of online crypto-certification programs is the fact that many universities are behind the curve when it comes to offering sufficient coursework in the subject, according to Duke University finance professor Campbell Harvey.

“Many have seen this gap and are offering ‘certifications,’” Harvey, who studies digital-asset markets, said in an email. “However, students need to be aware that some of these certifications are just money grabbing gimmicks. Buyer beware.”

Emails to the Blockchain Council seeking comment were not returned, and repeated calls to the phone number on its website went unanswered. ACAMS, which offers the $795 Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Certificate, didn’t return emails seeking comment.

In at least one case, a crypto-education program has been linked directly to an alleged scam. The US Securities and Exchange Commission last month announced a settlement with Brian Sewell, founder of an online trading course called the American Bitcoin Academy, which the regulator said scammed 15 students out of more than $1 million by persuading them to invest in a fake hedge fund. Sewell didn’t return requests seeking comment.

As the price of Bitcoin surged back to record levels this year, there was an accompanying jump in interest in crypto from retail and institutional investors alike — and with it a corresponding surge in Web searches for “crypto certification,” according to Google Trends.

Asked about the various certifications available, a representative of the crypto association Coin Center responded that they weren’t familiar with any of them and that “might tell you all you need to know.”

Some major employers in the industry don’t pay much attention to the certifications as well.

“We look for notable experience and achievements in the crypto space over certifications,” said a spokesperson for Coinbase Global Inc., the biggest US crypto exchange. “We also value crypto passion and curiosity and have developed internal education to further develop folks.”

Still, some employers are finding value in certain certificates. Bitwise Asset Management has had more than 20 employees take the Digital Assets Council of Financial Professionals certification since 2021, as “a great way to ensure that they start with a strong foundation of crypto knowledge,” said Matthew Hougan, chief investment officer at Bitwise, which was one of the companies to launch a new spot Bitcoin ETF.

Inquiries about the Digital Assets Council of Financial Professionals’ certification courses have increased as much as 30% since the beginning of the year, as the first batch of ETFs investing directly in Bitcoin were approved in the US, said Founder Ric Edelman, who started Edelman Financial Engines.

“Now that these ETFs are here, and there’s so much consumer demand for them, we are seeing a significant uptick in inquiries,” Edelman said.

Thousands have taken the course so far, Edelman said. He said DACFP differentiates itself from other certification courses by not only talking about blockchain and crypto but also about understanding the financial planning, taxation and estate planning aspects of crypto.

For this new wave of consumer stepping into crypto, the challenge will be separating the chaff from the wheat.

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