Are you interested in or currently pursuing a career in accounting? Maybe you are already a working professional? If you enjoy working with financial information and records, this is likely an ideal profession for you. Because most industries require some level of financial oversight, accountants are usually able to find work easily.
While a degree in accounting can often help you secure an entry-level position in the field, completing one or more certifications can provide significant opportunities for future career advancement. In fact, there are numerous benefits to earning certifications as an accounting professional. Not only will you be able to specialize your skills and offer more sought-after services, but you can also move into positions that offer higher pay. This is also a good option for individuals interested in moving into an accounting career from a different field.
Introduction or Add-On Accounting Certifications
It is important to realize there are many different certifications available for accountants. Depending on your career goals, you will be able to find a certification appropriate for every level of employment within this field. Those just beginning their careers will find earning one or more certifications is a great way to stand out among other applicants. This can particularly helpful for recent graduates trying to get their foot in the door. Employers for entry-level positions often give preference to candidates with the following intro and add-on accounting certifications:
Certified Bookkeeper (CB)
Certified bookkeepers have demonstrated their knowledge, skills, and ability to perform important financial tasks. There are two primary nationally recognized programs offering certification: National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) and the American Institute of Professional Bookkeeping (AIPB). These certifications can be helpful when applying for a new job or securing freelance clients. Continuing education is required to maintain certification.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) administers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) examination and grants the CIA designation. Certified Internal Auditors objectively analyze and evaluate company financials and business operations, identifying problems and ensuring compliance with company, industry, and government regulations. There are many benefits to earning this international credential including increased earning potential, more job security, opportunities for professional advancement, and focused skills improvement.
Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV)
Only members of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) can apply for and maintain the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) credential. Accredited in Business Valuation professionals have the competencies to provide premier valuation services in areas such as tax, litigation, financial reporting, transactions, and ESOPs. There are many benefits to earning this credential including access to other valuation professionals with similar interests and practices, as well as relevant practice aids, webcasts, newsletters, and discounts on continuing professional development.
High-Level Accounting Certifications to Consider
In addition to the certifications mentioned above, there are numerous high-level credentials that may be worth considering. While entry-level options tend to be broader, these certifications focus on specialized skills within the industry. The unique knowledge gained may mean few positions are available, but the employment opportunities that are available do usually lead to higher salaries. It is also worth noting that many high-level certifications are more difficult to attain. Seasoned professionals may benefit from exploring one or more of the following credentials:
Enrolled Agent (EA)
The Enrolled Agent (EA) credential is provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Only Enrolled Agents have the privilege of representing taxpayers before the IRS. It is the highest credential the IRS awards and recipients must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years. There are many benefits to earning this credential, including unlimited practice rights. Enrolled Agents are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can address.
Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA)
Sponsored by the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (ACIA) Association the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) is the only globally-recognized educational standard for individuals specializing in alternative investments. Professionals manage, analyze, distribute, and/or regulate investments. A major benefit is learning what is needed to be successful and credible in alternatives.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential is overseen by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. Certified Financial Planners are rigorously trained in 72 areas of financial expertise and know how to assist with financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning, and retirement. Benefits of earning this certification include earning a mark of excellence in the financial industry and becoming highly valued by financial firms and consumers alike.
Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
The Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation is overseen by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) Chartered Global Management Accountants are trusted, expert strategists connecting all aspects of business and are proficient in finance, operations, strategy, and management. Benefits of earning this certification include developing an understanding of how different aspects of business come together, demonstrating an ability to look to the future of finance, and illustrating an ability to provide objective views.
Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA)
The Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA) designation is overseen by the Corporate Finance Institute (CFI) Financial Modeling & Valuation Analysts often work in investment banking research, equity research, and corporate development. They are proficient with financial modeling, sensitivity analysis, and strategy. Benefits of this program include boosting knowledge and skills, studying online at any pace, and becoming certified in only a few months.
Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
The Financial Risk Manager (FRM) designation is overseen by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) Financial Risk Managers identify and analyze potential threats to assets, earning capacity, and/or the overall success of a business. Benefits of earning this credential include standing out among financial professionals, proving knowledge and skills meet the latest international standards, and connecting to an elite network of expert risk professionals employed by some of the world’s leading institutions.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation is overseen by Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Inc. (ACFE) All candidates must be an ACFE member. Certified Fraud Examiners uncover, prevent, and deter fraud. This often entails studying employer financial records for discrepancies and collaborating with law enforcement when necessary. Benefits of earning this credential include receiving a higher salary, increased job security, and distinction among other job candidates.
Top Sought After Accounting Certifications
Many of the entry-level and high-level credentials mentioned above can be extremely helpful in propelling a career forward. There are, however, a few certifications that are more sought after than all others in the field. Without one or more of the following credentials, it is impossible to secure many of the top jobs in accounting.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation is managed by each state’s board of accountancy independently. Most states have similar application requirements, including the passing of the Uniform CPA Examination. Certified Public Accountants perform financial statement audits and other attestation services to keep investors informed. Benefits of earning this credential include increased employment opportunities, higher salaries, better benefits, job stability, and industry respect.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation is overseen by Institute of Management Accountants, Inc. (IMA) Certified Management Accountants possess significant knowledge in financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics. Benefits of earning this credential include more opportunities within the business world, career advancement, increased earning potential, and more credibility in the field.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is overseen by Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, Inc. Chartered Financial Analysts monitor and help improve financial performance for their clients. This includes tracking status’, analyzing plans, and reconciling transactions. Benefits of earning this credential are better job prospects, higher pay potential, more credibility, networking opportunities, and less time in an academic setting.
Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)
The Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) designation is overseen by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) Certified Government Financial Managers demonstrate competency in government accounting, auditing, financial reporting, internal controls, and budgeting at the federal, state, and local levels. Benefits of earning this credential include recognition of specialized knowledge and experience, as well as expanded career opportunities.