The best Accounting certifications offer graduates an opportunity to bolster their resumes and qualifications in a short time. There are several certifications accounting graduates can obtain to add some pop to their resumes.
There is no requirement for Accountants to be certified. But many volunteers become certified so they can specialize in specific areas of accounting and make themselves more valuable to potential employers. The more certifications an accountant can earn, the more credentials the accountant will be able to add to his or her title. Here are a few of the certifications accountants might consider pursuing.
Best Accounting Certifications
Each of the below accounting designations has a different career focus.
- Certified Public Accountant
- Certified Management Accountant
- Chartered Financial Analyst
- Certified Internal Auditor
- Enrolled Agent
- Certified Fraud Examiner
- Certified in Financial Forensics
- Certified Information Systems Auditor
- Chartered Global Management Accountant
- Certified Bank Auditor
Most Popular Accounting Certifications
1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
This is not only the oldest accounting credential but is also one of the most respected certifications in the accounting world. The CPA license is highly respected across the industry. Additionally, accountants who plan to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission must have this designation. After earning the required degree and credits, the candidate must take the 4-part Uniform CPA examination.
CPAs are the only accountants who state governments license. And they can audit reports and prepare findings on publicly-traded company financials. It is also one of the hardest to obtain in the accounting industry. The certification exam is the longest. And it has the most requirements for applicants who take the CPA exam. The CPA designation validates expertise in risk management, compliance, forensic accounting, and tax code.
Granted by: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
Exam requirements: CPA exam is four levels taken in any order to earn the certified public accountant credential
2. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
Although many compare the CMA certification with the CPA certification, they are for two different occupations and jobs. While the CPA typically works as an accountant either independently or for an accounting firm, the CMA works as part of an accounting management company.
The CMA is part of management and works in executive-level roles, but is not acceptable for public accounting. A candidate interested in working for a Fortune 500 company in a management position would find the CMA credential the ideal choice. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and prior experience in management accounting or financial management.
Granted by: Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)
Exam requirements: the CMA exam is a two-part, eight-hour exam
3. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
Although the chartered financial analysis certification is an accounting certification, it’s not necessarily just for accountants. The CFA credential is for accounting graduates who want to work in finance or financial planning. Most CFAs work with investments or hedge funds.
This popular credential is used in other parts of the world like China and Europe and in the United States. CFAs analyze the financial status of a company and the economic trends and make recommendations to the company. Like the CPA certification, the CFA is also highly respected in the accounting world. The exam is also very lengthy and difficult and cannot be taken until several requirements have been met.
Granted by: CFA Institute
Exam requirements: Three exam levels with 4.5 hours per exam
4. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
This accounting certification is for accountants who want to work as auditors and compliance officers. CIAs generally work for large organizations. They spend most of their time either assisting independent auditors to do their jobs or performing audits on their own. The certification exam is a three-part exam that usually takes about 6.5 hours to complete.
Granted by: Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA)
Exam requirements: Three levels, with a total exam time of 6.5 hours
5. Enrolled Agent Certification (EA)
The Internal Revenue Service created the Enrolled Agent credential. It demonstrates the individual has a solid knowledge of the US tax codes and the skills to utilize all its parts. This EA is typically used to perform tax work for both corporations and individuals. They may also represent clients who have tax issues with the IRS.
Accountants who want to work as CPAs, general accountants, or in the finance and investment world should not consider the EA certification. An enrolled agent works strictly with taxes and the IRS. It’s definitely a tax certification. Of all the certifications in accounting, the enrolled agent is probably the easiest one to obtain. It has the least requirements that must be met to take the certification exam and also has the shortest exam.
Granted by: Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Exam requirements: 300 questions over a 10.5-hour period to complete the entire SEE exam
In addition to the five best certifications, we have summarized some additional certifications for accountants.
6. Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
The CFE is a professional certification from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). The CFE credential indicates to employers, clients, and the public that an individual has the required knowledge and expertise to detect, investigate, and prevent fraud. The credential requires passing a comprehensive exam and having professional experience in fraud examination and investigation. It is ideal for finance professionals who work in anti-fraud roles.
Granted by: Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)
Exam requirements: Four two-hour exam sections
7. Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF)
Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) is a professional certification from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). CPAs who demonstrate competence in a wide range of areas related to financial forensics, forensic accounting, including fraud examination, litigation support, and asset investigation can earn it.
To be eligible for the CFF credential, an individual must have a valid CPA license, at least two years of work experience in financial forensics, and must pass a comprehensive exam. The CFF credential is for accounting professionals who wish to specialize in financial forensics. It demonstrates expertise in this area and can lead to increased career opportunities.
8. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
A CISA is a professional designation earned by individuals who have passed an exam administered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). CISA certification demonstrates a person’s knowledge of information systems auditing, control, and security.
Those who earn the CISA designation must meet certain educational and experience requirements and must pass the CISA exam, which covers the five domains of the CISA job practice. They include IS audit process, IT governance, systems and infrastructure life cycle management, protection of information assets and business continuity and disaster recovery. CISA holders must also adhere to ISACA’s Code of Professional Ethics and comply with the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirement.
Granted by: Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
9. Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
A CGMA professional designation is granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
The CGMA designation recognizes professionals who demonstrate a mastery of business’s financial and operational management areas. And those who have the skills necessary to advise organizations on strategic business decisions. The CGMA designation is designed to help organizations tap into the skills and knowledge of individuals with expertise in management accounting, finance, and business management.
Granted by: Both AICPA and CIMA
Exam requirements: AICPA exam is a three-hour case study requiring long-form, written answers; the CIMA path features a 12-part exam.
10. Certified Bank Auditor
This professional designation is from the Institute of Certified Bank Auditors (ICBA). It provides assurance to financial institutions and the public that the certified individual has the necessary skills and knowledge to perform the complex financial audit services required by the banking industry.
To qualify for the CBA designation, individuals must possess a combination of education and experience in the field of bank auditing and successfully complete a rigorous certification examination. Those who earn the CBA designation demonstrate to employers, clients, and peers their commitment to excellence in bank auditing. It also ensures compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and professional standards.
Granted by: Institute of Certified Bank Auditors (ICBA) or Banking Administration Institute (BAI
Exam requirements: Four-part exam
Why Earn an Accounting Certification?
Earning an accounting certification is important for a variety of reasons. First, accounting certifications demonstrate to potential employers that you have the knowledge and skills to excel in an accounting role.
In addition, certifications can help you stand out from the competition, as they demonstrate a commitment to the profession and a dedication to staying up to date with industry trends and practices. Finally, certifications often make candidates more attractive to employers as they can assure that the individual is qualified to handle the responsibilities associated with an accounting role.
Certification Test Prep Course
There are a variety of certification test prep courses available for accountants. Various professional training and certification providers offer many of these courses online. For example, a test prep company may offer a comprehensive review course to help students prepare for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. These courses provide in-depth instruction on the topics covered on the exam and tips and strategies that can help students maximize their scores.
Additional Certificates and Other Accounting Certifications
- Certified Government Auditing Professional
- Financial Services Audit Certificate
- Certified Quality Auditor
- Accredited Payables Specialist
- Chartered Financial Analyst designation
- Accredited Receivables Specialists
- Accredited Tax Preparer
What is the Job Outlook for Accountants with Certifications?
The outlook for accountants with certifications is quite positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
This growth is due to the increasing complexity of financial laws and the need for organizations to comply with them. Furthermore, many employers are looking for certified accountants to fill open positions. So having certifications will give you a clear advantage in the job market.
How Much do Accountants with a Certification Earn?
The salary an accountant can earn with a certification will vary depending on the type of certification, the level of experience, and the geographic location. Accountants have the potential to earn excellent wages once they’ve earned degrees and certifications.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that accountants earned wages ranging from $47,970 to $128,970. Although different factors can affect earning potential, earning even one of the various certifications in accounting can boost career opportunities and wage potential.
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