5 Certifications for Accountants

certifications for accountants

Top Five Accounting Certifications

  • Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
  • Certified Management Accountants (CMA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

After accounting students graduate from college, it is time to look into one of the many certifications available in the market. While the requirements vary from state to state, obtaining a professional license is highly encouraged. So, what are five of the best certifications that accountants can pursue?

Related Resource: Top 25 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Accounting

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the leading license for all accountants in the United States. It is issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) that works alongside other regulatory bodies such as the SEC. According to the AICPA, the CPA designation comes with an additional 10 to 15 percent increase in starting salaries. The reason why is that the exam to obtain the license is composed of four extremely challenging sections that have a combined passing rate of below 60 percent. Those who seek this license will also have to pass an ethics test and meet continuing education standards.

Certified Management Accountants (CMA)

Courtesy of the ever-lasting split between financial and managerial accounting, those who settle in the managerial sphere will have a special certification. It is called the Certified Management Accountants (CMA) license that is issued by the Institute of Management Accountants. Whilst these professionals do not have to adhere to the rules of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), they must be familiar with them to pass the test. The worldwide pass rates for the CMA almost make the CPA look effortless as they are around 40 percent. Applicants who take the exam will have to complete two parts composed of six different categories.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

While the CPA license covers the principles of auditing, which is one of the four sections that candidates have to pass, Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is for those who will not pursue the public sector. The issuing body for this license is the Institute of Internal Auditors. Individuals who might already have a CPA will find the three-part exam for the CIA to be fairly similar in terms of question types and simulations. Nonetheless, the topics will cover internal auditing and not public audit principles, objectives, and standards.

Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)

Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) is a license commonly obtained by finance majors who graduate from a four or five-year program. Regardless, a lot of accountants who transition out of their market may end up sitting for the CFA. This is arguably the most difficult certification for someone who has a background in accounting because they have not spent hundreds of hours working on the concepts of finance. Still, there are quite a few topics that overlap between these two fields. Thus, even though some additional studying will certainly be required, the CFA title is not impossible to reach.

Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

Finally, one of the most overlooked licenses in accounting is the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). It is based on a four-section test that includes fraud prevention and deterrence, financial transactions and fraud schemes, investigation, and law. It is issued by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and the test itself takes approximately eight hours to complete. Of course, each section can be taken independently just like with all the aforementioned examples. Individuals who have a CFE are usually going to have more job opportunities in the spheres of forensic and governmental accounting.

Concluding Thoughts

Professionals pursuing any of these five certifications should prepare for long hours of studying and reviewing. After all, the reason why every single one of these licenses yields a salary bump is due to the unparalleled level of test difficulty. Still, being one of the accountants who has been certified in any of those areas will be an outstanding way to distinguish oneself.

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