A degree may be the first step for a career in accounting, but the right certification can put the finishing touches on your resume for your long-term career goals. Employers recognize the time and effort, as well as the knowledge required, when it comes to earning a certification.
The right choice can help you earn a promotion or land a new job.
An accounting degree can qualify you for a variety of jobs in business, accounting, finance, fraud examination, IT systems, risk management or compliance. A certification can show specialized knowledge in a specific area. If you are looking to add a certification to your job qualifications, here are four of the most recognized:
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
CPA is probably the most recognized accounting certification, giving instant credibility. Certified public accountants work in a variety of positions doing a variety of skills from auditing and advising to financial planning and taxes. CPAs can work for big corporations, small businesses or for themselves.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) oversees the CPA exam. The Board of Accountancy for each state authorizes licensing. There are three parts to earning CPA licensure.
The exam is the same in every state, but the education and experience needed to sit for the exam depends on state law. You can check state requirements online.
The Uniform CPA Examination consists of four sections:
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
CMAs usually work for organizations or corporations as part of their management teams. The Certified Management Accountant is globally recognized, compared to the CPA, which is authorized by the state in which you earn it and does not apply across state lines.
A Certified Management Accountant has demonstrated their knowledge of financial planning, analysis, control, decision support and professional ethics.
The CPA and CMA certifications do have some overlap, but CPAs may lean more towards compliance, accounting transactions, controls and taxes. CMAs lean toward organizational performance measurement, financial analysis and budgeting as well as strategic assessments.
The CMA certification is overseen by IMA. The exam has two parts:
- Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance and Control
- Financial Decision Making
Requirements to sit for the exam include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school and two years of experience in management accounting or financial management. The requirements and exam are the same everywhere to earn the CMA.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
Fraud examiners are specialists in finding and investigating fraud. The CFE certification was created by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners to recognize those individuals that have proven their knowledge in this growing field. Fraud examiners may be hired by accounting firms, law firms, government offices, banks, large corporations and insurance companies.
The CFE certification requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting, two years of applicable experience and passing the CFE exam. The exam covers the four primary disciplines of fraud examination:
- Fraud Prevention and Deterrence
- Financial Transactions and Fraud Schemes
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
A certified internal auditor will evaluate the internal controls, management procedures and the financial and information systems for an organization. They make sure these systems and controls meet regulations and compliance standards and work to prevent fraud.
The CIA is administered by the Institute of Internal Auditors. Certification requires a bachelor’s degree as well as two years of experience to sit for the exam. A master’s degree can also replace one year of experience.
The CIA exam includes three parts:
- Internal Audit Basics
- Internal Audit Practice
- Internal Audit Knowledge Elements
Each of these certifications can help you advance your career through a new job or promotion. Employers recognize the investment of time and effort to prepare for and pass the exams. If you are interested in tax preparation, management, investigation of fraud and money laundering, or procedures and compliance, check whether a CPA, CMA, CFE or CIA certification fits your career plans.