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Accounting & Finance Certification for Finance & Accounting Professionals
  • Business Management

Accounting & Finance Certification to Boost Your Career Growth

Accounting & Finance Certification for Finance & Accounting Professionals
Shawn Parikh
  • December 07, 2020 12:00 AM EST

Earning finance and accounting certifications is a big step toward improving your marketability and career advancement as a professional in this field.

Accounting and finance certifications highlight that someone has put in the time and effort to expand their knowledge and skills. More and more people nowadays have access to university education. Consequently, this means that bachelor’s degrees are becoming less valuable. Therefore, attaining a professional certification will help you stand out from the crowd.

Continuing education is an investment in time and money, of course, and your employer may help make the case for credentials. According to research, it shows that a majority (72 percent) of CFOs interviewed say their company will cover all or some of the cost of obtaining professional certification and 76 percent said their organizations help in maintaining such certifications once they're earned.

Accounting and finance certifications show employers that you have the skills and specialized knowledge to succeed. Thus, they are a great way to improve your reputation, earning power, and job prospects.

Here is the list of accounting & finance certifications to help you improve your ability and specific skills to benefit your career and positioning as an expert in the field of accounting and finance.

Let's first take a closer look at three certifications geared to careers in corporate accounting.

Certified Public Accountant:

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license has a long reputation as the gold standard for accounting and finance roles in the United States. With this accounting certification, you validate your expertise in forensic accounting, tax, compliance, risk management and other skills that can lead to top CPA jobs.

Granted by: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

Estimated cost: $2,000 to $3,000

Prerequisites: Five years of higher education, a minimum number of continuing education credits in business and accounting (typically about 150), and verified relevant experience.

Exam requirements: Four levels; can be taken in any order.

Time to certification: Passing the CPA exam usually takes a year; exam and license requirements vary state by state, but most state boards require one year of accounting experience before you get the license.

Ongoing requirements: Requirements for continuing professional education (CPE) credits vary by state.

Who should get it: This designation is a versatile one, as CPAs work in public accounting, management accounting, governmental accounting, taxation, financial advisory, compliance, and other roles. The CPA is highly valued throughout the accounting industry, and some companies require it for managerial jobs. If you know you want to make your career in accounting and have the time and money to invest, the CPA is a good credential to pursue.

Chartered Global Management Accountant:

The Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) financial certification is a global designation for CPAs working in business and government. It’s an achievement that demonstrates your competency in management accounting skills and your expertise in developing strategy that connects all aspects of business.

Granted by: Both AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), two of the world’s leading accounting organizations.

Estimated cost: $325 plus membership fee for AICPA; for CIMA, cost of designation is included in membership.

Prerequisites: Any AICPA member is eligible, with an experience requirement of three years of relevant, work-based, practical management accounting experience. CIMA members are already qualified.

Exam requirements: One computerized case study taken on site, which asks for long-form, written answers that reflect management accounting competencies.

Time to certification: Exams offered four times a year; results released within four weeks.

Ongoing requirements: Membership in good standing.

Who should get it: Finance and accounting professionals who want their experience and skills recognized throughout the world, in addition to research, tools and a global network.

Certified Management Accountant:

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification is sponsored by the IMA (Institute of Management Accountants), and is recognized globally. Professionals who hold this accounting certification demonstrates mastery of critical accounting and financial management skills from a generalized, managerial and internal perspective.

Granted by: IMA

Estimated cost: $1,000 to $2,000

Prerequisites: A bachelor’s degree and two consecutive years in financial management or management accounting.

Exam requirements: Two levels, with a total exam time of eight hours.

Time to certification: Typically one to two years.

Ongoing requirements: 30 hours of CPE credits.

Who should get it: Many accountants choose to get both the CPA and the CMA, as there is considerable overlap in the exam topics. The CMA is often considered a more practical application of the theoretical concepts tested in the CPA exams and is recommended for accountants in the corporate sector, particularly in large, multinational companies.

If you are considering a career as a financial analyst or already working as one, you'll want to look at the CPA license, as well as professional finance certifications.

Here are five certifications for careers in banking and financial services.

Chartered Financial Analyst:

Chartered Finance Analyst (CFA) certification demonstrates your knowledge and competence regarding principles of portfolio management, investment analysis, economics, and professional and ethical standards.

Granted by : CFA Institute, a nonprofit based in the U.S.

Estimated cost: $2,500.

Prerequisites: A bachelor’s degree and four years of relevant experience.

Exam requirements: Three levels, with a total exam time of 18 hours; you must pass one level before you move to the next.

Time to certification: Can be completed in 18 months, but most people take more than two years.

Ongoing requirements: A recommended 20 hours of CPE credits, with at least two hours of standards, regulatory and ethics education.

Who should get it: This has become a must-have for security analysts and asset managers in the investment community. Finance professionals who are (or aim to become) equity analysts, fund managers or hedge fund managers will also find the CFA useful, as will anyone who hopes to reach the CFO or senior finance manager levels. If you are pursuing a career in audit, however, it won’t be particularly useful to you.

Certified Financial Services Auditor:

The Institute of Internal Auditors' Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) is a specialty certification for audit professionals who have a minimum of two years of experience in financial services organizations, such as banks, holding and investment companies, insurance companies, credit agencies, or security and commodity services.

These certifications are geared to audit, fraud and risk management careers.

Certified Internal Auditor:

The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is the only internationally accepted designation for the internal auditor career path, and people who hold this financial certification demonstrate competence in areas such as risk and control and information technology, as well as proficiency in working with internal staff and external clients.

Granted by: Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA)

Estimated cost: $1,500

Prerequisites: A bachelor’s degree and two years of internal audit experience (but a master’s degree can substitute for one year of experience)

Exam requirements: Three levels, with a total exam time of 6.5 hours

Time to certification: Typically a year to 18 months

Ongoing requirements: CPE credits are required; the number depends on your work status

Who should get it: The CIA is really only useful to internal auditors, with particular importance for those who would like to become managers or chief audit executives.

Certified Fraud Examiner:

Available to members of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) is beneficial for finance professionals focused on anti-fraud endeavors across private and public agencies. Passing the CFE exam demonstrates expertise in the four main areas of fraud examination: Financial Transactions and Fraud Schemes, Law, Investigation, and Fraud Prevention and Deterrence.

Applicants for the CFE exam need to submit documentation of their education and work experience, along with three professional recommendations.

Certified Government Auditing Professional:

The Institute of Internal Auditors offer the Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) for audit practitioners in the public sector. It demonstrates skill in the unique requirements of government auditing. To qualify for the exam, auditors must have two years of experience in government auditing.

Here are two certifications for accountants with information technology careers.

Certified Information Systems Auditor

Accountants holding a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification can show they have a proficiency in information systems control, security and auditing.

Granted by

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Accounting & Finance Certification for Finance & Accounting Professionals

Shawn Parikh

CEO, Entigrity Offshore Staffing

The author, Shawn Parikh is a qualified accountant and has been in accounting industry for more than a decade now. He has always been a big believer and advocate of social enterprises and small accounting firms and business.