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Accounting certifications to boost your career potential

Checked for updates, April 2022.

Accounting has always been a promising field for career-builders. Opportunities are great because of the stable demand for accounting services. Accounting also introduces professionals to globally recognized certifications that will help them in pursuing career advancements.

1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The Certified Public Accountant is the most popular certification for accountants. CPAs possess proficiency in many areas of accounting and finance including assurance and attestation, corporate governance, financial analysis, management consultancy, tax preparation and planning, and others.

Known as accounting's jack of all trade, a CPA can operate in diverse areas. Nonetheless, Certified Public Accountants are famous for their expertise in external audit and tax matters. How to Become a CPA

2. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

The CMA credential, awarded by the Institute of Management Accountants or IMA, demonstrates mastery in management accounting which includes financial planning & analysis, cost management, and decision support. These skills are critical to the success of a business.

To obtain a CMA designation, a candidate must pass the CMA exam which consists of two parts. Candidates must have at least two years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management to receive the CMA certification. More about CMA

3. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

Granted by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), the CIA designation is the only globally accepted certification for internal auditors and is the standard by which individuals demonstrate their competence and professionalism in the internal audit field.

To obtain a CIA certification, you must pass a four-part examination and must have at least two years of meaningful experience in internal audit or in any related field. Other certifications provided by the IIA include Certification in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), and Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP). More about CIA

4. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) has gained valuable recognition along with today's increasing popularity of general and personal finance strategies. It is the most recognized financial planning credential in the world; getting certified will provide a significant plus in your qualifications.

Your career as a CFP will be filled with opportunities. Clients trust professionals who have proven themselves through education and experience. Moreover, passing the CFP examination will confirm your proficiency in applying financial planning principles. More about CFP

5. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

CISA is the flagship certification of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). It is the globally recognized designation for individuals who audit, assess, control and monitor an organization’s information systems and technology.

Candidates must pass a five-part examination and have a minimum of five years of professional experience in information systems auditing, control or security to qualify for the CISA. More about CISA

Which Accounting Certification is Best for You

Although there is no single best accounting certification, some certifications are suitable to one accountant but may not be suitable to another. It varies widely with the individual's qualifications, career goals, and interest.

Consider your qualifications, especially the number of years of work experience, since it could be required before being granted a certificate.

Salary is not much of a factor here because the actual pay depends on the position you are in. It is certain though that accounting certifications will provide a good boost to your earning potential as compared to not having one.

In selecting an accounting certification, it is best to choose the certification/s you would make the most of. In other words, choose those that would benefit you the most.

Employment opportunities are spread in the areas of public practice, commerce & industry, government, and academe. The biggest factor that should be considered in deciding which certification to get is the field you want to specialize in. It will all boil down to what you want to do for a living.

  Validity Experience Field Major Line of Expertise
CPA State/ Local Varies depending on local board requirements All major fields of accounting, but especially audit Various, esp. Financial accounting and External auditing
CMA Global 2 continuous years in management accounting or financial management Management Accounting Financial analysis,
Financial management,
Decision support,
Management advisory
CIA Global 2 years of related work experience Internal Auditing Internal control, Internal audit, Risk assessment
CFP Global 3 years financial planning experience Financial
Business and investments, Personal finance, Insurance, Retirement, Tax, Estate, Debt management
CISA Global 5 years of related work experience Accounting Information System (AIS) Information systems auditing, control and security

There are many other accounting-related certifications out there. The ones listed here are among the most popular. In any case, if you want to go somewhere in your career in accounting then you should definitely consider getting a certification in a field of your interest.

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