Continuing education is often the key to getting the job you’re looking for. Whether it’s through the new skills candidates can obtain or certifications that qualify them for higher positions, it never hurts to advance your education in your field. Accountants, especially, can gain more professional opportunities with the right certifications.
Accounting and finance certifications can improve a candidate’s marketability, help them earn a higher salary or promotion, and will improve their career in general. Earning these certifications can require time, effort, and money, but many companies will cover the cost of their employee’s certifications.
If you’re an accountant or entering the accounting field, read on to learn which certifications will best advance your professional career.
There are various certifications that accountants can pursue. The best certification for one accountant may not be the best for another, however. The right certifications will depend on your career path, specialization, education, and more. There are also eligibility requirements for each certification.
Learn more about different accounting certifications to determine which one you should pursue. Keep in mind that requirements for each certification may vary by state. The best accounting certifications include:
We’ll look closely at the top 5 accounting certifications, their requirements, and who they most benefit.
A CPA is the most commonly known and highly regarded accounting certification. This is a versatile certification, as courses cover public accounting, management, government, and tax accounting, as well as other financial roles. The CPA is often required for certain high-level accounting positions.
Estimated Cost: $4,000
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree or 120-150 college credit hours, relevant accounting experience (often 1 year)
Number of Exams: 4
Time to CPA: 1 year
Granted by: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
A CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) is ideal for managers and analysts, especially in the investment field. Those interested in senior financial positions like CFO or fund managers can benefit from a CFA. This certification tests on principles like investing, portfolio management, economics, and more.
Estimated Cost: $3,300
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree, working on final year of Bachelor’s degree, or four years of professional experience
Number of Exams: 3
Time to CFA: 18 months to 1 year
Granted by: CFA Institute
The CMA is another great option, and many accountants choose to get their CPA and their CMA, as they overlap in topics covered. The Certified Management Accountant certification focuses on financial management and accounting and is ideal for corporate accountants. It is globally recognized, so it is often preferred by international companies.
Estimated Cost: $1,000-2,000
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree and 2 consecutive years of work in management accounting or financial management
Number of Exams: 2
Time to CMA: 1 year
Granted by: Institute of Management Accountants
The CGMA is a newer certification made for CPAs who are looking to specialize in business or government accounting. This certification proves competency in management accounting and general business strategy as it relates to finances. The CGMA is for leaders who want to connect accounting and all other aspects of a business.
Estimated Cost: $325 plus membership fees
Educational Requirements: CPA plus 3 years of specialized work experience, or members of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
Number of Exams: 1 online case study with long-form answers
Time to CBMA: As fast as three months, exams offered four times a year
Granted by: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
A Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification is perfect for anyone looking to start a career in internal auditing or compliance. It is internationally recognized and focuses on principles like risk, auditing, and IT.
Estimated Cost: $1,150 – 1500
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree and 2 years of internal auditing experience, or a Master’s Degree and 1 year of internal auditing experience
Number of Exams: 3
Time to CIA: 1 to 2 years
Granted by: Institute of Internal Auditors
If you’re an accountant looking to advance your career, continuing education in the form of certifications may be the best path. For advice on your career options and industry knowledge, contact Atlantic Group Recruiters. Atlantic Group has vast experience in accounting and finance, and their team can help guide you toward the best career steps for your goals.