Earning an accounting certification could be your ticket to a more successful, lucrative career. Whether it’s the accounting gold standard, the CPA, or something more specialized in auditing, financial services, information technology, fraud or forensics, a certification in finance and accounting is often essential to reaching greater heights.
Advanced knowledge in your area of expertise should help you become more productive and demonstrates your motivation, dedication and commitment to your employer and prospective future employers. Gaining a certification also makes you more likely to earn promotions, raises and bonuses. But don’t enter into the process lightly. The investment of time and money to earn a certification is no small matter. Depending on which one you pursue, it can cost thousands of dollars and require hundreds of hours of preparation.
Choose your path, and prepare for your journey
Still up for the challenge? Great! And here is some more good news: Many employers will help defray expenses that can run into the thousands of dollars. Given the size of the investment on your part and your firm’s as well, it’s critical to have clarity about your career path and area of specialization. Once you choose a credential, figure out how to time your preparation and testing to fit in between work and personal demands. Read reviews on study courses to find one that best fits the way you learn, whether online, in person or self-study, and make sure the length of a course’s digital license fits your time frame.
Best accounting certifications
Here are some certifications that you may want to consider:
Certified Public Accountant
Chartered Global Management Accountant
Certified Management Accountant
Chartered Financial Analyst
Certified Internal Auditor
Certified Fraud Examiner
Certified Bank Auditor
Certified in Financial Forensics
Certified Information Systems Auditor
Certified Information Technology Professional
Other accounting certifications
Here are some certifications in other areas of finance and accounting that you may want to consider working toward if they align with your career goals:
Accounts receivable (AR)/accounts payable (AP) — Most of these professionals hone their skills on the job, but an accounts receivable/payable certification can help move you up in the job ranks. AR professionals can earn Accredited Receivables Manager (ARM) or Accredited Receivables Specialists (ARS) certifications, while AP professionals opt for the Accredited Payables Manager (APM) and Accredited Payables Specialist (APS) credentials.
Business and business systems analysts — Business analysts and business systems analysts can increase their marketability by acquiring the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) or Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA) designations.
Compliance — The options for compliance certifications vary, depending on your industry and specialization, and they are almost as numerous as regulatory mandates. Some options are the Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP), Certified Compliance and Regulatory Professional (CCRP), Certified Regulatory and Compliance Professional (CRCP) and Investment Adviser Certified Compliance Professional (IACCP).
Investment — Depending on the area of expertise, investment professionals may pursue designations such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) or Financial Risk Manager (FRM).
Payroll — Holding the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) designation can lead to supervisory roles. The Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) raises the stock of entry-level employees.
Quality assurance — Managers in this realm often seek the Certified Quality Auditor (CQA) designation.
Risk management — Accountants, along with finance, insurance and legal professionals, burnish their reputations by pursuing the Certified Risk Management Professional (CRMP) or Certified Risk Manager (CRM) designation.
Taxes — To gain several of the rights of CPAs without the education or experience requirements, tax professionals often earn the Enrolled Agent (EA) designation offered by the IRS to certify their understanding of the U.S. tax code and how to apply its concepts. Other tax-related certificates include Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA) and Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP).