CPA. CMA. CIA. CFE. What is the difference among accounting certifications? And does getting certified boost your marketability?
You've set your sights on a future in accounting. Getting a degree from a quality online accounting degree program is a great first step toward a successful career.
But it shouldn't be your last.
In today's competitive marketplace you have to go the extra mile. In the field of accounting, that often means getting an accounting certification.
Or two, or three.
The benefits of certification
While certification generally requires added coursework, experience, a formal examination, and ongoing continuing education, the rewards are many.
In addition to higher pay, certification raises your chances for getting a job, keeping a job and staying marketable. And while most people think of CPAs (Certified Public Accountants), the majority of accountants are not CPAs.
So let's take a look at the key certifications available to accountants today.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a CPA is a trusted financial advisor who helps individuals, businesses and organizations plan for and reach their financial goals – whether saving for a new home, opening a new office or planning a multi-billion dollar merger. While the majority of CPAs are auditors, CPAs work in a variety of accounting specializations including compliance, tax, forensic accounting and risk management.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
A CMA focuses on the managerial aspects of business. According to the Institute of Management Accountants, CMA certification measures the accounting and financial management skills that drive business performance. Achieving the CMA credential demonstrates mastery of financial planning, analysis, control and decision support, as well as professional ethics.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
The CIA is the only globally-accepted designation for internal auditors and the standard by which individuals demonstrate their professionalism in internal auditing, according to the Institute of Internal Auditors. Generally, CIAs work in private and public companies and government agencies.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
The CFE designation denotes proven expertise in fraud prevention, detection and deterrence, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the world's largest anti-fraud organization. CFEs uncover fraud and implement processes to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place. CFEs often work for government agencies; local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI.
Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
CISA certification is the globally accepted standard of achievement among information systems, audit, control and security professionals, according to the Information Audit Systems and Control Association. Certification is designed for individuals who audit, control, monitor and assess an organization's information technology and business systems. The credential is a mandatory qualification for information systems auditors.
Certified Bank Auditor (CBA)
The CBA designation, awarded by the Bank Administration Institute Center for Certification, recognizes financial auditing professionals who demonstrate a superior level of expertise in four bank-specific areas: accounting, auditing principles and bank laws, auditing practices and general business.
Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP)
CGAP certification, according to the Institute of Internal Auditors, is designed especially for auditors working in the public sector at all levels – federal/national, state/provincial, local, quasi-governmental, or crown authority.
Enrolled Agent (EA)
An EA is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the IRS either by passing a comprehensive IRS test covering individual and business tax returns or through experience as a former IRS employee. According to the IRS, EA status is the highest credential the IRS awards. Like attorneys and CPAs, EAs have unlimited practice rights.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
A CFP, according to the Certified Financial Planner's Board, is an individual who has a demonstrated level of financial planning technical knowledge and experience in the field, and holds to a client-centered code of ethics.
The list is by no means comprehensive.
Numerous additional certifications are available, including Certified Payroll Professional, Accredited Tax Advisor, Accredited Financial Examiner, Certified Bookkeeper, Certified Quality Auditor, and more. But it's important to note not all certifications are created equal.
Even so, augmenting your education and experience with a professional designation is an investment of time and effort that could carry with it significant rewards, opening the door to numerous opportunities in the public accounting arena, the corporate world and government.
Which accounting certifications are you planning on getting?
Image Credit: Colin_K on Flickr/Creative Commons
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