Qualified accountants are always in high demand, as businesses of all sizes and across all industries require financial experts who can help them maintain their records and keep them in compliance with all tax laws and regulations. However, this broad field is also incredibly competitive, making accounting certifications essential for career growth.
The largest and most common certification is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification. While the public accounting field is full of lucrative job opportunities, there are accounting certifications other than CPA that can allow you to specialize your career in a niche area.
Why Do Accountants Need Certifications?
In today’s diverse economy, accountants will find that certifications allow them to set themselves apart from other job candidates and take on specialized roles within the accounting field. Advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence, is expected to play a significant role in reshaping and redefining the accounting field in the near term — which means that accounting professionals need to take additional steps to differentiate themselves.
Importance of Certificates in Accounting
Certificates in accounting can help improve your career prospects and increase your overall earning potential. Some benefits of earning a post-graduate certificate in accounting include:
- Earning a higher salary – In some cases, an employer may be willing to pay a candidate a higher salary if they have earned an accounting certificate. For example, according to PayScale, the median salary for an accountant in 2023 was about $56,000 per year, while an accountant with a Certified Fraud Examiner certification earned an average annual salary of $91,000.
- Developing new skills – The coursework required to earn a certification typically focuses on a set of core competencies relevant to that specialization, allowing you to strengthen your accounting portfolio and develop the credentials required for advanced positions in the field.
- Staying abreast of relevant industry trends – By enrolling in certification courses, you are showcasing your commitment to being a lifelong learner and willingness to go above and beyond to grow your career.
Are Accounting Certificates Worth It?
Accounting certificates require a considerable amount of time and effort to complete, and they also are a financial investment. However, most accounting professionals who pursue a certificate find that it allows them to earn a new credential, apply for specialized jobs within the field and increase their earning potential over time.
Certifications for Accountants Besides CPA
Below are some of the accounting certifications you can earn:
1. Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
A certified fraud examiner (CFE) is an accounting professional who has earned additional expertise in fraud detection and prevention. You can earn this designation by completing the certified fraud examiner credential, which is a rigorous certification course and exam designed to provide you with advanced training in understanding fraud, detecting fraudulent activity amid complex financial transactions and creating preventative programs that can be implemented in any type of organization.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, more than 90 percent of all Fortune 500 companies employ a CFE, and businesses of all sizes are beginning to see the value of these specialized professionals. As a CFE, you may find that a variety of career pathways open up to you, such as forensic accounting or auditing.
2. Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
The chartered global management accounting designation is considered one of the most highly sought-after credentials in the accounting profession. According to the AICPA & CIMA, by earning the CGMA credential, you prove that you have acquired advanced accounting skills as well as proficiency in operations management and financial strategy. The framework of this certification course emphasizes technical accounting skills, business management techniques and leadership competencies.
Accountants who have earned their CPA certification in the United States are eligible to pursue the CGMA designation, which is recognized worldwide. In addition, practicing accounts who have not earned a CPA can earn the CGMA designation by completing a leadership course along with subsequent case studies to fulfill their experience requirements.
3. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
Accounting professionals looking to specialize in auditing may benefit from the certified internal auditor, or CIA, designation. The CIA is the only internal auditing designation recognized worldwide, and it is an ideal certification option for accountants who want to pursue leadership positions in the auditing field.
By earning a CIA designation, you can demonstrate that you are:
- Able to rely on the latest technology to perform an exhaustive audit.
- Able to implement risk control measures within an organization.
- Able to work effectively with internal and external staff to perform a comprehensive audit.
According to Indeed, the experience requirements for this credential include having a bachelor’s degree as well as having worked for at least two years in an internal auditing position.
4. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
The certified management accountant certification, or CMA, is ideal for accounting professionals interested in a managerial role within their organization. This certification focuses on several core competencies required for successful financial management — including forecasting, risk analysis, and cost management.
According to the Institute of Management Accountants, which sponsors this certification program, the CMA designation aims to help accountants understand the reasoning behind the basic accounting principles they studied during college. Rather than simply performing accounting tasks on a daily basis, CMAs are able to explain the rationale and benefits behind those practices and adapt their accounting strategies accordingly.
The CMA is recognized by more than 150 countries around the world and respected by many top-tier organizations. Accountants currently working in large organizations and looking to pursue senior-level positions within their company would likely benefit from earning their CMA certification.
5. Enrolled Agent (EA)
The enrolled agent credential, or EA, is a designation that allows an accounting professional to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is the highest credential awarded by the IRS and can be earned by completing a three-part test. Additionally, those who have prior work experience with the IRS may be qualified to earn the EA credential. Once you have earned the credential, you must complete at least 72 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain it.
An EA is responsible for working closely with clients to prepare personal and business tax documents. They often handle complex cases and help their clients maneuver through the nuances of an IRS tax audit.
According to the IRS, an EA has unlimited practice rights. This allows accountants who become EAs to represent a wide range of taxpayers as well as navigate many types of tax matters, giving them extensive experience in tax preparation and auditing. The EA is recognized in all 50 states whereas other certifications (e.g. CPA) are issued state by state.
6. Enrolled Agent (Tax) Certificate
According to Indeed, the enrolled agent (tax) certificate is the best way for accountants to transition into the role of a tax advisor. The certificate is awarded by the IRS and considered an elite federal designation. It is recognized around the country, allowing you to practice as a tax advisor in any state and take on a wide range of clients.
There are several steps required to earn an EA certificate:• Apply for a preparer tax identification number, or PTIN.
- Complete the three-part comprehensive exam offered by the IRS. The exam focuses on tax preparation, and the three sections include individuals, businesses and best practices, and procedures for representation.
- Register for and complete the Special Enrollment Examination.
- Register with the IRS as an EA and maintain your credentials over time.
Other Certificates for Accountants
In addition, you may find that the following accounting certificate programs could help you enhance your resume and grow your career:
7. Financial Services Audit Certificate (FSAC)
The Financial Services Audit Certificate, or FSAC, is available through the Institute of Internal Auditors and allows financial professionals to gain the credentials needed to work in the field of internal auditing. This certificate program begins with a foundational course in financial services. In addition, it offers specialized coursework in advanced topics, such as fraud, risk management, liquidity, and culture and conduct.
Lasting more than 15 hours, this program is considered a basic auditing course that allows professionals to carve out a niche within the accounting industry. It is ideal for those seeking to specialize their career and pursue a role as an internal auditor. With no prerequisites required to enroll and flexible modules you can complete the requirements at your own pace, this is an excellent option for accountants who are currently working full-time but looking to improve their career prospects.
8. Certified Government Financial Manager
Accounting professionals interested in working as a government accountant should consider becoming a certified government financial manager. The CGFM certificate is offered through the Association of Government Accountants and prepares accountants to oversee government finances at the local, state, and federal levels. Through this certificate program, you could develop proficiency in governmental accounting, auditing, budgeting, transparent financial reporting, and internal controls.
In an age where government transparency and financial responsibility are critical, there is a consistent demand for qualified government accountants. The experience requirements for this certification include holding a bachelor’s degree in any field, earning at least two years of professional experience in the government financial management sector and agreeing to uphold the code of ethics implemented by the AGA. You will officially earn this designation once you have passed three comprehensive examinations that focus on the practice and implementation of the best government financial management strategies.
9. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
Accountants looking to move into the hyper-competitive, fast-paced world of investment could be interested in becoming a chartered financial analyst, or CFA.
The CFA charter program is designed to provide professionals with actionable skills and in-depth knowledge about the best investment strategies and practices. By participating in real-world investment analysis throughout the program, you could leave with more than just a new designation to add to your resume; you would also be equipped with the skills required to succeed in this dynamic industry.
The program concludes with a three-part exam that reviews portfolio management, asset valuation, and wealth planning. The exam requires the ability to use the leading investment tools in the industry to prove you have developed the key competencies to be a practicing CFA.
10. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
Developed and offered by the ISACA, the certified information systems auditor certificate is a highly specialized program ideal for professionals who wish to develop a specific expertise within the auditing field. The CISA certificate program focuses on developing the crucial skills required to audit, control, monitor and assess the IT system within a company or large organization. Topics covered in the program include information asset protection, best practices for information systems auditing, information technology management and information systems operations.
The ISACA notes that 70 percent of professionals who earn the CISA designation notice an improvement in their work performance, and more than 22 percent received a salary increase as a result of earning their certificate.
Take Your Accounting Career to the Next Level at Keiser University Graduate School
In addition to these certifications for accounting, you may find that a graduate degree allows you to elevate your accounting career to new heights. In the Keiser University Graduate School, we offer a Master of Business Administration in Accounting that helps prepare you for a career in accounting leadership. With coursework focused on advanced accounting and business topics as well as management skills, the MBA in Accounting degree allows you to further enhance your chosen specialization and achieve your career goals. Keiser University also offers the Master of Accountancy (MAcc). The MAcc focuses on accounting, fraud, government, and tax accounting. Request more information about our graduate degree programs today.