If you’re a number cruncher by trade, you may wonder about the best finance and accounting certifications you can pursue to enhance your career. There are many credentials out there that could help you professionally. Fortunately, we’ve done the legwork for you and compiled some of the most popular options. That way, you can spend less time comparing your alternatives and more time studying for your exam(s). So read on to get started!
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What Are Finance And Accounting Certifications?
Finance and accounting certifications are credentials that prove your subject matter expertise. You can obtain one or more of them to improve your marketability as a job candidate, increase your odds of getting a promotion, or help you get a raise.
7 Of The Best Finance And Accounting Certifications
Without further ado, here are the seven best finance and accounting certifications:
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The certified public accountant (CPA) credential is probably the most well-known accounting designation. Obtaining it can help you climb the corporate ladder in both public accounting and private industry.
Earning the right to list CPA after your name doesn’t come easily or cheap, though. First, you need to obtain at least 120 college credits. Then, you have to pass the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA®) four-part exam, consisting of the following sections:
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
You must score a 75% or better on all parts within an 18-month window. Applying for the right to take the test, registering for each exam, and completing all four parts will easily cost you over $1,000.
Then, once you’ve passed the tests, you’ll have to fulfill these other requirements:
- Complete 150 college credit hours, with a concentration in accounting and business (15 credit hours must be at the upper or graduate level)
- Amass 2,000 hours of accounting-related experience
- Take an extra exam on ethics if applicable in your practice area (for an additional fee)
- Apply for your CPA license (for an additional fee)
Certification costs and eligibility criteria vary based on where you intend to live and practice. Therefore, it’s wise to check out your state’s division of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy for more specific information.
Related Reading: 7 Of The Best Accounting Careers
Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF®)
If you’ve already earned your CPA and are interested in areas of accounting like bankruptcy, fraud, dispute resolution, or family law services, you may want to consider becoming certified in financial forensics (CFF®).
Here are the criteria you’ll have to meet:
- Maintain your AICPA® membership ($195+ per year)
- Have an active CPA license
- Complete 1,000 hours of forensic accounting work
- Take 75 hours of forensic accounting continuing education training during the five years before you apply for the credential
You’ll also have to pass an exam consisting of the following:
- Professional Responsibility and Practice Management
- Core Forensic Knowledge
- Specialized Forensic Knowledge
Each exam section will cost you a couple of hundred dollars to take. Plus, you’ll have to pay a fee to apply for your certification once you’ve met the other requirements.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®)
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If you’re in investment banking or investment management, you may want to become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®). You must pass the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute’s three-part exam to earn the credential. The examination covers asset valuation, portfolio management, investment tools, and wealth planning.
You must also submit 2-3 letters of reference and apply to become a member of the CFA Institute. Currently, you’ll pay as much as $3,950 to earn your charter (a one-time $350 enrollment fee and a $1,200 standard registration fee for each exam section).
You need to have a Bachelor’s degree (or be within 23 months of graduation) before sitting for the first part of the exam. You can also substitute 4,000 hours of professional work experience for the education requirement or present an approved combination of education and work experience.
Related Reading: 7 Of The Best-Paying Jobs in Finance
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE®)
Want to uncover and deter financial fraud? Then, you should consider becoming a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE®) through the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE®).
To earn the designation, you must become a member of the ACFE® ($195 annually). Then, you must pass a four-part test consisting of the following:
- Financial Transactions and Fraud Schemes
- Fraud Prevention and Deterrence
It costs $450 to take the exam, and you must complete all four sections within 60 days of registering.
You must also have an acceptable combination of education and fraud-related work experience. For example, ACFE® will grant the credential if you have a Bachelor’s degree and two years of experience.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA®)
Every organization needs a trained pair of eyes on its financial books to ensure it runs efficiently and stays compliant. If that sounds intriguing, you may want to become a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA®) through the Institute of Internal Auditors.
To earn the designation, you must have a Bachelor’s degree and two years of work experience. (If you have a Master’s degree, you only need one year of experience.) You must also submit the character reference form and pass a three-part exam, which includes these sections:
- Essentials of Internal Auditing
- Practice of Internal Auditing
- Business Knowledge of Internal Auditing
Earning your certification will cost you between $740 and $1,445, depending on your student and membership status at the time of registration.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA®)
Awarded by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA®), the Certified Management Accountant (CMA)® designation is well-respected within the financial community. Here’s what you need to have to earn it:
- A Bachelor’s degree (or professional accounting certificate)
- Two years of work experience
- IMA® membership ($45 annually for students; $275 annually for professionals)
- Enrollment in the CMA® program
- Passing scores on the two-part exam
The exam covers several managerial accounting areas, such as:
- Cost management
- Risk management
- Financial statement analysis
- Budgeting and forecasting
- Investment decisions
- Corporate finance
If you’re a student, you’ll pay a $210 exam entrance fee and a $345 exam fee per part. If you’re a professional, that cost jumps to $280 and $460, respectively.
Enrolled Agent (EA)
If you live and breathe taxes, you should consider becoming an Enrolled Agent (EA) through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Here’s what you need to do to call yourself one:
- Obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)
- Pass a three-part exam about individual tax preparation, business tax preparation, and client representation. (Each part costs $203 to take.)
- Apply for your enrollment ($140)
- Pass a background check
Worked for the IRS before? Then, you can skip the testing requirement!
Related Reading: How To Get A Job In Finance
Benefits Of Finance And Accounting Certifications
There are several potential benefits to earning finance and accounting certifications, including:
- Respect and prestige
- More or higher-paying clients (if you’re self-employed)
But — perhaps the most significant perk of becoming certified is knowing you’re really an expert in your field!
The Bottom Line
Growing your career can feel like a daunting task if you’re not sure what to do next. Hopefully, learning about the best finance and accounting certifications has given you some clarity.
After you earn your next credential (or get sick of your current job), we encourage you to amp up your resume with the help of one of the best resume writing services. Then, you’ll be ready to find and apply for your next role on ZipRecruiter.