What Are Your Interests?
Accounting is a field that requires much more than a simple skill set. There are more than a dozen different certifications an accountant can earn. Some certifications require a bachelor’s degree, while others only require a high school diploma. According to the Accounting Institute for Success, here are some of the most popular accounting certifications available:
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
- Enrolled Agent (EA)
- Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
Let’s take a look at each certification, its education requirements, and what the job outlook is for that specialization.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
CPAs must have an earned bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. The core of the degree should include accounting courses at all levels. To be granted a CPA, one must pass all sections of the AICPA uniform CPA exam. The exam includes sections on auditing, financial accounting and reporting, regulations, and business environment concepts.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field is expected to grow by 10% over the next eight years. CPAs make an average salary of about $70,000 per year.
Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)
CFAs are most useful in the investing and finance spheres. While not as popular in the United States, many countries in Europe and Asia are turning to CFAs more and more. A bachelor’s degree is not required, nor are accounting classes. However, being a CFA is a great option if you want to be a controller or chief financial officer and already have a bachelor of science in business.
The BLS job outlook for CFAs is similar to that for CPAs (growth at 11%), but CFAs make an average salary of approximately $84,000 a year.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
To become a CMA, you must hold a bachelor’s degree in business, finance or accounting. This certification is based strictly on the management of accounting, rather than things like auditing or tax work, for instance. Many CMAs work as COOs or CFOs.
CMAs make around $125,000 annually, according to the BLS. This field is growing at a rate of 19%, making it a great option for those who love managing in business.
Enrolled Agent (EA)
An enrolled agent is a strictly tax-based certification. The exams are focused only on the US tax code and related laws. Most EAs work as tax preparers or as internal tax agents within a corporation. While a degree is not a requirement, EAs must complete several hours of continuing education every year to keep up with changes to the tax codes and laws.
A qualified EA can make up to $69,000 annually; however, those who work as government tax preparers and collectors tend to make less (approximately $67,000 annually).
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
The CIA is responsible for reviewing the financial picture of a company. They look for errors in credits and debits, as well as any evidence of improper tax procedures. They must hold a bachelor’s degree, have two years of experience, and pass a four-part exam.
CIAs start at around $39,000 per year, but the job outlook is not good. The BLS predicts that this profession will see a decline in need of approximately 1% over the next few years.
Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
CISAs are very specific types of auditors. They are specialists in information technology and are required to evaluate and maintain a business’s IT systems. While this is much different from financial accounting, many of the basic accounting principles adhered to by financial auditors transfer to CISAs.
To become certified, you must have at least five years’ experience in IT and pass the exam.
CISA’s earn around $60,000 annually to start and can make upwards of $125,000 with experience. The BLS states that the growth rate for this position (currently 10%) is expected to increase as technology becomes more and more a part of our permanent business infrastructure.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
CFEs, also known as financial examiners, make sure their company complies with laws governing financial transactions and institutions. Before taking the exam, one must hold a bachelor’s degree or have two years of experience in fraud examination. Some companies keep such examiners on the payroll for their own security and to protect their interests.
Other CFEs may work for consulting firms.
As of 2017, CFE’s make around $81,000 per year. The job demand is increasing at about 10% over the next decade.
As you can see, there are many roads that one can take to work in the accounting field. While some may earn the most respected certification of CPA, others can become certified for positions after a few years of experience.