What’s the Right Accounting Certification for Me?
For someone whoâ s decided to enter the accounting professions the sheer number of options from an educational perspective can be daunting. While the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation remains the most prevalent in the US there are a number of other designations that are growing in popularity. These specialist designations recognize that different types of accountants need different skill sets and specialized training for that skill set is increasingly useful. Below is a discussion of several of the most common accounting certifications.
Certified Public AccountantCPAs make up the largest body of accountants in the US. This accounting certification is awarded at the state level and is known for being difficult to obtain, more so in some states than others. A bit of a catch all designation the CPA covers many different aspects of accounting, including: financial accounting, management accounting, and tax accounting. This certification will also generally lead to the highest salaries as when hiring for some roles companies will only consider CPAs.
Certified Internal AuditorCIAs are a growing body of accountants as a result of the increased internal auditing requirements public companies face as a result of the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Private companies also find use for CIAs as their focus on efficiencies and identifying areas where the company could lose money is a valuable skill set for any employer. Effective internal controls are recognized as a critical factor in growing a successful business where the management team cannot be everywhere at once, and as a result CIAs are finding a greater role in companiesÃƒÂ¢ finance teams.
Enrolled AgentThis designation is actually awarded by the IRS and denotes individuals who have a particular competency in taxation. While CPAs may practice tax, among other things, an Enrolled Agent is a tax specialist with intricate knowledge of the tax code. As companies strive to minimize their tax bill through efficient tax management Enrolled Agents are finding a larger role in both private and public companies.
Certified Government Financial ManagerFor those interested in a career in government finances, be it at the federal, state, or municipal level, this is a critical designation to have. Government accounting is actually very different in some respects from that required by private sector companies. Specialized training in this field is almost a necessity, as someone without it coming from the private sector will require a significant amount of on the job training to get up to speed when working in government finances.
Certified Management AccountantCMAs focus on the internal management accounting that takes place in all companies and emphasizes gathering and interpreting the financial information required to effectively run the company. Meanwhile external financial reporting, in which many CPAs focus, emphasizes providing the most accurate external picture of the company for other parties (i.e. investors, banks, and the IRS). In a sense they are looking at two sides of the same coin, one focused within the company and one focused outside of the company. CMAs often earn on par with CPAs as their skill sets are just as valuable, and even more so when the role is for someone doing internal reporting. Several other noteworthy designations include:
- Certified Fraud Examiner ÃƒÂ¢ " Accountants who focus on identifying and quantifying fraud that takes place in organizations.
- Certified Financial Manager ÃƒÂ¢ " An accounting related certification with a focus on investing and different forms of investment related analysis and work.
- Certified Bank Auditor ÃƒÂ¢ " An accounting certification that can be used by individuals both internal and external to actual banks. Significant knowledge of banking regulations and practices is a prerequisite.