Earning a certification related to your career can increase your salary potential and enhance your career growth. For accounting professionals, there are many certificates and credentials to explore.
The most common is the Certified Public Accountant credential. Many accountants also pursue the Certified Managerial Accountant credential after obtaining a Bachelor’s in Accounting. But these are just two certificates on a long list of designations that have the possibility of giving accounting professionals a career boost.
Students studying accounting at the University of Alabama at Birmingham might consider working toward one of these six accounting certificates:
Chartered Financial Analyst
Not every accounting professional wants to focus on a career in auditing. Some prefer to work with financial information, like investors or asset managers on Wall Street. Others hope to reach the financial manager or CFO level in their careers.
For these professionals, earning the CFA distinction can help achieve their professional goals.
The CFA exam addresses topics like money management, ethics and economics. There are three exams which must be completed in sequence, test takers can’t move on to the second or third exams without first passing the one before.
Professionals are eligible to sit for the exam after obtaining their Bachelor of Science in Accounting and gaining four years of professional experience. Professionals should also have 20 hours of continued professional education, including two or more hours of standards, regulatory and ethics education.
The CFA designation is globally recognized and is a more popular certification in Europe and China, according to the Accounting Institute for Success. Even still, professionals in the U.S. can benefit from pursuing this distinction. CFAs typically make between $45,000 and $165,000 a year, depending on the position they hold, according to Payscale.
Chartered Global Management Accountant
The CGMA designation is relatively young, first introduced in 2012. It’s offered by both the American Institute of CPAs and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, according to professional staffing solutions company, Robert Half.
As the title suggests, the CGMA is an international distinction that is recognized in countries across the globe. People who earn this certificate often hold jobs like financial controller, chief financial officer or account manager. Depending on the position held, CGMAs may earn anywhere from $62,000 to nearly $300,000 per year, according to Payscale.
Eligibility for the exam depends on which professional organization a person belongs to. CIMA members are automatically qualified to sit for the test, while AICPA members must first complete three years of relevant management accountant work.
Unlike designations such as the CPA, CMA or CFA, the exam for the CGMA only consists of one part. It’s a written exam that requires long-form answers reflecting the test taker’s knowledge of management accounting.
For accountants who want to dive into tax law, the Enrolled Agent designation may be a good certification to pursue.
Enrolled Agents are experts in tax law and can help with tax preparation and filing for individuals, corporations, partnerships or any other entity. They can also represent their clients before the IRS – in fact, they’re the only federally licensed professionals who do, according to the National Association of Enrolled Agents.
Technically, a bachelor’s degree isn’t required for Enrolled Agents, but there are educational requirements set by the IRS. To maintain the enrolled agent status, professionals must complete 72 hours of continuing education every three years, according to the IRS.
The exam is three parts long, covering individual and business tax returns, and it’s issued by the IRS. Former IRS employees can earn this distinction without taking the exam.
The average enrolled agent makes about $48,000 per year, with salaries ranging from $30,000 to $75,000, according to Payscale.
Certified Information Systems Auditor
Accountants who focus on information systems security, control and auditing can gain global recognition in their field by considering the Certified Information Systems Auditor distinction (CISA). This certification, issued by ISACA, shows a proficiency in identifying vulnerabilities, compliance reporting and implementing controls within an organization, according to ISACA.
Professionals are eligible to sit for the exam when they have five years of experience with auditing, control or security work with information systems. Those with two or more years of experience may be eligible to take the exam as well under specific conditions.
For example, 60 or 120 university semester credit hours completed within the past 10 years from an accredited university can substitute for one or two years, respectively, of the five required. This means that graduates from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting would only need three years of relevant experience to be eligible for the exam.
Beyond experience, there are no prerequisites for the certification, Robert Half reported. The exam consists of 150 questions to be completed in four hours.
Once a professional earns the CISA distinction, he or she must maintain it by completing at least 20 hours of continuing professional education and 120 hours within a three-year period.
Professionals with the CISA typically hold jobs like information technology auditor or information security analyst. Depending on the position, people who have earned the CISA certificate make anywhere from $47,000 to $171,000 per year, according to Payscale.
Certified Internal Auditor
Professional internal auditors or people who aim to become audit managers or chief audit officers should consider earning their CIA certificate. This designation is internationally recognized and demonstrates a thorough and detailed knowledge of auditing standards and processes, according to the Institute of Internal Auditors.
There are four paths to being eligible to take the CIA exam:
1. A Bachelor’s degree and two years of relevant experience.
2. A Master’s degree and one year of relevant experience.
3. Two years of post-secondary education and five years of relevant experience.
4. Seven years of relevant experience.
The exam consists of three parts: internal audit basics, internal audit practice and internal audit knowledge elements. The total exam time is 6.5 hours, according to Robert Half.
Salaries for people with the CIA distinction range from about $42,000 to $164,000 per year, according to Payscale.
Begin your accounting career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham
Students in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting program learn valuable information about what sorts of certifications are available to them upon graduation. Students will also learn skills related to auditing, tax law, analysis and finance, which are invaluable to accountants.
Once a student has determined what sort of career path he or she would like to pursue, that person can gain a clear idea of which certifications would help them most. The five certifications covered in this article are very different from one another but offer the opportunity for career growth and salary increases.
To learn more about the world of accounting, speak with an advisor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham today.