The best certifications for accountants prove that you have the relevant experience, expertise, and understanding of accounting. Accountants’ certifications typically cover core areas of accounting such as financial accounting, forensic accounting, cost accounting, corporate accounting, financial statements, tax returns, and audit procedures.
Accounting certifications prepare you to take on responsible roles in private and public accounting firms, and they can be an excellent alternative to breaking into accounting when you don’t have a college degree but have relevant accounting experience. This article will review some of the best certifications for accountants, including free accountants’ certifications.
What Is an Accounting Certification?
An accounting certification is a credential that validates your skill set and enhances your career as an accounting professional. Determining which certification is best for you can vary depending on your resources, eligibility, specialization, and career path. Each credential focuses on developing specific accounting skills and has a different experience and educational requirement.
How Much Can You Earn With an Accountant Certification?
You can earn an annual wage of $73,560 with an accountant certification. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), 80 percent of accountants and auditors earn around $77,250 per year. Your total compensation depends on various factors, such as the type of certification, your work experience, and the number of hours you work per week.
Why Is an Accountant Certification Important?
An accountant certification is vital because it demonstrates that you are a master of the accounting trade. It increases the confidence of clients and employers in your accounting services, ultimately enhancing your career prospects and earning potential.
It Develops Your Skillset
The path toward achieving an accounting certification develops your technical abilities and skills. It establishes your accounting expertise and authority and is an excellent way to set yourself apart from the crowd.
It Enhances Your Career Prospects
Earning an accounting credential provides you with more opportunities to grow your accounting career as an accounting professional. It validates your credibility with clients and can significantly increase your earning potential with current and future clients and employers.
It Provides the Flexibility to Change Careers
Accountant certifications provide a great alternative to earning a degree in accounting when switching careers from a different field. They also give you the freedom to pursue alternative careers for accountants.
Best Certifications for Accountants at a Glance
|Certified Financial Planner (CFP)||Standard: $825
Early registration: $725
|To earn this credential, you need to first pass the CFP exam and have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college in any field.|
|Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)||Standard: $400For those who have purchased the CFE Exam Prep Course: $300||To earn this credential, you need to pass the CFE exam and have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or equivalent. Two years of fraud-related professional experience are equivalent to one academic year.|
|Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)||Members: $855
|This credential requires that you pass the CIA exam and have either an associate degree with five years of relevant work experience, a bachelor’s degree with two years of relevant work experience, or an MBA or master’s degree with one year of relevant work experience.|
|Certified Management Accountant (CMA)||Student rates:
Entrance fee: $210
Exam fee: $345 per part
Entrance fee: $280
Exam fee: $460 per part
|This credential requires that you pass the CMA part one and part two exams, and have a bachelor’s degree, or professional accounting certification with two years of working experience.|
|Certified Public Accountant (CPA)||Varies by state||To earn this credential, you must pass the CPA exam and have completed 150 semester hours of education in an accounting-related degree.|
|Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA)||Approximately $2,631||To earn this credential, you must pass all the ACCA exams and have APE grades of three or higher in at least three subjects with a high school diploma or higher.|
|Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)||Early registration: $700
Standard registration: $1,000
Late registration: $1,450
|To earn this credential, you will need to pass all CFA exams and have at least a bachelor’s degree, four years of relevant work experience, or a combination of both.|
|Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)||Strategic level: $2,495
Management level: $3,695
Operational level: $4,795An annual fee of $395 is required to maintain this certification.
|This accounting certification requires that you pass all the CGMA exams and have three years of relevant work experience.|
|Enrolled Agent (EA)||$546||To earn this credential, you must pass the EA exam.|
|Financial Services Audit Certificate (FSAC)||$889||To acquire this credential, you must pass the FSAC exam.|
Top Accountant Certifications: A Closer Look
Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
The Certified Financial Planner is a popular certification designed for people interested in pursuing a career in financial planning, wealth management, or investment. It equips students with the skills to excel as accountants, financial planners, financial analysts, investment managers, wealth management managers, and portfolio managers.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
This CFE certification program covers four main fraud examination areas: financial transactions and fraud schemes, law, investigation, and fraud prevention and deterrence. It is helpful for financial professionals interested in pursuing an anti-fraud career opportunity in the public or private sector.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
This professional certification is the only one of its kind for those interested in specializing in internal audits. It demonstrates your proficiency in audit reports, audit procedures, information technology, and risk and control. It also validates your ability to work with external clients and internal staff. As such, the Certified Internal Auditor certification is an excellent option for anyone interested in a career in auditing or becoming a chief audit officer or manager.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
The CMA certification is sponsored by the Institute of Managerial Accountants and is one of the best certifications for accountants. It demonstrates proficiency in internal controlling auditing, forecasting, decision analysis, and cost management. It signifies mastery of critical financial management skills and accounting skills from a generalized, internal, or managerial perspective and is particularly helpful if you want to pursue a career in accounting in a multinational company.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The CPA certification is one of the best certifications for accountants and is often a requirement for most financial accounting jobs and managerial positions. It demonstrates your proficiency in taxes, compliance, risk management, and other leading accounting roles. Becoming a CPA prepares you to work in financial forensics, compliance, taxation, business valuation, management, governmental accounting, and other distinguished positions.
Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA)
The ACCA certification demonstrates ethics, leadership, auditing, taxation, reporting, and financial management expertise. It is renowned for producing high-caliber finance professionals and is highly regarded by employers. One of the benefits of becoming an ACCA member is access to over 80 global accountancy partnerships and a network of more than 7,400 employers.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
A CFA designation offered by the CFA Institute validates your ability and theoretical knowledge regarding investment analysis, professional and ethical standards, economics, and portfolio management. A wide range of investment companies require this certification for asset managers and security analysts. Earning a CFA is a reliable path for senior finance managers, chief financial officers, hedge fund managers, and equity analysts.
Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
This is a globally recognized certification for accounting professionals who work in government and business. It demonstrates your management accounting skills and ability to create a strategy that connects all the business areas. The CGMA is offered by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and AICPA.
Enrolled Agent (EA)
This is a credential awarded by the IRS to professionals such as CPAs to represent taxpayers. Holders of the Enrolled Agent credential advise clients, prepare business and personal taxes and deal with the IRS on matters related to personal and business tax audits. What makes this one of the best certifications for accountants is that it has unlimited practice rights.
Financial Services Audit Certificate (FSAC)
This professional certification is offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors. It demonstrates mastery of 11 areas, including third-party risk, model risk management, market risk, auditing capital adequacy for banks and auditing for credit risk, internal auditing in financial and insurance services, liquidity risk management, and more. The FSAC designation is an excellent path for auditing, risk, and fraud management careers.
Free Accounting Certifications Worth Your Time
- FreshBooks Accounting Certification. FreshBooks offers accounting software for small business owners and freelancers. Nowadays, many business owners prefer to use accounting software instead of spreadsheets to make their lives easier. Learning FreshBooks software allows you to reach more clients and enhances your career growth prospects.
- Alison. Alison offers a variety of free bookkeeping and accounting video training courses to develop your accounting skills, such as videos about accounting software, payroll basics, sales and purchases, and more. This program can be beneficial if you’re just starting your accounting journey. However, the program is not entirely free, and you will need to pay $25 to earn a certificate that validates your mastery in the areas covered.
- OpenLearn. OpenLearn’s free Introduction to Bookkeeping and Accounting program is helpful for learning about the fundamentals of double-entry bookkeeping, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and managerial accounting. You will be able to track your progress, take quizzes, and earn a certificate upon completion of the course.
Are Accountant Certifications Worth It?
Yes, accountant certifications are worth it for anyone who wants to validate their accounting expertise and skills. An accounting certification also develops your skillset, enhances your career prospects, and offers you the flexibility to change careers. Accounting professionals will always be in demand because accountants help business growth and manage financial data and money.
Best Certifications for Accountants FAQ
According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job outlook for accountants is expected to grow seven percent on average between 2020 and 2030, with approximately 135,000 new accounting positions opening up annually.
People with accountant certifications take on various accounting and financial roles, such as accountants, independent auditors, budget analysts, compliance officers, bookkeepers, financial planners, investment analysts, and revenue officers. Earning a popular accounting certification can also help you get a job as a financial advisor for a top company and equip you with the skills needed for top finance positions such as chief financial officer and investment fund manager.
Earning accountants’ certifications may take months or years, depending on the designation and the level of knowledge you have to acquire. For example, you can achieve the Enrolled Agent designation from the IRS with a few months of training. On the other hand, it will take you more than three years to earn some of the most common certifications, such as the CFA and ACCA.
You don’t need a degree in accounting to earn an accounting certification. However, some designations will have a work experience requirement or will need a degree in any field, or a combination of both. Also, if you have an accounting degree, you can access management roles once you gain enough experience in the field.
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