Demand for well-educated, highly skilled finance and accounting professionals has risen in recent years. Often, those who are best positioned to find employment have chosen to obtain a professional designation, which provides them with a distinct advantage.
Individuals who possess a certification also often can command larger compensation packages. According to the Salary Guide from Robert Half, professionals with an industry-recognized credential, such as the certified public accountant (CPA) designation, can earn up to an additional 5 to 10 percent in base pay.
Certifications demonstrate expertise in specialized accounting arenas and provide assurance to employers that a potential hire has the requisite skills to perform the duties of a particular position. Deeper knowledge in niche areas such as tax, credit or information technology gives professionals a career advantage.
The most popular certification for accounting professionals – and most sought after by employers – in the United States is the CPA. A CPA license demonstrates solid accounting skills and knowledge. The exam is rigorous, and a majority of candidates need to make more than one attempt to pass all parts of it. Once the license is obtained, CPAs must complete a number of hours of continuing professional education to keep their license renewed.
Corporations also seek individuals with strategic abilities. Professionals with a designation such as the Institute of Management Accountants’ certified management accountant (CMA) or the chartered global management accountant (CGMA) from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants demonstrate strong analytical skills and management accounting expertise.
Greater regulatory pressure on corporate governance has trained a spotlight on internal auditors. The certified internal auditor (CIA) certification, administered by The Institute of Internal Auditors, demonstrates knowledge of auditing standards and practices, as well as the ability to identify and control risks.
An increasingly risk-averse pool of business managers are putting emphasis on the certified fraud examiner (CFE) accreditation, offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Holders of this credential have proven expertise in preventing, detecting and deterring fraud. Heightened public scrutiny of corporate ethics, which is stirring businesses to bolster confidence in their integrity, has raised the importance of this designation.
One common thread connecting finance professionals in all specialties is the importance of technology. Information systems form the pipeline of data feeding the financial reporting process. Further, businesses continually upgrade their systems to make their reporting processes more efficient. Accountants proficient with technology such as enterprise resource planning systems are in great demand. A certified information systems auditor (CISA)credential, awarded by ISACA, indicates expertise in information systems auditing, control and security.
Financial professionals looking for a competitive edge in the employment market or wanting to make themselves more valuable to their current employers would do well to consider adding one or more industry-recognized certifications to their qualifications.