Accounting Certifications at a Glance

Accounting Certifications

Accountants enjoy a strong salary and job outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for accountants and auditors is $68,150, and employment is expected to grow 10 percent by 2026. Both figures are higher than the average for all occupations ($37,040 and 7 percent).

In an effort to develop skills and improve employment opportunities, accountants can consider one of many certifications. The BLS notes how many accountants choose to become a certified public accountant (CPA) to improve job prospects or to gain clients.

The following section explores some common accounting certifications.

Accounting Certifications: A List of Titles

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): This is the most noteworthy accounting certification in the profession. If you are committed to advancing your accounting career, then you should earn your CPA certification, according to an article in Investopedia. “This designation has such a high level of credibility that hiring managers and prospective clients tend to question a candidate’s background and level of accounting competency if he or she is not a CPA.” CPAs work in a number of specializations, including audit, compliance, tax, forensic accounting, fraud, risk management, IT and appraisals. Education and experience requirements vary by state. A four-part exam is also required.


  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): CFAs complete a program that involves several topics including financial analysis, investment management, stocks, bonds and derivatives, in addition to general knowledge in various areas of finance. They must follow a rigorous course of study and pass three exams before obtaining the CFA charter. Common professions for CFA holders include portfolio manager (23 percent), research analyst (16 percent) and consultant (7 percent). The CFA charter is ideal for those who have a passion for investing and can apply the credential to the specific industries and business sectors where it is relevant. The program is comparable in length to an MBA program, which normally requires four semesters.


  • Certified Bank Auditor (CBA): CBAs have demonstrated mastery of three disciplines: basic financial accounting, business credit principles and introductory financial statement analysis. This is an academic-based designation — there is no work experienced required. Coursework needed to qualify can be obtained through self-study, colleges, locally affiliated or nationally sponsored programs. Candidates must also pass a three-hour examination that is offered nationwide three times per year.


  • Certified Bookkeeper (CB): Candidates for this certification must have at least two years of bookkeeping experience and sign a code of ethics to sit for the exam. They must also pass a four-part national exam; two parts are given at any Prometric test center. Exam topics include adjusting entries, error correction, payroll, depreciation, merchandise inventory, as well as internal controls and fraud prevention.


  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE): CFEs are an international group of anti-fraud professionals. CFEs are specialists at fraud prevention, detection and deterrence. Professionals wanting to pursue this credential must join the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and pass the CFE exam, which covers four parts: financial transactions, legal elements of fraud, fraud investigation, and criminology and ethics.


  • Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP): This certification is designed for audit professionals in the public sector at all levels: federal/national, state/principal, local, quasi-governmental or crown authority. Candidates need to have two years of auditing experience in a government environment, submit a character reference and meet educational requirements. They also must pass a certification exam that tests candidates’ knowledge of public sector accounting, which includes features unique to the public sector, such as fund accounting, grants, legislative oversight and confidentiality rights.


  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA): This certification from the Institute of Internal Auditors is the only internationally accepted designation for internal auditors, according to Robert Half. It is offered in 17 languages and in more than 95 countries. CIAs must past a four-part test in addition to meeting eligibility requirements for education, character and work experience.


  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): The CISA credential signifies proficiency in information systems auditing, control and security. Professionals with these skills are in growing demand, according to Robert Half, making this a preferred certification for individuals and corporations around the world. The certification reflects professionals’ audit experience, skills and knowledge, demonstrating the ability to assess vulnerabilities and report on compliance and institute controls.


  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA): There is some overlap between the competencies of a CPA and a CMA, but CMAs are geared toward compliance and accounting for transactions, tax and controls. They are strong in areas such as financial analysis, organizational performance measurement, budgeting, strategic assessment and ongoing stewardship of the company. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree, two years of professional experiencing and passing an exam.


  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP): This mastery-level payroll certification is from the American Payroll Association (APA). There are three pathways to qualify for the CPP exam, which involve work experience and the option to lower this requirement with completing courses offered by the APA. The exam tests for proficiency in all areas of payroll, including payroll management, payroll administration, compliance, payroll processes and systems, accounting and principles of paycheck calculation.


  • Enrolled Agent (EA): Becoming an EA enables professionals to gain a powerful tax certification. The designation is purely focused on U.S. taxation at all levels, including individuals and corporations. EAs are authorized to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the IRS for audits, collections and appeals, making this a desirable certification for professionals who prepare taxes or perform internal tax work for a company.

Pursuing a Career in Accounting

Develop the knowledge and skills you need for a successful career in accounting with Brescia University’s online Bachelor of Science in Accounting. This top-ranked program features affordable, flexible courses that can accommodate your work and personal schedule.

Accounting is a lucrative, in-demand career. The median annual wage for accountants and auditors is $68,150, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and employment is expected to grow 10 percent by 2026. Professional certifications and endorsements can add to employment prospects.

Pursue your career goals at Brescia University — named one of the best online colleges for 2017 by