Best Types of Accounting Certifications that Employers Look For

What Popular Accounting Certifications Do Employers Want?

Technical, skill-based, and management certifications offer a variety of rewards to the individual who completes such courses successfully. The primary reason to complete accounting certifications is to verify to current and potential employers that one does, in fact, possess the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill position requirements. This is one way employers can ascertain whether or not an individual is qualified for a position without having to ask for a demonstration of previous work.

Another advantage of certifications is related to one’s long-term earning potential. People who complete certifications are considered to have greater specializations, skills, and more advanced industry know-how by employers. This results in higher pay and better career opportunities. These certifications also show employers that an employee cares about their career and the quality of their work. Many people will also receive promotions as a direct result of accounting certifications.

How Many Accounting Certifications are Available?

The exact number of accounting certifications changes from one year to the next due to technology advances, changes in standard accounting practices, and updates in laws and regulations. Overall, there are more than a dozen available for individuals at all levels of their careers. It’s important to note that, while most accounting degrees require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to qualify for admittance, it is possible to complete some certifications with as little as a few accounting courses completed with satisfactory marks.

Accounting certifications are also available in different sectors and for unique career goals throughout the course of one’s career. You could complete certifications to learn a specific niche area, such as accounting in healthcare, or to complete a skill-based certification, such as accounting software. And keep in mind that employers will often cover the cost of a certification program in part or in full if they are interested in making use of your new skill set. They also often help with recertification expenses as well as long as one is a current employee.

Top Accounting Certifications to Earn

Certified Bookkeeper (CB)

What Does it Take to Earn a CB Certification?

A bookkeeper certification centers around basic financial and accounting practices. A person does not require an extensive accounting background to complete such certification as it is one of the least advanced accounting certificate programs available. It’s possible to sit for the examination with as little as an associate degree. A participant can also participate in education alternative courses if they do not yet have a two-year degree in order to become a bookkeeper.

All aspiring and existing accounting professionals will require at least one year of work experience as a bookkeeper to enroll. The cost of this certification is $150 for each section of the exam for individuals who are not members of the NACPB. People who join the organization can expect to save $50 on each section.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Bookkeeper
    A bookkeeper spends most days processing financial transactions and recording the details of such transactions within a dedicated software program. These individuals often generate income statements, invoices, reports, and balance sheets. It’s also necessary to be able to work with accountants and work in time-sensitive environments and bookkeepers require a keen ability to pay attention to details.
  • Accounting Assistant
    An accounting assistant is considered an entry-level position in the accounting field. The roles and responsibilities will vary by employer and education level. In many instances, these individuals will manage simple accounting tasks, including the preparation of financial records, office administrative duties, creating purchase orders and credit memos, process receipts, monitoring outstanding balances, and more.
  • Accountant vs. Bookkeeper

Job Outlook and Salary

The job outlook for bookkeeping professions is less-than-desirable with a projected 6% decline by 2029. Technology enhancements are reducing the need for entry-level financial professionals on a large scale as tasks become automated. As a result, software can perform bookkeeping responsibilities more efficiently and require fewer people to complete tasks. It’s expected that the role of a bookkeeper will change to become more advisory and analytical over time. People can expect to make around $41,000 each year in this type of position.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

What Does it Take to Earn a CIA Certification?

To become an auditing accountant, an individual must meet one of three requirements including earning at least a bachelor’s degree, a designation of an active internal audit practitioner, or a minimum of five years of experience in internal auditing. Another essential component to being able to enroll in a CIA certification program is to submit character references that demonstrate superior professional and moral character from professionals who are a part of reputable sources, such as members of the CIA, CCSA, CRMA, CGAP, CFSA, QIAL, or others.

Program participants will have to complete a three-part exam successfully to earn the CIA status. This designation of distinction is recognized on a global scale throughout all industry and business types.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Junior Auditor
    Junior auditors are entry-level positions. These novice auditors work to complete financial data testing in a variety of capacities. It’s important in these positions to have exceptional interpersonal skills as one will be required to work with other accounting professionals at various levels as well as the financial directors and employees of clients.
  • Senior Auditor
    A senior auditor is essential to the overall auditing process, including financial data analyses, efficiency implementations, accuracy verifications, fraud detections, and more. It will also be essential to follow all pertinent standards and laws. These roles are senior-level positions with some leadership responsibilities; however, they are not quite management. They are also responsible for the planning and developing of audits and the preparation of monthly and annual reports.

Job Outlook and Salary

CIA positions are expected to thrive while other accounting careers decline over the next decade. The legislation for corporate taxes, financial reporting, mergers, and acquisitions has changed significantly. As such, it is necessary for more and more businesses, government agencies, and organizations to hire certified internal auditors. These certified professionals can expect to earn between $52,000 and $165,000 a year based on their work experience and years working with this certification.

Enrolled Agent (EA)

What Does it Take to Earn an EA Certification?

At this point, a formal college or university degree is not required to apply to an enrolled agent certification program. In fact, many people use this classification in place of a degree. Keep in mind that despite the certification not requiring these qualifications, employers still often require an accounting bachelor’s degree even if you have certifications. Individuals will be required to complete an exam that is broken down into several sections. If a person does not pass specific parts of the exam, they can retake just the failed portions rather than to have to retake the entire examination.

Program participants will have to wait at least 24 hours before being able to retake said portions. Each part costs $182 to take and these fees are not refundable or transferable. And keep in mind that 72 hours of continuing education is necessary every three years to maintain the enrolled agent status.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Tax Support Analyst
    A tax support analyst works almost exclusively with affluent individuals and companies to assist with the process of filing tax returns. The primary focus of these tax professionals is to ensure that clients remain in compliance with laws and regulations at all governing levels. They may also collect tax data, review returns, perform research, and maintain records.
  • Tax Manager
    A tax manager oversees the work of all accounting staff, remains up-to-date regarding compliance laws and regulations, and files state and federal taxes on behalf of companies and individuals. They may work in-house for a company or the government, an accounting firm, as a consultant, or own their own tax accountant business.

Job Outlook and Salary

The number of jobs for enrolled agents is expected to decrease by 4% by the end of the decade. This decrease is largely due to the increase of implemented automation in the tax process. While jobs are going to be lost, it is possible that a shift will take place with the growth of positions in government departments, software companies, and the area of consultancy and there will always be openings when someone retires or moves up in their career. Most accounting professionals with an enrolled agent certification will make between $42,000 and $60,000 a year.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

What Does it Take to Earn a CFP Certification?

A certified financial planner program requires at least a bachelor’s degree from a reputable, accredited college or university. These professionals will also have to complete specific courses approved by the CFP board. When someone meets these two requirements, they are then capable of sitting for the exam.

While passing the exam is essential to accomplish financial planning certification status, all CFPs are required to follow a highly advanced and strict standard of ethics. Certification program participants have to pay $725, $825, or $925 depending upon when an applicant pays the registration fee. Keep in mind that some employers will reimburse said fees and that the CFP title leads to better pay.

What Job Can I Get with this?


    • Certified Financial Planner
      The roles and responsibilities of CFPs are based on the specific needs of the client or the employer. Many certified financial planners will specialize in tax law and regulation, retirement planning, investment, and insurance. They may develop financial goals that result in a full financial plan. These professionals are also financial advisors for retirees and small businesses alike.

    • Financial Planning and Analysis Manager
      Financial planning and analysis managers review, oversee, and approve all departmental financial activities including budgets, data trend analyses, forecasting, and company disbursements. These individuals must be able to quickly and effectively evaluate the health of a financial situation, as well as create strategic solutions in a timely manner. They may even establish or update financial policies and procedures.

Job Outlook and Salary

Certified financial planners are expected to grow by up to 4% by 2029. This is a significant slow in growth from the previous decade. Much like most financial and accounting careers, automation is directly reducing the need for human employment in the financial sectors. The growth that does exist is expected to come in the form of individual financial planning as fewer states and corporations offer pension funds. At the mid-career mark, one can expect to earn roughly $80,000 a year.

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)

What Does it Take to Earn a CGMA Certification?

Chartered global management accountant certification will help to advance a number of accounting career pathways. To apply, individuals must be an AICPA or CIMA members in good standing with at least three years of management accounting experience. Most people will have a bachelor’s degree or higher. And all participants will also have to complete the exam successfully.

This is an accounting designation that is recognized worldwide. The designation is included as part of the CIMA membership. However, AICPA members must pay $325 to take the exam. They are offered at four different times throughout the year. All chartered global management accountants can work for governments, companies, and organizations of all sorts.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Accounting Operations Manager
    An accounting operations manager often oversees the customer service team in a variety of areas such as collection, cashier, billing, and finance-related activities. They will provide leadership for additional teams such as accounts payable and receivable, expenses, and travel. One may have to assist with financial audits, inventory reconciliations, banking transactions, and much more.
  • Accountant Executives
    An accountant executive is essentially a controller who manages accounting records. This position also requires management of employee activities and the overall accounting process including compliance, inventory, payroll, and more. They will also coordinate, plan, and direct operational accounting functions. These individuals also create and consolidate data collection policies and procedures.

Job Outlook and Salary

Accounting management and executive positions are expected to grow between five and six percent by the end of 2024. Individuals who have advanced degrees, certifications, and relevant work experience will be more likely to remain employable within the profession. All careers will be required to keep up the ever-changing business practices due to the advances in technology and the changing regulations in accounting and tax codes. The annual median pay is around $68,000 for such professionals.

Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA)

What Does it Take to Earn a FMVA Certification?

Financial modeling and valuation analyst certification programs require at least a bachelor’s degree with specific majors such as accounting, economics, finance, mathematics, or statistics. If a company is sponsoring the certification, they may require an individual to have a minimum of three years of relevant experience. This type of experience will also make the path to a successful completion easier.

Program participants will have to complete 12 required courses with a passing assessment. Prep courses are also available to enhance the skills and education necessary to complete the programs with positive results. Specialized electives are also available. These courses are now available entirely online. The cost is $497 for anyone who wishes to participate.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Corporate Financial Analyst
    Corporate financial analysts aim to move forward the overall financial goals of an organization. This is accomplished through various financial practices including budget analysis, financial data collecting, and income statement forecasting. These individuals work at corporations and help manage accounting, liquidity, cash management, financial planning, and more. It’s essential to manage both the current and projected financial health of an organization.
  • Investment Banker
    Investment bankers work to raise money for their clients in capital markets. This is done by selling equity or issuing debt. These financial professionals also assist clients in derivatives, mergers and acquisitions and additional investment opportunities. They offer advice to numerous client types, from governments and individuals to companies and institutions.

Job Outlook and Salary

Financial modeling and valuation analyst careers are likely to increase by an average of 6% by the end of 2028. These positions will remain stable until new advances occur in financial automation. It’s best to continue one’s education to secure continued employment opportunities and establish a competitive advantage in the industry. These professionals can expect to make between $60,000 and $85,000 a year.

Financial Risk Manager (FRM)

What Does it Take to Earn a FRM Certification?

Financial risk management certifications do not have any educational prerequisites. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy since the first part of the exam is said to require almost 300 hours of studying. Part II typically requires another 250 hours of study. And the pass rate for both averages is around 50%. Certificate participants will also require that at least two years of relevant managerial work experience.

It’s also recommended that individuals complete another 40 hours of continued education every two years. This is voluntary. The certification exams can cost up to a total of $1,500 to become a financial risk manager. There is a steep enrollment fee along with individual costs associated with each part of the exam. Remember that some employers will reimburse employees for these types of financial certifications.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Financial Risk Manager
    A financial risk manager is responsible for establishing the security and financial risks of an organization. They also must determine the ideal solutions to minimize such risks and to optimize the benefits. It’s also essential to make recommendations for implementing company-wide policies and procedures. These individuals must have exceptional problem-solving and planning skills.
  • Financial Risk Consultant
    As a financial risk consultant, individuals will assess the financial state of a client and make decisions based on the outcome of the analysis. These financial professionals must excel in mathematics, business, finance, and statistics to be successful in this career type. Risk assessment and compliance are also critical components of this position.

Job Outlook and Salary

The job outlook for financial risk managers is one of the best for all financial-related fields with an expected job growth rate of 16% by 2028. This growth will stem from the growing need for financial risk assessment as regulations continue to shift and individuals become more hands-on with the state of their financial future. These positions will remain in demand as long as the economy grows. However, it’s best to have a specialty within the sector as well as certification or a master’s degree, to secure greater long-term opportunities. The average salary is nearly $128,000 a year.

Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

What Does it Take to Earn a CFE Certification?

A certified fraud examiner program does require at least a bachelor’s degree from a higher learning institution or equivalent work experience. The work experience does have to be in fraud; however, the bachelor’s degree field of study can be nearly anything.

To sit for the exam, individuals must be a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. The exam consists of four primary areas of focus including law, fraud prevention and deterrence, investigation and financial transactions, and fraud schemes. The application fee is $400. Anyone who purchases the prep courses will receive a $100 discount on the application fee.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Certified Fraud Examiner
    Certified fraud examiners gather and analyze evidence in great detail in an effort to discover fraudulent activity. These individuals often examine specific entities including corporations, banks, retail, and insurance. It’s essential to compile additional evidence in the form of statements and reports. They may also have to testify in a legal capacity in regard to fraud allegations.
  • Forensic Accountant
    Forensic accountants investigate financial activities in both the private and public sectors. They will be responsible for auditing financial records and bookkeeping in search of evidence relating to financial crimes, such as fraud. These accounting professionals must have superior skills in attention to detail and analysis to identify inaccuracies and discrepancies.

Job Outlook and Salary

The job outlook for certified fraud examiners is expected to decrease by around 6% by 2029. These positions are becoming less in demand due to improvements in the automation of financial and accounting software for business transactions. As more people adopt financial automation, fewer errors are made, rendering these types of positions less vital. A professional CFE can expect to make almost $67,000 a year.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

What Does it Take to Earn a CMA Certification?

Certified management accountant programs typically take between one and two years to complete in full. Program participants must have at least a bachelor’s degree as well as two continuous years of work experience in management accounting or financial management.

The exam takes a total of eight hours to complete. It has two different levels and it’s important to note that there’s a large percentage of overlap on the exam between the CPA and CMA certifications. The exam costs between $600 and $1,000. This figure varies from source to source. Also, keep in mind that the annual renewal fee is an additional $30 each year.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Certified Management Accountant
    A certified management accountant can work for a variety of organizations such as government agencies, private businesses, and public corporations. The roles and responsibilities of each CMA will vary by employer, however, many duties will be similar. Such tasks might include risk management, strategy, making decisions, managing investments, budgeting, and planning. It will also be essential to gather, analyze, and present findings.
  • Accounting Manager
    An accounting manager oversees the work of junior accountants to search for discrepancies and errors. This occurs through the collection, analysis, verification, and report process. These accountants also manage the daily operations of the entire accounting department. It will also be important to develop and implement standards and policies for all accounting personnel.

Job Outlook and Salary

Certified management accountants have a projected growth rate of around 4% by 2029. The possible reason for this growth includes a growing need to manage the data entry of junior accountants and search for discrepancies once entered into the system. Highly trained accountants within a business can quickly determine when figures look right or wrong. They are invaluable during an internal audit as a way to prevent the need for fraud investigations. These financial professionals can also assist with global mergers and acquisitions. One can expect to earn just over $100,000 a year as a CMA.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Certifications

What Does it Take to Earn a CPA Certification?

CPA certification has higher educational requirements than most, with a minimum education of a bachelor’s degree and an total of 150 hours of education required, which is about 30 credits more than usually comprises a bachelor’s degree. While many people choose to complete a master’s degree, the additional education can be in the form of any higher learning program, including other accounting certifications that only require a bachelor’s degree or less.

It may also be a requirement to complete some relevant experience prior to being allowed to sit for the exam. This will vary by state. The exam and the cost are broken down into four sections. Each state determines the cost of the exam. Most states charge between $50 and $200 for each section. However, the prep courses are far more expensive at a fee of between $1,000 and $3,000. The exam typically takes a year to complete.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • CPA
    A CPA typically works for corporations, accounting firms, or is self-employed with clients, which may include individuals or small businesses. The roles and responsibilities of CPAs depend on the employer or clients. Most CPAs will prepare and plan financial statements, tax forms, financial records, and perform audits. They will also establish efficiency through process and system procedure upgrades.
  • Accounting Entrepreneur
    Accounting entrepreneurs are often CPAs. These accounting professionals can work in any accounting sector, from fraud to tax policy. Many of these individuals will work as consultants for other entrepreneurs and businesses in an advisory capacity. It’s even possible to be hired by government accounting agencies on a short-term contract basis during busy times of the year.

Job Outlook and Salary

The CPA job outlook is positive, with an anticipated growth of 6% by 2029. This growth is expected due to greater competition in accounting professions with employers demanding higher-level certification and analysis abilities as automation takes over the industry. There will also be growth due to more accounting professionals choosing to be self-employed, which often requires a CPA license to be successful. A CPA can expect to make roughly $70,000 a year.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

What Does it Take to Earn a CFA Certification?

A chartered financial analyst requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience of four years. Individuals who have ambitions of becoming a financial or accounting executive should complete this CFA certification. The exam has three levels. It’s necessary to complete one level before being permitted to move on to the next. In total, it will require 18 hours to complete the exam.

The cost of a chartered financial analyst exam is $1,000 to register. There’s also a $450 enrollment fee. At the moment, there is a $25 fee to change the date of the exam. This could increase to $250 after February, 2021.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Chartered Financial Analyst
    A chartered financial analyst is responsible for collecting data, performing analyses, and evaluating risks and returns on various investments. They will also write reports and create financial forecasts and models by using historical data, business and economic trends, and financial statements. These individuals must also be excellent communicators and be able to work with executives.
  • Portfolio Manager
    A portfolio manager is also referred to as an asset manager, wealth manager, and investment manager. These financial professionals have the job to create and manage investment allocations. Additional roles include the determination of appropriate risk levels based on market conditions, expectations on returns, risk preferences, the timeframe, and more.

Job Outlook and Salary

The outlook for a financial analyst career is expected to increase 5% by 2029. These analysts will be increasingly important to review various regional financial activities and trends. Economic growth in emerging markets that offer new opportunities in investment is another reason there is expected to be growth in the field. These professionals will also increase in demand as big data that requires analysis continues to develop along with technological advancements. Financial analysts earn over $80,000 on average.

Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)

What Does it Take to Earn a CGFM Certification?

A certified government financial manager certification requires at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited higher learning institution recognized by the US Department of Education. It’s beneficial to have a degree in a finance or accounting-related field. The exam prepares participants on ethics and specialized skills needed to work as a CGFM.

Each of the three exams costs $125, and they must be taken either online as a proctored exam or at an approved testing center. There are also additional costs associated with registration and preparation. Upon completion, you can work for non-profits, private businesses, public schools, law enforcement, the military, the federal government, and more.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Certified Government Financial Manager
    A certified government financial manager is a specialized accountant or financial specialist in various areas such as financial reporting, auditing, and others. Data analysis and financial health tracking are also key responsibilities as well as creating financial plans, strategies, and reports. These jobs are specifically available within government agencies of any sort.
  • Payroll Supervisor
    A payroll supervisor has a primary objective of human resources payroll in a wide array of capacities including monitoring, coaching, training, assigning, scheduling, appraising, and much more regarding policies and procedures. These individuals prepare detailed reports on commissions, bonuses, employee pay, compensation leave, disability, and more. Individuals in this role will be required to have a strong comprehension of financial and accounting ethics.

Job Outlook and Salary

Jobs within the certified government financial manager arena have a solid outlook with a 16% growth projection rate. The rise in these positions comes from the growing demand for such certifications by agency employers. One can expect a salary between $56,000 and $170,000. Your salary will depend greatly on the years of experience and the agency for which one works.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

What Does it Take to Earn a CISA Certification?

To register for a certified information systems auditor certification, participants will require five years of relevant work experience in either security, control, or information systems auditing. You can register with just two years if the applicant has alternative qualifications such as a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or previous higher education.

The exam is four hours long and costs $450 for ISACA members and $650 for individuals who are not members. CISA certificate holders are required to abide by a strict code of professional ethics. And every three years, CISAs will have to finish a number of hours of continuing education. Many employers will reimburse team members who pass successfully.

What Job Can I Get with this?

  • Junior IT Auditor
    A junior IT auditor has the responsibility of audit planning, testing, internal control evaluating, and working in the field. These individuals may prepare reports, compose memos, check financial records, and follow compliance.
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor
    Certified information systems auditors perform evaluations in detail with indirect supervision. These accounting professionals create and manage audit software and work with individuals throughout the organization regarding operational issues. Responsibilities will also include standards development, programming controls, communication enhancements, recovery processes, and more.
  • Chief Audit Executive
    A chief audit executive is the senior member of the financial auditing team who oversees the entirety of internal auditing functions. They will also provide management of financial governance, ethics, and business integrity of the unit. It will also be imperative that these individuals assist with the establishment of efficient operations, compliance practices, risk assessment, and many other daily activities.

Job Outlook and Salary

The job outlook for information systems auditors is projected to grow up to 6% by 2028. These positions are increasingly in demand as finance and accounting become more and more automated and the systems being created must be managed and audited. It’s essential to have individuals with experience in both IT and accounting to ensure systems and software are operating correctly and in compliance with laws and regulations. Information systems auditors can expect to earn between $46,000 as an entry-level employee up to $175,000 in senior roles.

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