So, you’ve earned your Bachelor’s degree in accounting and you’re ready to take your career plans to the next level. Do you dive into the workforce now, continue to advance your education, or both?

Earning recognized certifications, beginning with designation as a certified public accountant, or CPA, can help you land the job you’ve always wanted and enhance your standing in an increasingly competitive marketplace. When you’re job hunting, hiring managers see the time and effort you’ve invested in earning certifications as a testament to your commitment to succeed in your chosen profession. It can serve to increase your salary requirements, as well as provide greater opportunity for promotion.

CPA and certified management accountant, or CMA, designations are those most widely recognized by the business, finance and accounting industries. Additional options are industry or job-specific certifications.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

If you’re at all serious about advancing your accounting career, earn your CPA. CPAs work in a variety of specializations including auditing, compliance, taxes, forensic accounting, fraud examination, IT systems, risk management and appraisals. They assist companies and clients with:

  • Complying with bylaws and regulations.
  • Supporting aluation and appraisal initiatives.
  • Improving processes.
  • Creating and maintaining reporting mechanisms for management to make critical decisions based on the data supplied.

In addition to a Bachelor’s degree, the requirements for CPA certification includes 150 hours of study in order to pass an examination administered by the American Institution of Certified Public Accountants. The exam has four parts: financial accounting and reporting, auditing and attestation, regulation, and business environments and concepts. Once certified, CPAs must complete at least 40 hours of continuing professional education per year.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

There are some overlaps between CMA and CPA competencies, but CMAs lean toward financial analysis, organizational performance measurement, budgeting, strategic assessment, and ongoing company stewardship. The CMA exam is administered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and includes:

  • Business analysis: global economics, internal controls, quantitative methods and financial statement analysis.
  • Management accounting and reporting: budget preparation, cost management, information management, performance measurement and external financial reporting.
  • Strategic management: planning, marketing, corporate finance, decision analysis and investment decisions.
  • Application: organizational management, organizational communication, behavioral issues and ethical considerations.

To earn CMA certification, you must be a registered IMA member and have a Bachelor’s degree, as well as two years of continuous professional experience. At least 30 hours of CME work is required, annually.

Industry-Specific Certifications

There are numerous niche certifications for job and industry-specific accounting roles. Each has its own individual requirements, but none are as intensive or involved as a CPA or CMA. They include:

  • Certified internal auditor (CIA)
  • Certified fraud examiner (CFE)
  • Certified information systems auditor (CISA)
  • Certified government auditing professional (CGAP)
  • Enrolled agent (AE)

Experts agree that it’s advisable to earn your CPA in order to maximize your overall career opportunities. Then, depending on your industry focus, you might want to augment your credentials with another certification. You also may want to consider a master’s degree in accounting, finance or business administration.

To learn more about accounting career options, consult with a specialized expert from Magellan Search & Staffing. Read our related posts or contact us today.