Top 10 Accounting & Finance Certifications

This article provides an overview of the top certifications in accounting and finance, including information on their content, cost, and potential career benefits.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 17 min read

Certifications are important for accounting and finance professionals in the job market because they demonstrate a level of expertise and proficiency in their field. Certifications provide employers with assurance that the individual has the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their job duties. Additionally, certifications can help individuals to stand out from other applicants, as they show a commitment to professional development and continuing education. Certifications also provide an opportunity for individuals to increase their earning potential, as having certifications often positions them as more competitive candidates for higher-paying positions.

This article reviews some of the top certifications for Accounting & Finances and explains how they can help professionals advance their careers in the field.

What are Accounting & Finance Certifications?

Accounting and finance certification is a way of demonstrating knowledge, skill, and experience in the fields of accounting and finance. It is often used by employers to confirm that an individual has a certain level of expertise in the areas of financial management, budgeting, and tax compliance. Certification can be obtained from professional associations such as the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), or Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

Having accounting and finance certification can help individuals demonstrate their qualifications for specific jobs or promotions within a company. It may also provide them with additional credibility when dealing with customers or clients. Furthermore, having certification can open up opportunities for career advancement, as it shows employers that an individual is committed to professional growth and development. Additionally, having certification may make an individual more attractive to potential employers since it indicates a higher level of expertise than someone without any credentials. Finally, obtaining certification can provide an individual with access to specialized resources such as networking opportunities, continuing education courses, and job postings.

Pro Tip: When considering an accounting & finance certification, be sure to research the credentials of the certifying body. The certifying body should have a good reputation and be recognized by professional organizations in the field. Additionally, make sure that you understand the requirements for obtaining the certification and that it is relevant to your career goals.

Related: What does an Accounting & Finance do?

Top 10 Accounting & Finance Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Accounting & Finances today.

1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a professional designation given to accountants who have met the educational, experience and examination requirements set by the state board of accountancy in which they practice. CPAs are licensed by their respective state boards of accountancy and must adhere to a code of professional conduct and ethics.

It typically takes four years to become a CPA. To qualify for the CPA Exam, candidates must meet certain educational requirements, including having at least 150 semester hours of college education, with a concentration in accounting. Additionally, most states require that candidates have one year of work experience in public accounting or two years of work experience in industry or government accounting.

To become certified as a CPA, you must pass the Uniform CPA Examination administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The exam consists of four sections: Auditing & Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment & Concepts (BEC). Each section is four hours long and includes multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations.

The cost to take the CPA Exam varies depending on your state board's fees. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $100-$1,000+ to take all four sections of the exam. Additionally, many states require that you pay an application fee when applying for licensure as a CPA.

2. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a professional designation given by the CFA Institute, a global association of investment professionals. It is one of the most prestigious and respected credentials in the finance and investment industry. The CFA program provides a comprehensive education in investments, portfolio management, financial analysis, and other related topics.

It typically takes about three years to complete all three levels of the CFA program. Each level requires approximately 300 hours of study time and consists of two exams: a six-hour exam covering ethics and professional standards, and an eight-hour exam covering investment analysis and portfolio management.

In order to become a CFA charterholder, you must meet certain eligibility requirements such as having four years of professional experience in finance or investment management or passing all three levels of the CFA exam within four years. You must also pass an ethics examination administered by the CFA Institute.

The cost for taking all three levels of the CFA program can range from $3,000 to $5,000 depending on the testing center you choose and any additional materials you may need to purchase.

3. Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a professional certification offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). It is designed to measure the knowledge and skills of individuals in financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics. The CMA credential is recognized globally as a mark of excellence in management accounting and financial management.

In order to become certified as a CMA, an individual must meet certain requirements including completing all parts of the CMA exam within three years and meeting certain educational and/or experience requirements. The CMA exam consists of two parts: Part 1: Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control; Part 2: Strategic Financial Management. Each part is four hours long and includes multiple-choice questions as well as essay questions.

The cost for taking the CMA exam varies depending on where you take it. Generally speaking, it costs around $1,000-$2,000 to take both parts of the exam. Additionally, there are study materials available from IMA that can range from $200-$500 depending on which type you purchase.

Overall, becoming a Certified Management Accountant takes dedication and hard work but can be very rewarding in terms of career opportunities and increased earning potential.

4. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is a professional certification granted by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). It is a globally recognized designation that demonstrates expertise in the field of internal auditing. The CIA certification is designed to recognize individuals who have achieved a high level of competency in the principles and practices of internal auditing.

It typically takes two to three years to complete all four parts of the CIA exam. To become certified, individuals must pass all four parts within five years. The exams are offered twice a year in June and December, and each part must be passed within one year from the date it was taken.

To get certified, you must first apply for membership with IIA and pay an application fee. Once accepted, you can register for the CIA exam and pay an additional examination fee. You will then need to study for and pass all four parts of the exam within five years.

The cost for becoming a Certified Internal Auditor varies depending on your location and other factors such as whether you are taking individual or group courses or self-studying. Generally speaking, it could cost anywhere from $1,000 - $3,000 USD to become certified. This includes application fees, examination fees, course fees, and study materials costs.

5. Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) is an accounting designation awarded by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and CIMA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. It is a professional designation that recognizes individuals who have achieved a high level of competence in management accounting and financial management.

To become a CGMA, you must first meet the eligibility requirements set forth by the AICPA and CIMA. This includes having a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field and at least two years of experience in finance or accounting. You must also pass an exam administered by either organization to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in management accounting and financial management.

The process to become a CGMA typically takes between 6-12 months depending on how quickly you complete all the necessary steps. After meeting the eligibility requirements, you must register with either organization, pay the registration fee, and then take their exam. The cost for registration varies depending on whether you are registering with AICPA or CIMA, but typically ranges from $400-$600 USD.

Once you have passed the exam, you will be eligible to receive your CGMA designation. You will also receive access to exclusive resources such as online courses, webinars, networking events, and job postings specifically for CGMAs.

6. Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a professional designation given by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. to those who have met certain educational and experience requirements and have passed a rigorous examination. The CFP designation is widely recognized as the most prestigious and respected credential in the financial planning profession.

To become a CFP, an individual must complete three steps: education, examination, and experience.

Education: To be eligible to sit for the CFP exam, an individual must complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university plus coursework that meets the CFP Board’s standards. This includes topics such as financial planning, insurance planning, investment planning, income tax planning, retirement planning, estate planning and risk management.

Examination: After completing the required coursework, individuals must pass the CFP Certification Examination administered by Prometric Testing Centers. The exam consists of two parts: a multiple-choice section and an essay section. The multiple-choice section covers topics such as investments, taxes, insurance, retirement planning and estate planning. The essay section requires candidates to write essays on various financial topics related to their practice areas.

Experience: To receive their official certification from the CFP Board of Standards Inc., individuals must also have at least three years of full-time financial planning experience or equivalent part-time experience within five years prior to applying for certification.

How Long Does It Take To Get It? Depending on how quickly you can complete your educational requirements and pass your exams it can take anywhere from two months to two years or more to get your CFP certification.

How Much Does It Cost? The cost of becoming certified depends on what type of program you choose and how long it takes you to complete it but typically ranges between $2,000-$5,000 USD depending on which programs you choose.

7. Financial Risk Manager (FRM)

Financial Risk Manager (FRM) is an internationally recognized professional designation given by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP). It is designed to measure the comprehensive knowledge and skills required for a successful career in financial risk management. The FRM certification is highly valued by employers, as it demonstrates that an individual has the necessary skills to identify, assess, and manage financial risks in any organization.

The FRM certification requires two exams—Part I and Part II—which must both be passed within two years of each other. Both exams are offered twice per year, once in May and once in November. Each exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and lasts four hours.

In order to be eligible to take the exams, you must meet certain educational requirements or have at least two years of relevant work experience. You must also register with GARP before taking either exam. Registration fees vary depending on when you register, but generally range from $450-$650 USD per exam.

Once you have successfully passed both exams, you will receive your FRM certification from GARP. This certification is valid for life, so there are no renewal fees or additional requirements for maintaining your credential.

8. Certified Treasury Professional (CTP)

The Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) is a professional certification program offered by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP). The CTP is designed to recognize professionals with expertise in corporate treasury management and financial risk management. The certification requires candidates to demonstrate knowledge of cash management, investments, international finance, credit and collections, financial analysis, and more.

It typically takes about six months to complete the CTP program. To become certified, applicants must first pass an online assessment that covers topics such as cash flow forecasting and treasury operations. After passing the assessment, applicants must submit a portfolio of work experience and education related to treasury management. Finally, applicants must pass a three-hour written exam that covers all aspects of treasury management.

The cost of obtaining the CTP certification varies depending on whether or not you are an AFP member. Non-members must pay an application fee of $395 plus a $395 exam fee for a total cost of $790. For AFP members, the application fee is waived but they still need to pay the $395 exam fee for a total cost of $395.

9. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) is a professional certification awarded by ISACA, an international non-profit organization that focuses on IT governance. The CISA certification is designed to recognize individuals who have achieved a level of expertise in the field of information systems auditing, control and security.

To become certified, applicants must meet certain educational and experience requirements and pass a comprehensive exam. To qualify for the CISA exam, applicants must have at least five years of cumulative paid work experience in information systems auditing, control or security.

The CISA exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately four hours to complete. The exam covers topics such as IT governance, risk management and compliance, information systems acquisition and development, protection of information assets, business continuity planning and operations and maintenance.

The cost to take the CISA exam is $575 for members of ISACA ($760 for non-members). In addition to the exam fee, there is also an annual membership fee of $125 for members of ISACA ($175 for non-members).

Once you have passed the CISA exam and met all other requirements, you will receive your official certification from ISACA. Your certification will be valid for three years before needing to be renewed.

10. Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV)

Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) is a professional designation awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). It is designed to recognize CPAs who have demonstrated the knowledge and experience necessary to competently perform business valuation services. The ABV credential requires CPAs to demonstrate their understanding of the theory, techniques, and standards related to business valuation.

In order to obtain the ABV credential, CPAs must complete an application process that includes passing a comprehensive exam. The exam consists of two parts: Part 1 covers foundational topics such as financial reporting, economics, statistics, and finance; Part 2 focuses on business valuation topics such as data collection and analysis, report writing, and ethical considerations.

The entire process typically takes about eight months from start to finish. Once a CPA has passed both parts of the exam and met all other requirements for accreditation, they will be granted the ABV credential.

The cost of obtaining the ABV credential varies depending on the individual's circumstances. Generally speaking, it costs around $1,000 for application fees plus additional fees for study materials and exam registration.

Do You Really Need a Accounting & Finance Certificate?

The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. Ultimately, the decision to pursue an accounting & finance certificate should be based on an individual's career goals and objectives.

If you are looking to enter into the world of accounting and finance, then obtaining a certificate may be beneficial. A certificate in this field can provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to understand how financial statements are created and how various financial instruments work. Additionally, a certificate program can help you develop strong problem-solving skills and communication abilities that are essential for success in a competitive job market.

On the other hand, if you already have experience in accounting and finance, then a certificate may not be necessary for your career advancement. In this case, it may be more beneficial to focus on continuing education courses or professional development programs that will help you stay current with industry trends. Additionally, networking opportunities through professional associations or conferences may be more valuable than obtaining an accounting & finance certificate for those already working in the field.

Ultimately, whether or not to pursue an accounting & finance certificate is an individual decision that should take into account one's current skill set as well as their long-term career goals.

Related: Accounting & Finance Resume Examples

FAQs About Accounting & Finance Certifications

Q1: What are the Benefits of Accounting & Finance Certifications?

A1: Accounting & finance certifications can help you develop a deeper understanding of financial principles, gain specialized knowledge and skills, demonstrate your commitment to professional excellence and increase your earning potential.

Q2: What Types of Certifications are Available?

A2: Popular accounting and finance certifications include the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC).

Q3: How Do I Become Certified?

A3: Requirements for certification vary by program, but typically involve passing an exam, completing a certain number of hours in relevant work experience and/or meeting educational requirements.

Q4: How Much Does it Cost to Get Certified?

A4: Costs vary by certification program, but typically include registration fees, exam fees and continuing education fees. Certification programs may also require the purchase of study materials or resources.

Q5: How Long Does it Take to Get Certified?

A5: The amount of time it takes to become certified depends on the specific certification program you choose. Some certifications may take as little as six months while others may take several years.

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