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CPA, CFE, CFA, CGMA: Your Guide to Popular Accounting Certifications

In an industry which many different designations, which one is right for you?

According to the AICPA, the CPA profession is ranked only second to physicians in terms of inspiring trust and confidence in society. CPAs on average tend to realize higher salary, more job opportunities, and promotions compared to their non-certified peers.

As such, obtaining the CPA and other certifications can really add credentials to your resume and overall learning and development, particularly as a young professional. Here are some certifications pursued by accounting professionals:

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The CPA is considered the gold standard of accounting certification – requirements  include a combination of experience and the uniform CPA exam, which is broken up into several different sections. Certification requirements can vary per state.

Would like to find out more? Visit American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

Interested in forensics and investigative accounting? Consider becoming a CFE, which will allow you to distinguish yourself by learning more about various financial and other types of fraud. You could find yourself working for the FBI, Department of Defense, SEC, or in a private company.  A combination of experience and an exam is required.

Interested to find out more? Visit Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

Do you love investments, capital allocation, and financial statement analysis? Obtaining the CFA designation could allow you to join the community of 150,000 analysts across the globe who are involved in portfolio management, investment analysis, consulting, risk management, trading, real-estate, and valuation. This designation requires work experience and an exam which is broken up into three sections, Level I, Level II, and Level III.

Thinking about pursing this designation? Visit the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute (CFA) or read this article for more information.

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)

Interested in cost accounting, risk management, forecasting cash flows, conducting business valuation, and analyzing corporate strategy? CGMAs are skilled in operations, management, and strategy. One of the most unique programs, the CGMA requires the successful completion of a case study exam in addition to other requirements to obtain the designation.

Passionate about management accounting? Visit the CGMA’s website for more information (CGMA)


Not enough certifications above? Interested in other skill sets? Becoming Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) can allow you to distinguish yourself in business valuation services and connect with fellow professionals.

Interested in internal audit? Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Information Systems Auditor can allow you to work for fortune 500, mid-sized companies, or in accounting firms.

Interested in working for the IRS? Become an Enrolled Agent. Prepare returns, represent clients in front of the IRS, and become competitive in the market if you have your own practice.

Which One to Pick?

Each certification provides the candidate with an opportunity to enhance existing skills and retain current industry knowledge.  In addition to the certifications detailed within, now might also be a good time to look into IT Certifications. This is due to how much more technology driven traditional accounting, finance, and audit related jobs have become. Companies, such as ExamLabs, provide excellent resources to help you on your journey.

Choosing a certification involves balancing short-term interests with long-term goals. Review the requirements and see if you qualify for any of these certifications.

Jeremias Ramos is a CPA working at a nationally recognized full-service accounting, tax, and consulting firm with offices conveniently located throughout the Northeast. Jeremias specializes in tax and business consulting with focus areas in real estate, professional service providers, medical practitioners, and eCommerce businesses.

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