Depending on one’s chosen career path within the accounting profession, there are several professional certifications and credentials that are virtually a requirement. Strong credentials, along with a graduate degree in accounting or taxation, will open many doors to career success.

Certified Public Accountant

Irrespective of the selected area of career specialization, the Certified Public Accountant, CPA, license is one of the most valuable credentials. The CPA license is issued and managed by each state, and it gives the licensee the privilege of performing accounting services for the public. Also, the license is often a basic qualification for corporate accounting positions.

A candidate for the CPA license must sit for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. This examination is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Prior to taking the examination, the candidate may have completed a master’s degree in accounting, however, the education requirement varies by state. In addition to passing the four parts of the examination, the aspiring CPA will complete an experience requirement. Often, the individual must perform a specified number of audit hours over a year or two of time. The experience requirement also varies by state, so it is best to confirm the specifics directly with the state board of accountancy in the state where one plans to be certified.

Chartered Global Management Accountant

The Chartered Global Management Accountant, CGMA, credential is well-respected throughout the world. Given the globalization of business, the CGMA is worth pursuing for those seeking a career with international exposure. Corporations having an international presence look for accountants who possess a broad set of skills that include more than knowledge of taxation and accounting concepts. Professionals holding the CGMA designation have achieved a high level of knowledge and experience in strategic and risk management, financial modeling and operations as well as skills in financial planning, forecasting and financial statement analysis.

This credential is overseen and administered by both the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Education and experience requirements vary depending on the chosen path for obtaining the credential and whether one holds, or is eligible for, a CPA license. Please consult the websites of both of these professional organizations for specifics.

Chartered Management Accountant

The Chartered Management Accountant, CMA, designation is administered by the Institute of Management Accountants. The CMA examination consists of two parts. Part one tests the candidate’s knowledge of financial planning, performance and control. Subject areas include cost and performance management, internal controls, and planning, budgeting and forecasting. The second part of the examination covers conceptual knowledge of financial decision-making including financial statement analysis, investment decisions, and risk and decision analysis.

Depending on one’s career interests, other credentials may be appropriate. If interested in taxation, one can learn about the requirements to become an enrolled agent. Prospective financial planners can work towards obtaining the Certified Financial Planner designation.

According to the Institute of Management Accountants, professionals holding an accounting credential can earn annually, on average, $34,000 more than accountants without credentials. Furthermore, an accounting credential is frequently a requirement for high-level accounting positions. Whether working in business, government or public accounting, people holding accounting designations will not only earn more than those without credentials but will be more rapidly promoted to such positions as chief financial officer, director of taxation or corporate controller.