It's hard to imagine an accountant looking for a new position who wouldn't want to boost his or her starting salary. The fact is, there are a number of accounting certifications that can broaden both your career skills and salary potential. In fact, you may increase your starting salary by as much as 10 percent by acquiring in-demand accounting certifications.
Here are three of the most common (and valuable) certifications:
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
Accounting professionals who earn the CIA certification gain global recognition as an internal auditor. This accounting certification — which is offered by The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) — has been available since 1973. It demonstrates your ability to ensure compliance with a company's internal structures, as well as with external regulatory organizations such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
To earn the CIA certification, you will have to complete a computer-based exam. After preparing for the exam, you can visit one of more than 500 testing sites around the world to complete it.
With this accounting certification, you become an even more valuable and marketable employee because most publicly traded companies need internal auditors.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
The CMA certification is among the most popular, because the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), which sponsors the certification, has more than 70,000 members. Like the CIA designation, the CMA certification is globally accepted. Accounting professionals who want to specialize in financial analysis, decision support, financial planning and control should consider this certification.
The exam for CMAs is split into two parts: financial planning, performance and control; and financial decision-making. These parts can be taken in either order, and they both include 100 multiple-choice questions to be completed over four hours, as well as two 30-minute essay questions.
In addition to the exam, earning this accounting certification requires that you are a member of the IMA, have a bachelor's degree and two years of management accounting experience, and complete 30 hours of continuing education annually.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The CPA certification is sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), which has more than 386,000 members. It is the most common certification and can enhance your forensic accounting, compliance, tax, risk management and other skills. If you are looking for a widely applicable accounting certification, this may be the one for you, as there are a range of positions available in the public sector. For this reason, CPAs remain in great demand.
Earning the CPA license typically requires more than 150 semester hours of education, at least two years of public accounting experience and completion of a four-part exam. There are also separate state-specific requirements and fees.
While the three certifications discussed here may be the most common, there are a number of other certifications to fit your accounting career goals, including the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certifications.
For more information about accounting certifications and starting salaries, download the most recent Salary Guide from Robert Half.