Posted by Rebekah McLain on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 06:30
Want some good career advice? Go out and earn some finance certifications. Becoming professionally certified shows employers that you’re not just a clock-puncher. You're willing to invest extra time and effort for the sake of your career.
It helps that many finance certifications can bring promotions and pay increases. But remember that training is an investment. Before you sign up for a certification program, keep in mind that it will require a commitment of not only time but money. To get more bang for your buck, you need to determine what training will help advance your professional goals.
Below you’ll find a breakdown of five leading finance certifications and how they can impact your career:
Three 'classic' financial certifications
1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The CPA has long been one of the most desirable certifications to employers in finance and accounting. It symbolizes trust, as well as the professional dedication to maintain your skills and knowledge of accounting, as this credential requires recertification.
Cost: The cost can vary from state to state, but exam and application fees for first-timers typically run around $1,000.
Requirements: Again, this varies by location, but most states require a bachelor's degree and a number of semester hours in both accounting and business-related subjects before you can sit for the CPA exam. Additionally, one to two years of experience working under the supervision of a licensed CPA are usually required.
Want to learn everything you need to know about the CPA — and then some?
2. Master of Business Administration (MBA)
While not technically a certification, the latest Salary Guide from Robert Half notes that the MBA is one of the most in-demand credentials in the finance field. If you’re working in a senior-level finance or analytical role — or want to some day — you’ll need an MBA to land the position. Pair it with a CPA to become a financial force to be reckoned with, as it shows you have a solid accounting background, business acumen and leadership skills.
Cost: As a university graduate degree, an MBA is pricey, and costs will depend on the institution you attend. Before you get the ball rolling, it’s well worth it to ask if your employer offers a tuition-matching program.
Requirements: To enter a university graduate program, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and high scores on the GMAT or GRE. Check with the university you’re interested in for specific requirements.
3. Project Management Professional (PMP)
PMP certification is an excellent way to demonstrate that you can manage a team and lead projects — and it’s a certificate highly sought in finance, according to the Salary Guide. Acquiring a PMP also shows employers that you’ve got the skills to see a project through all stages, from planning and implementation, to a successful closing. If you’re considering the role of internal auditor, controller or risk manager, holding this certification could help boost you up the ladder.
Cost: The final cost will depend on your membership status in the Project Management Institute (PMI) and whether you take a paper or computerized exam. However, you should plan on spending anywhere from $250 to $600.
Requirements: Test-takers holding a bachelor’s degree are required to have at least three years of experience managing projects and 35 hours of project management education. Those without a bachelor’s will need at least five years of experience and 35 hours of education.
Two specialty certifications
4. Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP)
Financial talent with healthcare expertise is in high demand, especially with all the challenges the industry is encountering in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. The CHFP provides you with certified financial training specific to healthcare. In the long run, this can result in increased opportunities for promotions and raises.
Cost: Certification costs $395, but that doesn’t include any of the recommended study guides. You’ll want to budget another $250 to $300 for those.
Requirements: To take the test, you have to be a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). Student memberships don’t count. It’s also strongly recommended you have three to five years of experience in healthcare provider management.
5. Energy Risk Professional (ERP)
With increasing global demand for energy and the accompanying compliance and risk factors, financial expertise in the energy field is hot. ERP certification can drive your market value by showing employers that you have the knowledge to predict, recognize and manage the financial risks encountered when working in this specialized industry.
Cost: The cost of exam and enrollment fees will vary depending on when you register. Early registration runs about $750, while those registering late can expect to pay $1,050.
Requirements: There are no education or experience requirements to sit for the exam. But after passing, you have five years to demonstrate two years of ERP-related work experience before you become certified. And once certified, ERPs are required to take 40 hours of continuing education every two years.
Benefits to your accounting career
Many employers seek specific finance certifications when hiring new candidates. Even if you’re not on the job market, it’s clear that becoming certified can benefit your career. Robert Half's Salary Guide indicates certifications can increase starting salaries by 5 to 15 percent, on average.
Pinpoint projected salaries by region using our Salary Calculator.
These are by no means all of the finance certifications available, so make certain you do your research before committing the time and money to a program. To get the most bang for your hard-earned buck, you want to know you’re going after the credentials that will have the most impact on your career.
Skilled professionals who want careers in finance and accounting have turned to Robert Half for advice and placement in top companies since 1948.