Workers in financial or accounting positions may be responsible for creating financial plans or statements, assisting clients with business needs, and maintaining compliance with legal regulations. Accounting certifications can increase the earning potential of this career path and help professional accountants advance their careers.
There are several different types of accounting and finance certifications, all of which have specific educational and experience requirements. There is not one clear path to becoming a certified accountant and requirements may also vary depending on your location.
Best accounting and finance certifications
The top accounting and finance certification we offer is Certified Professional Bookkeeper. This certification can be enhanced by adding our Professional Bookkeeping with QuickBooks course. The following are additional certifications in the accounting and finance field.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
CPA is the most common and recognizable accounting certification. Holding a CPA is often required for many accounting positions. This certification covers forensic accounting, risk management, compliance, and taxes.
The CPA credential is offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), an organization that boasts nearly 700,000 members, students, and professionals in accounting. The CPA exam involves four levels of testing and accountants must have a year of experience before pursuing their CPA license. Additionally, CPAs are usually required to have approximately 150 hours of higher education credits, though specific requirements vary by state.
Besides those associated with college, approximate costs to become a CPA are as follows:
Application fee: $100
4 sections of the test (approximate costs, actual costs vary by state): $194 x 4
Approximate total cost: $876
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
CFA charterholders are knowledgeable and skilled in the competitive investing industry. These financial professionals focus on investment analysis, portfolio management, and economics. The CFA exam is proctored by the CFA Institute and has three levels. Those seeking CFA certification are required to have a bachelor’s degree as well as four years of experience in financial services.
Registering early for the exam can help prospective CFAs save some money. These are the approximate costs associated with becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst:
One-time enrollment fee: $350
3 levels of the exam: $900-$1,200 (depending on when you register)
Approximate total cost: $3,050-$3,950
Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
Certified Financial Planners are skilled in the areas of financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning, and 401(k) or other types of retirement planning. The CFP certification is awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board).
The CFP exam consists of two three-hour sessions on the same day with a short break between them. The exam is only offered a few times each year and costs may be lower if a prospective Certified Financial Planner registers early.
Approximate total cost: $825-$1,025
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
CIAs are accounting specialists who focus on reviewing and evaluating financial records of government agencies, financial institutions, and corporations. These individuals usually work in the audit department of organizations. CIAs are recognized globally and it is the only auditing credential that is accepted worldwide.
To be approved into the CIA program, candidates must hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher, possess five years of internal audit experience, or be an active student in their final year of college.
The CIA exam is conducted by the Institute of Internal Auditors and includes three sections. The cost to become a CIA varies depending on a person’s status as a student, member, or non-member. These are the approximate costs to becoming a Certified Internal Auditor:
CIA application: $65-$130
3 levels of the exam: $675-$1,215 (depending on status as member or student)
Approximate total cost: $740-$1,345
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
Certified Fraud Examiners have careers specializing in the prevention, detection, and deterrence of financial fraud. The CFE credential is offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and contains four sections, each with 100 multiple-choice questions.
The CFE exam may be taken online or in person and costs $450.
EAs are federally-authorized financial professionals who work on tax-related matters, audits, and returns. To become an Enrolled Agent, accounting professionals must pass a test conducted by the IRS.
The Enrolled Agent exam has three parts, each costing $203 bringing the total cost to $609.
What are the benefits of being certified in finance?
Earning finance or accounting certificates can help you accelerate your career and make you more hireable in different parts of the US if you move around frequently. Certain certifications might enable you to be hired at some organizations, increase your salary, and earn you management positions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an accounting certificate worth it?
It is worth earning an accounting certificate because it can open more opportunities for your career. Owning a certification in accounting might allow you to make more money, receive a higher hierarchical position, and make it more likely for you to be hired if you have to move frequently.
What is the highest accounting certificate?
There are many different types of accounting certificates. The most well-known accounting certificate is the CPA (Certified Public Accountant). You can become a CPA by completing the required training, hours worked, and passing the examination.
Is the CPA or CFA harder to acquire?
Many people find the CFA exam more difficult than the CPA exam. This is because the CFA exam requires more study time, learning new concepts more advanced than what’s used in accounting roles, and because the exam has three levels.
What accounting certifications can I get without a degree?
You can become a Certified Professional Bookkeeper without any previous college education.