Accounting is among the most stable professions you can enter. With an unemployment rate of only about 1 percent, essentially all accountants have an easy time finding a paid position and remaining employed, almost regardless of the behavior of the economy. If you get your bachelor’s degree in accounting, you will likely have a reliable income for the rest of your life.
Still, when it comes to career achievement, you might aim a bit higher than merely “employed.” If you want to secure the best accounting positions in the field, you need to go beyond your bachelor’s degree with advanced degrees and certifications that will impress prospective employers. Here are some of the best credentials you can earn to give your accounting career a boost:
1. Certified Public Accountant
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to earn a CPA license to practice accounting; with a bachelor’s degree alone, you can perform accounting duties for a private company. However, the CPA is among the most popular accounting certs, so you may need to get yours to compete effectively even for jobs that do not require it. What’s more, many organizations prefer to hire accountants with their CPA certification, as the credential validates your expertise in various useful fields, like tax, compliance, risk management and forensics. It costs a few thousand dollars to prepare for and take the CPA exam, and you will need to engage with continued education to maintain your license.
2. Certified Management Accountant
Created in the 1970s, the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential is designed to demonstrate an accountant’s readiness for leadership roles. The grueling examination tests your skills in critical accounting, financial planning and analysis, so accountants who earn this cert are signaling to employers their readiness for high-level, decision-making positions. Often, accountants will earn the CPA and CMA together, as there is some overlap in topics, but there are membership fees to maintain to keep this certification current.
3. Master of Accountancy
There are several master’s degrees for accounting. Most often, a mastery level is called a Master of Accountancy (MAcc), but you might also find programs called Master of Science in Accounting or Maser of Professional Accountancy; they are all more or less the same. A MAcc degree involves between 9 months and 2 years of study in advanced courses designed to improve your technical knowledge and skill. Many programs allow you to roll real-world experience into credits, so it makes sense to pursue a MAcc degree while working. With your MAcc, you should find it easier to climb the accounting career ladder and reach high-level management roles.
4. Chartered Global Management Accountant
The Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) financial certification is a rare professional certification that is recognized around the world. If you hope to use your accounting skills in other countries, you will need to acquire this credential. There are two different paths to achieving this cert: through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), which is a three-hour case study, or through the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), which involves a 12-part exam.
5. Chartered Financial Analyst
Some accounting certifications are designed to help non-accountants excel in accounting-adjacent roles. If you are looking to pivot a career into financial investment, you might be interested in pursuing the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, which demonstrates an accountant or finance professional’s knowledge and skill in portfolio management principles, investment analysis, economics, ethical standards and more. This certification can be expensive to obtain — courses can cost upwards of $10,000 — but the job opportunities it unlocks within the investment community are enviable.
6. Certified Internal Auditor
For some accountants, internal auditing is an exciting career opportunity, but it is only available after you achieve the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credential. An advanced certification, the CIA is only available to accountants who already have a master’s degree and several years of auditing work experience, but it is the only internationally accepted designation for internal auditors. You can work in auditing without this cert, but you will find that employers like to see accountants with CIAs rise into management.
You can do so much more for yourself and your career if you put more time and energy into accruing valuable accounting credentials. With the right collection of certifications and degrees, you can achieve outstanding success as an accountant.