Now a days we can hear a lot about professional certifications related to accounting, finance, risk management, audit. These might be locally and internationally recognized and have certain criteria to attain. Which certification is suitable for you, always it is a difficult but important decision to take?
Here are lot of choices like ACCA, CFA, CMA, CPA, CIA, FRM, CIMA, IFRS and list continues but you need to choose one. These are not only different letters but different structure as well. Some certifications have 2 exams, 3 exams, 4 exams and even 14 or 15 exams. Some has no educational requirements to enter but some have surely like a university degree in specific majors.
Why is decision important?
- A lot of money at stake – both your expenses and your future earnings.
- This is a long term decision – it will be with you forever.
- Almost passing exams or almost completing certification is not your destination but need to fully pass and gain certification.
Things to consider:
- What have you done – your qualification background, work experience (if any) and what you enjoyed most to do, your knowledge about the course?
- What are you doing – working or studying in which field? What you can do well? What you can do and can’t do? What set of skills already you have? What you likes/dislikes in current job?
- What do you want to do – your future destination and expectation from this certification? What are the jobs or position that you want to have after 5 years? What are the skills that you need to get your dream job/career?
- What you can do – be realistic about time and funds required, commitment level to pass exams.
Top-Demand Accounting/Finance Certifications:
Financial Accounting & Reporting:
Here we have 2 top-demand qualification: ACCA (UK) and CPA (USA)
ACCA qualification is UK based quite flexible certification. There are total 14 exams to pass in ACCA which can take 2 years on average. It has no entry barriers and may allow upto 9 exemptions on the basis of previous qualification. Upon completion of Fundamental level of ACCA, candidates can apply to get BSc (Hons) degree from Oxford Brooks University. ACCA qualified works in Reporting, Auditing, Financial and Cost Accounting departments.
CPA is an American certification with total 4 exams to pass. It puts some entry restrictions to interested candidates like a University degree in Accounting/Business and credit hours in specified areas of study. It allows 18 months to complete after passing first exams. Exams can be taken in 4 windows throughout the year at Prometric center. CPAs are good to work in Auditing, Financial Accounting & Reporting.
While talking about management accounting, we finds CMA (USA), CIMA (UK) qualifications in demand.
CMA – Certified Management Accountant is short but rewarding qualification recognized across the globe. There are only 2 exams and available at Prometric centre in Jan-Feb, May-Jun, Sep-Oct every year. It prepares candidates to handle financial & performance management, budgeting, decision making and corporate finance matters. Bachelor’s degree is must to gain CMA title.
CIMA – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants qualification is flexible but a longer course with total 15 exams to pass. Its entry is flexible and exams are available in computer-based and paper-based formats. Candidates study vast Management accounting areas and receive different awards after completion of each stage.
Finance & Investment:
Thinking about finance & investment qualification? Certainly a name comes in mind is CFA (USA)
CFA – Charter Financial Analyst certification is truly leader in professional qualifications. It is highly in-demand and maximum rewarding program. If you would like to work in finance domain as business analyst, financial analyst and want to work for Investment banks, Assets management companies then the CFA designation would be beneficial – particularly for those who lack work experience and formal training in finance. There are 3 exams to pass; a Bachelors degree or 4 years work experience allows candidates to enter for exams.
Planning career in Audit? Here are 2 options; internal and external audit. ACCA, CPA, ICAEW are most suitable for external audits while CIA (USA) is only available certification specialized in Internal Audit.
CIA – Certified Internal Auditor is flexible to join either with 4 years post-secondary qualification or 7 years internal Audit work experience or combination of both. It is short but well in demand qualification with only 3 exams to pass. Exams are tested on computer and can be taken any time in 365 days. Candidates must complete it with 4 years. Candidates learn Internal Audit Basics, Practices and Knowledge in CIA qualification.
Considering risk management certification comes up with various short and mid-length options i.e. PMI-RMP, CRM, CRMA, FRM etc. But most recognized and accepted qualification is FRM (USA) currently.
FRM – Financial Risk Manager is USA based qualification suitable for those who even don’t have university degree but quickly want to enter in Risk Management profession. Certified FRMs have achieved positions such as Chief Risk Officer, Senior Risk Analyst, Head of Operational Risk, and Director of Investment Risk Management, to name a few. There are 2 parts and anyone can complete it in less than a year.
Financial Reporting Standards:
Learning Financial standards is much important as world is going to adopt IFRS fully from 2016. Different professional bodies offer IFRS certificate and diploma training program. ACCA’s IFRS qualification are widely accepted by employers.
CertIFR – Certificate in IFRS is a short term training with flexible exams availability. It gives overall understanding of reporting standards and how it works.
DipIFR – Diploma IFRS is training with manual exams available only in June and December every year. It helps to understand and explain the structure of the framework of international accounting, identify and apply disclosure requirements for companies in financial reports and notes & to prepare group financial statement.
Surely the qualifications with more number of exams gives more or in-depth knowledge but be clear that if you cannot complete a longer certification with 14 or 15 exams, partial completion will not pay you back really. You will have to complete all and meet further requirements also like work experience to achieve final title.