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The Best Professional Credentials for Accountants

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Managing an accounting career requires staying current and up-to-date on industry trends, as well as maintaining a commitment to ongoing education and professional advancement. Through specialized certifications, accounting professionals can revive, nurture and increase their knowledge base.

Specialized certifications are important because accountancy and financial services is an industry that constantly changes. This creates a demand for top-skilled accounting professionals with prestigious qualifications.

From government regulations to marketplace needs, accounting professionals are expected to possess advanced skills and expertise. Failure to invest in professional development can result in a lack of career advancement, loss in earnings potential, and ultimately, less opportunity.

While accounting designations are plentiful, it is important to pursue the best credentials that fit within your planned scope of work.

Public Accounting Certifications

The top certification for public accounting is the well-known certified public accountant1 (CPA) certification. For most accounting professionals, obtaining a CPA is vital to obtaining a job and advancing their careers. As of August 2021, there were 669,130 licensed CPAs in the continental United States.2 Further, the CPA is also a basic requirement to pursue other professional credentials.

Additional public accounting qualifications, such as the Accredited Business Valuation (ABV) and Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA), require the applicants to hold a CPA license.3,4

Accredited Business Valuation (ABV):

  • Exam consists of two parts covering engagement practices, professional and regulatory stands, qualitative and quantitative analysis
  • Administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
  • Interested candidates must complete ten business valuation engagements and 75 hours of industry-related lifelong learning activities.

Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) – Issued by the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (NACVA), this credential requires:

  • Practitioners be a member of NACVA
  • Pass a two-part comprehensive exam
  • Complete a five-day training program
  • Three personal and professional references

Corporate Accounting Certifications

Private accounting qualifications require professionals to hone specific industry expertise. Industries could range from manufacturers, major retailers, and biotechnology companies to start-up tech firms, governmental agencies and environmental organizations.

Many employers don’t realize accountants have specialties, so having a specialty can be a memorable eye-opener. The following top accounting certifications are among the most popular and in-demand:4

Offered by the Institute of Management Accountants, the CMA is universally recognized and differentiates accountants who are qualified to work inside organizations that place a high value on technical expertise for strategic purposes.5 This requires a four-part exam mapped to develop and track critical thinking and decision-making skills. Professionals in this role may manage full accounting departments or serve as directors and chief financial officers.

Additional Designations for Career Growth

Career paths vary for accounting professionals and the accounting credentials listed above are amongst the best certifications one can obtain throughout their career. Moreover, there are professional licenses that expand into other industries related to and/or parallel to accounting. For example, the banking industry offers several accounting designations, including:

  • Certified Bank Auditor (CBA)
  • Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

Many of these certificates complement each other and can help you obtain supplemental certifications faster. The ABV allows candidates who hold a CBA or CFA certificate to only complete one part of a two-part exam. Others are highly specialized and can give you a prestigious edge that will set you apart from other accounting professionals. The CIA is the only internationally accepted designation for internal auditors.

Lastly, there are opportunities to expand knowledge and expertise in fields that require the use of accounting for business success. Those in operations management have a list of accounting certifications to choose from. Professionals working in information technology can refer to the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) for accounting designations, such as a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).6

Discover What You Can Achieve in Your Accounting Career

When it comes to choosing the best accounting certifications for your career, it is important to assess your long-term professional goals. Whether you’re an entry-level or seasoned accountant, there’s a long list of growth opportunities available to you. Obtaining accounting certifications can help you differentiate yourself from other applicants or peers and sets you up for long-term success.

The first step toward account certifications is proper education. A Master of Accountancy is a great investment in a solid knowledge base that will become a springboard for additional certifications. For working professionals, The University of Scranton’s online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) is a great option. Scranton is ranked the #3 Best Value Master’s Degree College for Accounting in College Factual’s 2022 rankings. Plus, Scranton’s online MAcc program offers a bridge program that gives you a pathway to earn your Master of Accountancy degree even if you hold a non-accounting bachelor’s degree.

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