Your accounting certification guide: How to choose the right option

Considering getting an accounting qualification? Here’s a guide to choosing the right kind of certification.

At the moment, there are well over 1 million accountants working throughout the country. And that number is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years as there are going to be about 100,000 new accountants entering the workforce over the course of the next decade.

But it’s definitely worth noting that all accountants are not created equal. They don’t all have the same accounting certifications to their names, which means they can’t all perform the same tasks while on the job.

We’ve put together an accounting certification guide to show you just a few of the accounting certificate programs that accountants can choose to go through. If you’re thinking about becoming an accountant, we’ve got you covered.

Here are some of the accounting certifications that should be on your radar.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

If you want to carve out a living as an accountant, this is the very first accounting certification that you’re going to want to get. Every single public accountant needs to pass the CPA exam and get their hands on a CPA license. It would be beneficial to look online for CPA sales to help get a better understanding of how experienced CPA brokers work, and help you work out if it is the right fit for your talents and skills. 

This might lead you to believe that obtaining a CPA accounting certification is easy. But this couldn’t be further from the truth! There are lots of requirements that you’ll need to fulfill prior to earning your CPA.

For instance, you’ll need to:

  • Complete at least 150 hours of accounting-related higher education
  • Take and pass the CPA exam (which is notoriously difficult!)
  • Gain at least two years of accounting experience in the real world

The good news for those who are able to get a CPA accounting certification is that it’ll ensure that you always have a job as an accountant. But it’s going to take some hard work on your part to secure it.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

Do you want to take your career as an accountant to the next level and assist people with things like investment analysis and financial planning? If you do, then you’re going to need to lock down this particular accounting certification.

The CFA accounting certification is a highly sought-after accounting certification that very few people are able to get. Only about 150,000 people in the entire world are successful in their pursuit of a CFA.

It’s not easy to get a CFA because you need to pass the CFA exam. This exam has three levels and shoots down the CFA dreams of about 50% of people at every level.

It’s also not easy to get a CFA because you need to get four years of experience in the field prior to earning your accounting certification. That’s a long time to spend toiling away in a tough industry.

It is possible to make it all the way through the process and get your hands on a CFA accounting certification. But you’re going to need to show an immense amount of dedication and determination to succeed.

In fact, you should sign up for a CFA exam course on sites like to increase your chances of success. An exam prep course can significantly improve your ability to pass, and that’s something worth the extra money.

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)

Out of all the different accounting certifications on this list, this one is the one that was established most recently. It has only been around for about ten years now.

The CGMA accounting certification will put you in a position to head up management accounting projects as a business strategist. But before you can do it, you’ll need to earn your CGMA by racking up three years of specialized work experience and completing a case study that puts your management accounting skills to the test.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

A lot of the accountants who earn their CPA accounting certification will also make a push to earn their CMA accounting certification. About one-third of all CPAs are also CMAs.

In order to get a CMA accounting certification, you’ll need to fulfill the following obligations:

  • Must earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college
  • Must work for two consecutive years in either the financial management or management accounting fields
  • Must pass both parts of the CMA exam within a three-year window

If you’re going to go through the trouble of getting a CPA accounting certification in the first place, it would make a ton of sense for you to get a CMA as well.

Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

There is obviously quite a bit of fraud that takes place within the world of accounting. It’s why there is a real need for those who have earned their CFE accounting certifications within it. They’re considered anti-fraud professionals, and they’re routinely relied upon to sniff out fraud and expose it.

To get your CFE accounting certification, you’ll be called on to take and pass the CFE exam. It’s based on the 2,000-page Fraud Examiners Manual.

You’ll also need to submit information about both your education and your real-life experience when you apply for the CFE accounting certification.

Financial Risk Management (FRM)

Although those who hold an FRM aren’t technically accountants in most cases, they do work side-by-side with accountants and other financial professionals. They work as financial risk managers for banks, accounting firms, etc. and help them to analyze risk.

There is a two-part exam that you’ll need to pass to earn your FRM certification. You’ll also need to get two years of experience under your belt to begin working as a financial risk manager.

You should learn more about becoming a certified FRM if this is something that interests you.

Every accounting certification presents a new opportunity for an accountant

To work as a professional accountant, you really only need to get one accounting certification. Your career will go just fine if you only have, say, your CPA.

But it would be worth exploring other accounting certifications if you want to expand into new areas and make major advancements in your career. You should consider getting another accounting certification if you only have one at the moment so that you can rise to new heights in the years to come.