By Jim Wong, CPA | August 24, 2016

“Doing what’s expected of you can make you good, but going above and beyond what’s required is what makes you great.’ – Josh S. Hinds

Most professionals in today’s business world know there are many factors taken into consideration by hiring managers when it comes to hiring or promoting someone. Education and experience aren’t always the only aspects weighed—especially in today’s workplace where with the rise of millennials has made soft skills and corporate culture extremely top of mind. However, when it comes to a role that has specific requirements or when two people with similar skillsets are vying for the same role, a degree or added certification can make a big impact on that decision.

In the long run, certifications can lead to allow you to opportunities that could positively impact your future earning power.

For accounting, finance and IT professionals, specifically, it’s also important to know which certification is best for their own career path. For instance, if a new graduate knows he or she intends to go into auditing, then it would be more beneficial for that individual to obtain a CPA instead of a CGMA or CMA.

So, what are some of the advanced degrees and certifications available for accounting and finance professionals so they can set themselves apart from the rest of the pack?

As a former CPA and someone who helps leading companies recruit CFOs to Staff Accountants, I know firsthand many of the certifications available, and how important earning them can be. That’s why I decided to share the following 7 Certifications That Will Give You A Competitive Edge below.

1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA). 
Passing the CPA exam and representing yourself as a CPA is known to be somewhat of the pinnacle of certifications for accounting professionals. Many employers consider job seekers with the CPA to be very versatile and adaptable—the license is useful in many positions including public accounting, government accounting, taxation, compliance and more. Often times, for mid-level accounting management roles and up the CPA is required.

2. Certified Management Accountant (CMA). 
This certification is often linked closely with the CPA, due to the overlap in content between the two exams. Many times, accounting professionals will elect to obtain both in order to demonstrate their budgeting, analysis and various other skills. Professionals working in the corporate sector in large companies should consider testing for their CMA. Specifically, the manufacturing industry at the plant level roles appreciate and desire the CMA. However, operational accounting and finance roles within the service industries have begun to value the CMA.

3. Master’s of Business Administration (MBA). 
For those job seekers whose goal is to be in a senior-level corporate accounting and finance position, the MBA is an ideal route to take. While this graduate degree can be costly, (on average, the degree can run from $7,000 to $120,000) the benefits can be helpful for job seekers and a selling point for hiring managers. Often times, for senior-level roles the MBA can be required.

4. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). 
Finance professionals who are going into the investment world should expect to obtain a CFA in order to gain that competitive edge that’s needed. The CFA certification is most commonly obtained by equity analysts, fund managers or hedge fund managers. At an estimated cost of $2,500, it’s one of the lower-cost certifications, though it can give a strong ROI.

5. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). 
Aspiring internal auditors, take note: the CIA is extremely important for those job seekers whose goal is to be in a c-suite audit role. As the only internationally recognized certification for internal auditors, it’s certainly a special skill that stands out to hiring managers.

6. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). 
For Information systems audit, control and security professionals, the CISA is one of the best certifications to obtain. In the rapidly-growing world of information systems, this certification is a surefire way to set oneself apart in the competitive market.

7. Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA). 
This license is targeted for accounting and finance professionals who work in business or government specifically on a global scale. In order to obtain this license, one must be a member of either AICPA or CIMA and subsequently pass an exam that requires extended long-form responses.

What are some other beneficial certifications accounting and finance professionals might want to look into? Comment below and let us know.

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