Using an online accounting degree program as a foundation, you can advance your career in the field by continuing your studies to earn a bachelor's degree or sitting for one of the accounting certification exams. Accounting certifications are achieved after completing specific educational requirements, gaining professional experience and passing uniform exams. If you desire a narrow focus in a particular area of interest and also wish to add credibility to your résumé, then make the commitment to further your accounting career with one or more certifications.
The certified public accountant (CPA) designation is the most widely recognized certification in the industry. Candidates must be educated in accounting, possess relevant work experience and pass the uniform CPA exam, which is administered by the AICPA
. The CPA exam consists of four separate parts: financial accounting and reporting, auditing and attestation, regulation (which includes taxation, ethics and legal topics) and business environment and concepts, which covers general business processes and corporate governance.
The CPA exam is a uniform exam, but individuals must also meet state licensing requirements to become a CPA. Along with passing the exam, they must gain work experience in public accounting. Many states also require continuing education classes for CPAs to stay abreast of issues in the industry. The CPA exam has a reputation of being a difficult exam to study for and pass, but many terrific prep courses are available to help students focus their studies.
Rather than a long-term career in public accounting, many accountants choose to work in the private sector, performing managerial accounting for companies. To further your career as a management accountant, consider becoming a certified management accountant
. CMAs are considered experts at measuring financial performance using company defined metrics. CMAs are also knowledgeable about budgeting and are capable of managing the financial planning process for a company.
Much like the CPA certification, CMAs must also be educated in accounting and have experience working in their chosen field. The first part of the CMA exam focuses on financial planning, performance and control. The second part emphasizes financial decision making. Each section consists of 100 multiple choice questions and two essays.
Certified Payroll Professional
One additional certification you may wish to pursue after graduating from an online accounting degree program is that of a certified payroll professional (CPP). Knowledge of the compensation and benefits process is an extremely valuable skill because it is easily translatable between companies, even those in different industries. Every company has a payroll department, and the regulations guiding compensation and benefits are relatively uniform, unlike the industry-specific financial accounting standards guiding nonprofit, manufacturing and high tech companies.
The CPP exam
is administered as a four hour exam containing 190 multiple choice questions, 165 of which will be scored. Topics include compliance, calculating paychecks, accounting, the payroll process and core payroll concepts. Like the CPA and CMA certification process, CPPs must also meet education and professional experience requirements to achieve their desired designation.
The CPA, CMA and CPP certifications are only a few of many professional designations available within the accounting field to help you fast track your career and increase your value as an employee. To broaden and diversify your accounting expertise, take some time to research the many certification programs available within your specialty.
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