A Closer Look at Accounting Designations to Advance Your Career

A Closer Look at Accounting Designations to Advance Your Career

With a dizzying array of accounting designations to choose from, how does a savvy financial professional decide which ones to pursue? Following the unification of CA, CGA and CMA in 2015, the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation became the gold standard credential for accounting and finance roles in Canada. But by no means is the CPA your only option – here’s a look at several other designations or certifications that could help advance your professional accounting career.

1. For corporate accounting

  • Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) – This designation is available through the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Istitute of CPAs. It’s an achievement that demonstrates your competency in management accounting skills and your expertise in developing strategy that connects all aspects of business. To obtain the CGMA designation through the CIMA, candidates must complete the prescribed CIMA examinations, meet the experience requirements and be a member of CIMA. 
  • Advanced Certificate in Accounting and Finance (ACAF) – A fairly new certification program offered by CPA Canada, the ACAF is the only nationally recognized intermediate accounting and finance certificate in Canada. ACAF prepares certificate holders for technical intermediate level accounting and finance roles in business, not-for-profit, government and accounting firms. Designed to further develop technical and workplace skills, the ACAF program is made of six technical applications courses, an ethics and workplace skills course, an accounting software applications course, two electives and a business applications course. Each course is assessed through a series of quizzes and assignments, as well as a final exam.

2. For audit, fraud and risk management

  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) – Offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), it is the only designation for internal auditors accepted worldwide. This designation shows that you are proficient working with internal staff and external clients and knowledgeable of best practices in the industry. You can qualify to take the exam with a four-year undergrad degree and at least 24 months of internal auditing experience or its equivalent. If you have a master’s degree, you need only two months of experience. Alternately, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, you may be eligible with either two years of post-secondary education and five years of internal audit experience, or seven years of internal audit experience
  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) — Available to members of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, this credential is beneficial for finance professionals focused on anti-fraud endeavors across private and public agencies. Passing the CFE exam demonstrates your expertise in the four main areas of fraud examination: Financial Transactions and Fraud Schemes, Law, Investigation, and Fraud Prevention and Deterrence. To apply to take the CFE exam, you need to submit documentation of your education and work experience, along with three professional recommendations.
  • Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) — The Institute of Internal Auditors offers this certification for audit practitioners in the public sector. It demonstrates your skill in the unique requirements of government auditing. To qualify for the exam, you must have two years of government auditing experience.

3. In information technology

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) — This certification from ISACA signifies proficiency in information systems auditing, control and security. Certification requires passing the exam and having a minimum of five years of professional information systems auditing, control or security work experience.

4. In banking and financial services

  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) — Issued by the CFA Institute, this certification is commonly required in the financial services field. It demonstrates fundamental knowledge of investment principles in the fields of portfolio management and investment analysis. Completion of the CFA course of study and three six-hour exams are required.
  • Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) — The Institute of Internal Auditors' CFSA is a specialty certification for audit professionals who have a minimum of two years of experience in financial services organizations, such as banks, holding and investment companies, insurance companies, credit agencies, or security and commodity services.

When considering what designations to pursue, carefully study how each might help advance your career. Survey colleagues for recommendations. Before you decide, ask your supervisor or professional mentor for advice. Your choice may be swayed by whether you work in public or private accounting public or private accounting. The niche that is your company’s focus might also dictate your direction as well as your own career aspirations. Good luck!