November 14, 2018

Certifications

Government Auditors Say the Institute of Internal Auditors Is Making a ‘Big Mistake’ By Phasing Out the CGAP Credential

The Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) is one of three specialty certifications that are being phased out by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA)—and several government auditors who hold the CGAP aren’t very happy about it. “I’m disappointed but not surprised by the IIA’s short-sighted decision to phase out new applications to the CGAP,” Chris […]

Why I’m Going for the CPA

Caleb recently published a post posing the question, "What’s the Future of the CPA Brand?"

This question was prompted by some AICPA research showing that while the CPA brand still has a lot value, there’s a growing threat from non-CPA professionals who are providing specialized services outside the core services — tax, accounting, and audit — typically provided by CPAs.

Friday Discussion Item: What’s the Real Value of a CGMA?

I feel like we have addressed this before, or rather, we've incessantly ripped on the CGMA from the beginning. In the interest of fairness, we should present the other side before we do that again. But first, the question: [email protected]_concern Can we have an honest conversation about how pointless it is to obtain a #CGMA? […]

Jeanette Franzel, CPA, CIA, CMA, CGFM, Is Your New Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Member UPDATE: And Not Everyone Is Impressed!

The overlords at the SEC have spoken and sweet Jesus in a manger, they like letters behind a name. Ms Franzel will replace Dan Goelzer who is a founding member of the Board and served as its perpetually acting chair from August 2009 to January 2011.  Franzel is dumping the Government Accountability Office, where she […]

Big 4 Manager Needs Help Determining If He Is Underpaid

Welcome to the squelch-the-tryptophan-withdrawals-with-cyber-Monday edition of Accounting Career Conundrums. In today’s edition, a Big 4 manager is pret-tay sure he is underpaid. How can he broach the subject with a partner without causing major blowback?

Need career advice? Want gift ideas that will score some points with a boss in your life? Wondering where you can find an old PwC backpack? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll sniff out a deal or a homeless person.

Back to our short-changed manager:

I was wondering if you could provide advice in how to determine if I am being underpaid and if I am how to go about asking for an increase? I am a 1st year Manager for a Big 4 firm in Kansas City. I have been with the same firm/office my entire career sans a 2 year secondment I completed in Dublin just in August. In addition, to having my CPA license I also hold the CFE certification and the CFA charter.

My feelings for asking for a raise are based on the additional certifications and knowing that my salary as a 1st year Manager is less than what 3rd year Sr. Associates were making in my office 2 plus years ago. I know the economy has changed during the subsequent 2 years but still feel like I am not fairly compensated. What advice do you propose? I am nervous about sharing my thoughts with my Partner as I am afraid of a potential backlash. Thanks in advance.

Dear Alphabet Soup,

Think you’re underpaid, huh? Seems to be theme around here. However, your situation is more unique than most so we’ll make a run at this.

First thing we noticed about your situation is that you’re a M1 which means you were recently promoted, which also mean you should have just received a better-than average raise. And we’re more than a little skeptical about your assertion that a SA3 is making more than you. That would have to mean that SAs are getting insanely good raises while you – the newly promoted manager – got an abysmal one; it seems unlikely. If this in fact the case, then you’ve had a serious string of bad luck.

As for determining whether or not you are underpaid, we suggest you speak to a professional recruiter in KC to find out whether or not your credentials and international experience or currently undervalued. If the recruiter takes a look at your résumé and starts drooling, you’ll know that he/she can earn a fat commission placing you somewhere else. If they shrug and say, “Look friend, you’re doing pretty well. But let me tell you about this great opportunity…” then your salary is probably fair.

When it comes to talking to a partner about this, be sure you’re speaking to someone you trust and just be honest. Make your case with facts. Don’t go speculating about what a SA3 is making because that turns the conversation to something that is out of your control. Highlight your credentials, international experience and why they bring value to the firm and your partner.

They’ve heard the “I’m underpaid” sob story a million times. You’ve got to prove to them that your case is an exception to the run-of-the-mill bellyaching.

Credentials for Accountants: Certified Valuation Analyst

Need help deciding what you want to be when you grow up? Check out the rest of our posts on credentials for accountants.

The CVA isn’t like other certifications in that if you’re going for one, you’re probably trying to add to your arsenal of professional credentials and have a few days to spare for the intensive training.

What’s it take?
This is directly from the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (NACVA):

The Business Valuation Certification and Training Center’s compact five-day intermediate level curriculum is comprehensive and substantive, providing value from beginning to end. A good understanding of accounting, taxes, economics, finance, and a basic understanding of business valuation fundamentals are prerequisites. The BVTC’s primary goal is to provide you with information that will serve as a solid foundation for your professional valuation endeavors, whether or not you plan to pursue a designation.

The five-hour CVA exam is administered in a rotating yearly schedule in 13 U.S. cities (twice yearly in Chicago) following the five-day training.

The NACVA is a NASBA-recognized CPE provider, meaning the training and certification can satisfy CPE requirements for CPAs. State boards have the final say on what counts for CPE purposes so check with yours if you are interested in completing this program to satisfy CPE requirements. The NACVA has trained 15,000 CVAs since its inception in 1990 and its members are subject to the same sort of ethical standards as CPAs.

The entire program – not counting the exams and any study materials – runs about $3,555 (by comparison, the CPA exam costs around $1000 – $1500 just to sit, excluding CPA review fees or retakes) and the exam itself is $595.

Who would want a CVA?
Tax professionals, for one, but also M&A consultants, investment professionals, financial analysts, financial officers and of course accountants interested in valuation and providing this service to their clients.

Why would you want a CVA?
Businesses need to be valued for all sorts of reasons. Mergers and acquisitions make up a large part of this but the CVA also comes in handy for estate taxes, employee stock ownership plans, divorce, and partner break-ups. This makes it an always-in-demand credential in a constantly-evolving marketplace.

Compensation
Salary is impacted according to one’s position or other credentials. For example, a CFO with a CVA can expect to make a median salary of $125,000 according to PayScale. On the other side of the spectrum, a senior tax accountant with a CVA weighs in at an average of $60,000. But we knew tax was a thankless gig to begin with, didn’t we?

Since CVAs can also unravel bankruptcies and liquidations, the career options may be just about endless moving forward. Better start saving your pennies for that 5-day excursion.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts for GC here.

Credentials for Accountants: Certified Management Accountant

Last week we kicked off our certification series by looking at the CFE for those of you interested in becoming numbers sleuths that also have the figurative iron-clad stones that Sam Antar insists are imperative for any CFE.

This week we look at the Certified Management Accountant (“CMA”) credential and while it’s probably not as sexy as the CFE, a lot of you may want to consider the CMA if you see yourself spending a good portion of your career working as an in-house accountant or finance pro.


The credential is administered by the Institute of Management Accountants whose website states that “85% owork inside organizations, where expertise in decision support, planning, and control over value-adding operations are crucial elements of operational success,” and boasts 60,000 members worldwide.

Here’s the rundown on the CMA:

Education Requirement
You can meet the education requirement by verifying that you have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university or that you have a professional qualification, such as a CPA (here’s a partial list of global certifications that qualify).

Professional Requirements
The professional requirement for the CMA is two continuous years of experience in management accounting or financial management. This can be completed prior to the application or within two years of passing the CMA exam. The website states that, “Qualifying experience consists of positions requiring judgments regularly made employing the principles of management accounting and financial management.”

There is a long list of experience that will satisfy this requirement including financial analysis, budget preparation, management information system analysis, financial management, management accounting, auditing in government, finance or industry, management consulting, auditing in public accounting, research, teaching or consulting related to management accounting or financial management.

CMA Exam
The CMA Exam is currently transitioning from a four-part format to a two-part format. The two-part format rolls out on May 1st but testing of the four-part format will be available through December 31, 2010. The new format will focus on financial planning, analysis, control, and decision support. The two four hour exams consist of 100 multiple choice questions and two 30 minute essay questions.

Part 1 breaks down like this:
Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting (30%)
Performance Management (25%)
Cost Management (25%)
Internal Controls (15%)
Professional Ethics (5%)

And Part 2:
Financial Statement Analysis (25%)
Corporate Finance (25%)
Decision Analysis and Risk Management (25%)
Investment Decisions (20%)
Professional Ethics (5%)

There’s a lot of information on the new exam format including fees, testing windows, and more that can be seen here.

After certification, you are required to complete 30 hours of CPE annually, of which, 2 hours are required to be in ethics.

Career Options
Many CMAs work in budgeting, financial planning, cost accounting, performance evaluation, asset management and other various capacities. The work often times result in internal reports that will help management make prudent decisions rather than just taking wild stabs at running their respective companies. So it goes without saying that this is important stuff.

For those of you still working in the public realm, you can get benefits out of a CMA too. Our favorite Exuberant Accountant, Scott Heintzelman, has a CMA and he told us that it helps him better understand the needs of his manufacturing clients, “I had a bunch of clients in the manufacturing space and many of the controllers were CMA’s. I thought taking the time to get this certification would give me more creditability with this group…it helped me gain more manufacturing clients as they saw me as one of them, not just a CPA.”

Compensation and Other Benefits
According to the IMA’s most recent survey, CMAs earn 24-31% more than their non-certified colleagues. Those surveyed that have both a CMA and a CPA have even higher salaries. Now, we know what that you’re hung up on money but there are some other advantages too.

According to Scott, “Partners then had this belief [then] that the CMA was a brutal test (and it was). So a year later I started the process and actually was fortunate to pass the entire test on the first attempt. I had also passed the CPA exam on the first attempt a year earlier and so my partners suddenly thought I was some super smart young accountant and many believed I was ‘fast tracked’ to partner. I believe I just worked my butt off to learn that stuff, but none the less several of my partners looked at me differently. A very key moment in my young career.”

Credentials for Accountants: Certified Fraud Examiner

Now that busy season has come and gone (that is, for most of you) you may be thinking about what you’re going to spend you summer doing. Of course you should relax and use some of your accrued vacay that’s been thrown at you but you also me wondering what the next step in your career might be. For those of that haven’t yet gotten your CPA, we recommend getting on that ASAP, especially if you’re working in the public domain.

For the rest of you, some options include obtaining another certification that may assist you for your current role or prepare you for a position that you may have interest in for the future. We’ll examine maer the next several weeks to give you an idea of what the requirements are, what the benefits of the certification might be (yes, including salary) and some career options.


Since forensic accounting is somewhat fresh in our minds, we’ll kick off this series with the CFE designation. It is administered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (“ACFE”), the “world’s largest anti-fraud organization and premier provider of anti-fraud training and education,” according to the ACFE website. The website states that Association more than 50,000 members and it requires 20 hours of CPE every 12 months.

Steps to Obtaining a CFE
1) Be an Associate member of the ACFE in good standing – You can apply for membership here.

2) Submit the CFE Exam application with proof of education and professional recommendations – The ACFE requires three professional recommendations (form here). See the education and professional requirements below.

3) Pass the CFE Exam – After your application and supporting documentation is processed, then you must pass the exam (application here). It consists of five hundred objective and True/False questions administered via a computerized exam that has a $150 fee. The exam covers four areas: Fraud Prevention and Deterrence; Financial Transactions; Fraud Investigation; Legal Elements of Fraud. The CFE has a ton of resources to help with the exam including a prep course that has a money back guarantee.

4) Gain final approval from the certification committee and become a CFE – Assuming you’re not living a double life, this should be the easy part.

Education Requirements
The CFE requires a Bachelors Degree (or equivalent) and you may substitute two years of fraud-related work experience for one year of academic study.

Professional Requirements
Two years of work experience in one of the following fields will meet the professional requirements:
1) Accounting and Auditing – Anyone with experience ” or the detection and deterrence of fraud by evaluating accounting systems for weaknesses, designing internal controls, determining the degree of organizational fraud risk, interpreting financial data for unusual trends, and following up on fraud indicators.”

2) Criminology and Sociology – Do you know the criminal mind?

3) Fraud Investigation -If you’ve investigated fraud as a part of law enforcement or in the private sector (including insurance or internal investigations for other types of businesses).

4) Loss Prevention – This includes security consultants and directors but not your time working security as a mall cop.

5) Law – Candidates that have worked in a legal capacity including lawyers, fraud litigators and anyone working in an anti-fraud capacity.

Career Options
The two largest groups in the ACFE’s most recent compensation guide were fraud examiners and internal auditors. All of the Big 4 have forensic groups, internal auditors are increasingly become a more important part of the corporate structure and of course, the Federal government (including the SEC) is looking for fraud experts.

The other option, of course, is develop services that aren’t already offered by your firm. Scott Heintzelman, Partner at McKonly & Asbury (aka The Exuberant Accountant) and a CFE told us that it was a way for him to get involved in a new new practice area, “Our firm was getting involved in more cases and I wanted to be a part of this exciting niche. I also saw it as a way to add value to all my clients, by using the best practices on the prevention side.”

Compensation and Other Benefits
The most recent compensation information for “anti-fraud” professionals that we found was produced by the ACFE and it surveyed over 3,000 anti-fraud professionals. Of those, 64% had obtained their CFE and 36% had not. The median salary of those with the CFE certification was $90,300; those that did not have a CFE certification was $74,111.

And depending on the job function, the certification may have an effect on compensation. For example, the median salary for someone with “controller” as their primary job function was $104,500 while a non-CFE’s median salary was $106,000. On the other hand, a respondent whose primary job function was “Internal Auditor” that had a CFE certification had a median salary of $92,000 while a non-CFE “Internal Auditor” had a median salary of $77,800.

Some non-monetary benefits that Scott shared with us is that it definitely raised his profile among the partners at his firm, “As a younger accountant in our firm, my partners clearly saw it as me making myself more valuable to them and my clients. I was the first in my firm and this was a clear distinction.”

Ultimately, work experience and subsequent training will do the most good for those interested in fraud prevention as mentioned by both Sam Antar and Tracy Coenen in our recent post on forensic accounting. The appropriate mindset that includes “investigative intuition,” “[thinking] like a scumbag,” and “double iron clad balls.” Sam insists that these personality traits and characteristics are the most crucial to any successful forensic accountant but he didn’t dismiss the certification altogether saying, “[The] CFE designation is like chicken soup. It can’t hurt.”

So for anyone that thinks that they have the personality and fortitude to make a run in forensics, the CFE can serve as tool to demonstrate your interest. God knows there’s plenty of work out there.

Are Three Letters Enough for You?

Thumbnail image for BelushiCollege_CPA.jpgBack when we did our initial survey of you — our brilliant readers — we asked you to share with us the certifications that you boast behind your name.
As you well know, the mother of all certifications for accountants is the CPA. You hear about it in your college courses until graduation and the accounting firms put you under the gun to knock it out so you can make manager witho��������������������this coveted status, Adrienne gives you the latest in CPA exam fodder every week in her >75 column.
After dominating the CPA, your careers mosey along and eventually you may consider obtaining another certification. The motivation for more of the alphabet are many but most likely you’ll want to hold yourself out compared to your slacker co-workers or maybe you’re just obsessed with the notion of having as many letter combinations behind your name as possible.
Some of the more common certifications include:
Certified Management Accountant (CMA) – Implemented by the Institute of Management Accountants, the IMA states “As many as 85% of accountants today work inside organizations, where expertise in decision support, planning, and control over value-adding operations are crucial elements of operational success.”
Certified Financial Manager (CFM) – A complement to the CMA, the CFM can be obtained by taking one additional exam in addition to the portions under CMA.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) – The sexiest certification going. As long as you can keep from soiling yourself.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Among other requirements, a three part, 10-hour exam is administered three times a year for this certification.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) – The Institute of Internal Auditors issues this global certification that “demonstrate their comprehensive competence and professionalism in the internal auditing field.”
Certified Information Systems Auditors (CISA) – Sponsored by the ISACA, this is another global certification for information systems, audit, control, and security professionals.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) – Issued by the CFA Institute. Check out the requirements here.
Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) – Issued by the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts, this certification involves a five day training program and a 40–60 hour exam.
Although the thought of studying and testing for another certification may make you nauseous, it’s worth considering if you’re looking to make yourself a smidge more noticeable than your competition counterparts. Vote in our poll and discuss any thoughts or experiences in the comments.