September 15, 2019

Credentials

A woman punching a man in an argument

CPAs Currently Engaged in a Heated Beef With the AICPA Over the ABV Credential

Good morning and happy Monday, capital market servants. Boy do we have a fun one for you today. It seems a group of CPAs/valuators has taken issue with the AICPA’s plan to allow non-CPAs to earn an Accredited in Business Valuation credential, accusing the AICPA of diluting the value of the ABV brand and doing […]

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 […]

Credentials-accountants

Exposure Drafts: Can You Ever Have Too Many Letters Behind Your Name?

Exposure Drafts appears every other Wednesday. Send suggestions to editor@goingconcern.com.

AICPA Wants CGMA Love From the C-Suite

I guess now that they're done handing out CGMAs to any CPA with a pulse, the AICPA really has to convince people that this is a real thing: AICPA is trying to achieve greater recognition of the value of CGMA among CFOs and CEOs now that grandfathering stage is over #AICPAGC15 — Accounting Today (@AccountingToday) […]

Belated #TBT: Thanks to Ibanez v. Florida Board of Accountancy You Can Proudly Advertise Your CPA *and* CGMA

  For those of you that can't bear the thought of only having three letters behind your name: This June marked the 20th anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that remains of interest to the accounting profession because the litigants included a state board of accountancy and a dually credentialed attorney advertising that she […]

Is Getting a CITP Worth It?

Sometimes, your career troubles are so massive that you can no longer afford to buy a few rounds of drinks to convince your buddies to listen to you complain for the fifteenth night in a row. That's when you man (or woman) up, open up an email and let GC steer you in the right […]

Comp Watch ’12: Credentialed Accountants vs. Non-credentialed Accountants

Have you struggled to pass a certification exam? Is your reaction to colleagues that place various three-lettered credentials behind their name on their résumés a resounding "Meh"? Not too hung up on money? Great! You won't be bothered by this at all: The average reported salary of IMA members surveyed was $109,001 in 2011, down […]

Do You Really Want a Management Accountant Credential That Doesn’t Require Passing a Rigorous Multipart Exam?

Did you all remember that the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation was kicking off today? No? Shame. For those of you that crave letters behind your name like stoners crave Cool Ranch Doritos, this is EXCITING NEWS, especially if you already have your CPA. Why's that you ask? Because, says the rival Institute of Management […]

The CGMA Is Coming to Accountants Near You, January 31st

If you’ve completely spaced it, the Chartered Global Management Accountant is a new credential that will be jointly offered by the AICPA and the CIMA. We first mentioned it back in the spring and yesterday, JofA informed us that the big coming out party would be January 31. Why the new credential, you ask? Well, mostly because it’s a crazy fucked up world out there, says CIMA CEO Charles Tilly:

“We are in an incredibly challenging world,” Tilley said, citing global economic risks, competitive pressures and demands on natural and other resources. “The world needs management accountants and CGMAs more than ever right now.”

Right! And we can think of at least one operation that is looking for immediate help.

[via JofA]

‘Chartered Global Management Accountant’ Is the New Credential from the AICPA, CIMA

Back in March, we reported that the AICPA and CIMA were kicking around the idea of working together on a new global management accountant credential. Today, the two organizations have officially rolled out their plans.

[T]he two accounting bodies will create the new CGMA designation to give management accountancy a higher profile in the United States and promote the professional development of management accountants across the globe. Backing the new CGMA designation will be an AICPA-CIMA joint venture with international resources and experience in management accounting and business.

This will compete with the IMA’s CMA designation which has proven to be a valuable credential, although not a very sought-after one. The CGMA won’t be available until 2012 but the press release doesn’t give a lot of details about how the designation will be earned:

It is proposed that the new CGMA designation will be issued to members early in 2012. AICPA voting members with at least three years working in management accounting or a financial management role would qualify for an accelerated route to obtaining the new designation. CIMA members, all of whom hold either an ACMA or FCMA, will be entitled to use the letters ACMA CGMA or FMCA CGMA if they wish to.

Those holding the new designation will commit to a program of developing and maintaining competency in management accounting as well as leadership and strategy. This knowledge base will be derived from an expert-panel assessment of skills and competencies needed to succeed in various career paths in management accounting.

The new CGMA will be issued by the AICPA and CIMA through a license with the joint venture, with membership remaining with the existing organizations.

So, anyone interested?

[via AICPA, CIMA]

The Path to CFO: Is the CMA Credential Just as Important as the CPA?

Many of you soldiering in public accounting have aspirations of one day achieving the pinnacle of many a numbers junkie’s career – Chief Financial Officer. You may think that becoming a CFO will mean hobnobbing with other C-suiters, first-class flights and access to exclusive swing joints but in all likelihood, it will consist of long hours, political maneuvering and maybe burning a few bridges.

While there are many paths to ascending to such a heralded position, one has to wonder if the skill set obtained in public accounting will really prepare you for all the demands and headaches that will inevitably come with a CFO position.

Because so many accounting grads get their start in public accounting, one ofobtaining the CPA credential. There’s no question that obtaining your CPA is a must for anyone that intends on spending a significant portion of their career in public accounting and little debate about the advantage of having those three letters on your résumé when you start looking outside public.

Tthe timing of that move may determine what kind of path you have ahead of you in order to land that coveted CFO gig. If you manage to stick out life in public until partner or in some cases the director or senior manager level the path is more clear. You may jump right into it immediately or you assume a position that reports to the current CFO and be groomed to assume the big chair at the appropriate time.

But what if you’re just starting your career and you’re fed up with public already? Or what if you’ve gotten laid off and you took a job in private. Are your dreams crushed at this point? What’s a wannabe CFO to do?

Speaking with John Kogan, CEO of Proformative, an online resource for finance, accounting and treasury professionals, obtaining the Certified Management Accountant credential is something that often gets overlooked.


“It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of finance certifications,” John told GC, “it doesn’t get enough respect.” The argument for today’s CFOs to have a CPA are being made and statistics have shown that more and more CFOs are, in fact, CPAs. The most recent data we can find shows that in 2009, 45% of Fortune 1000 CFOs were CPAs, up from 29% in 2003.

However, the viewpoint of “Warren Miller” in the comments of Francine McKenna’s guest post at FEI Blog on the subject, is that accountants usually make terrible CFOs:

[A]ccountants tend to make lousy CFOs because (a) they see everything as an accounting problem, (b) their ignorance of finance AND of human nature (where incentives are concerned) can be breathtaking, (c) they look backwards, and (d) they are conflict-avoiders. If accountants wanted to deal with the ambiguity of the future, they’d have never become bean-counters.

In addition, most accountants LOVE “rules.” They avoid conflict by hiding behind rules. They are go-along/get-along people. I’m fond of saying this: “If accountants had been running our country in 1776, we’d still be working for the King.”

So if the gamut of accountants are ignorant about finance matters, does the CMA provide a bridge to closing that knowledge gap? John Kogan thinks so, “The CMA designation wants to be the ‘CPA’ for finance professionals,” he said, “but it’s so far from being that.”

When you look at the two sections of the CMA exam on the Institute of Management Accountant’s website, you certainly get the impression that the CMA could be the “CPA for finance professionals” based on the curriculum:

PART I – Financial Planning, Performance and Control
• Planning, budgeting, and forecasting
• Performance management
• Cost management
• Internal controls
• Professional ethics

PART II – Financial Decision Making
• Financial statement analysis
• Corporate finance
• Decision analysis and risk management
• Investment decisions
• Professional ethics

So why isn’t the CMA a more coveted credential? John Kogan claims it’s due to poor marketing on the IMA’s part, “The CMA [credential] has similar requirements, not identical but similar, and they don’t enjoy the reputation of the CPA,” John said. “The CMA is getting its butt kicked because it doesn’t market itself well.”

You can easily make the argument that the AICPA has the distinct advantage of partnering with the Big 4 – firms that’s primary purpose is to serve as CPAs – on marketing and promotional efforts while the IMA has no apparent equivalent.

That being said, our recent conversation with IMA Chair Sandra Richtermeyer shed some light on the careers that are available for accountants moving into a financial role that the CMA designation complements well. She was of the notion that the CMA is simply not about cost accounting and John Kogan agrees, “I think anyone who knows anything about [the CMA] knows that the [designation] is broader than that, it’s just that very few people know what the heck it’s about,” he said. “Without a doubt, the skills that the IMA are teaching and certifying are corporate finance skills.”

If you consider yourself to be on the path to CFO Rockstar, maybe you have the CPA locked up but what’s next? Having the CPA credential may make you an attractive candidate on paper but it’s won’t guarantee success with the wide range of knowledge that CFOs need. So, while it may not hold a candle to the CPA in terms of prestige, the skills and knowledge that fall under the CMA are essential for any successful CFO.

How the ACFE is Promoting CFE Awareness

After Caleb forced me to write a few posts on Credentials for Accountants meant specifically for those of you who still do not know what you want to be when you grow up, I managed to bumble one so badly I was contacted by Scott Grossfeld, CFE CPA and Cttp://www.acfe.com/”>Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. See, it appears I made a typical media mistake in using fraud and forensics as interchangeable fields within the industry and Scott felt compelled to speak up.

This wasn’t exactly wrong (I was being lazy actually) but as CEO of the ACFE, he’s got a responsibility to make sure the media represent the field of fraud examination correctly, especially when it comes to giving forensic accountants credit for what he and his fellow CFEs do out there. Thankfully, we had a nice little chat and cleared up that little point.


Additionally, Scott promised us access to recent salary survey information available shortly that will give us a better idea of what CFEs make. For now, he told us that the data confirms a 22% pay premium for individuals with the CFE compared to individuals in the same position without the CFE. We liked this approach and wish more organizations would take an active role in monitoring and engaging in the conversation, as Scott was obviously doing by reading our series on credentials.

Along the way, however, I discovered that the ACFE is also on top of things by promoting the credential, interacting with their audience and reaching potential new members through new avenues like blogging and social media. The ACFE is excited to be launching a new social media campaign shortly that we can only hope rivals that of the AICPA’s total social media genius (except for that whole Feed the Pig thing, which still creeps us out but is brilliant and weird enough to get a pass).

The strategy of having a CFE on staff is akin to carrying insurance on your home or car, and diversifying a company’s staff can mean the difference between a lawsuit and a slap on the wrist thanks to our favorite unnecessary accounting legislation of all time, Sarbanes-Oxley. “If you look at the CFE, originally the idea behind it was that we had accountants who really didn’t know how to investigate and investigators who don’t know accounting so we were able to bring those two together,” he said. “If you look now, Enron was the big thing that really changed perspective… here’s a big financial risk but you could lose your company if you’re not careful (with SOX) and I think that really raised awareness. Before that fraud work was sort of like insurance, you knew you needed it but you couldn’t always justify it.”

But CFEs do justify their price from a prevention standpoint, assuming fraud to be a risk all companies are exposed to. “5 – 7% of the company’s revenue is lost to fraud, that’s where the fraud examiner pays for themselves,” he told us.

But how does the ACFE promote the usefulness of a 20 year old credential like the CFE? By getting to the kids when they’re still undecided, of course.

“It used to be that the CFE was a secondary credential. [Promoting the credential is the goal of] the higher education partnership we provide to educators. We have 300 colleges and universities in that program. Now it’s part of the discussion; risk is on the radar in terms of what companies are looking for. What we typically see is fraud being an elective type class though there are a few schools that specialize in fraud and or forensics.”

The ACFE also promotes its mission by encouraging those interested in pursuing a career in fraud-fighting to join the organization as a student member for something like $20 a year. Student Associate membership is open to undergraduate students enrolled in 9 semester hours (or equivalent), or graduate students enrolled in 6 semester hours (or equivalent) in an accredited college or university. We agree with this approach, as surrounding yourself with like-minded folks gives you a chance to expose yourself to those already on your desired path. There’s plenty of opportunity for mentorship, commiserating and gaining insight into what the credential actually means for your career.

All in all we approve of what the ACFE is doing and look forward to seeing whatever else they have up their sleeve unfold in the months and years ahead. Let’s face it, they’re pretty much guaranteed a job forever. We like.

Credentials for Accountants – Your Wheelbarrow Barrel Needs Tech Tools

Over the last couple months, GC has been profiling various accounting-related credentials. CPA, CFP, CMA, CIA, CFE, CVA, CFA… it’s a veritable alphabet soup of designations and employers are more and more likely to ask for a second helping these days. And you might want to pick up an MBA while you’re at it too. Y’know, in your spare time. In Canada, you can go ahead an//www.cga-canada.org/en-ca/Pages/default.aspx”>CGA, CA, and CBV to the mix as well.

Another day, another designation for yet another self-regulating body.

We’ve all heard of “grades inflation.” Well, in my view, we’re currently subject to “credentials inflation” at a rate that would make a Banana Republic cringe. In contrast, Zimbabwe Ben would likely nod in approval.


Beyond credentials though, there’s another critical piece in the employment puzzle that you would be well advised to consider as you venture into the field. Tools.

What are an accountant’s tools?

I’m not talking about the wheel barrel you’ll need to cart all those credentials to your job interview. I’m talking about the business software that more and more employers want pre-installed on their prospective employees.

At the entry level, it tends to be more of a ‘nice to have’ than a ‘must have’. But more and more, your progressive career path is affected by the type of tools you learn early in your career. There’s just no way to separate accounting and finance from the technology that facilitates accounting and finance work.

In the small business space, this is less of an issue. One small business accounting package is much like another. The “canned” reports (built in) will largely suffice, point and click. Just get yourself a healthy functional skill level with MS Excel and you’re ready to go.

Moving up into the enterprise, it’s a different story. The difference between having experience with Quickbooks versus SAP is akin to the difference between a degree from Eastern Michigan University and Princeton.

Think about that when you are venturing out into the job market for the first time. What are your aspirations? Where do you want your career to take you?

It’s difficult to blame employers for this predilection. Enterprise software is complex, subject to cryptic reporting languages, and training is expensive. The expertise is seldom institutionalized within the enterprise instead residing in the head’s of one or two key people. The “gurus.” Sometimes the expertise just walks right out the front door. It’s just way, way easier for everyone when “the new guy” can hit the ground running.

We may see this sad reality change in time.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, is a key person leading the charge for change. He is an out-spoken advocate of the “consumerization” of enterprise software. In Benioff’s view, enterprise software should be as easy to use as Facebook and we’re seeing this manifest with every iteration of the Salesforce.com platform.

Unfortunately, Salesforce is the exception rather than the rule and the incumbent systems are deeply rooted in business. The technology “stack” as it’s called is built up over time and choices of enterprise systems are traditionally big, capex decisions. Change is rarely proactive and technology is normally kept well beyond the end of its useful life.

The complex enterprise systems will continue to be persistent for sometime to come. So be prepared to factor this into your career calculations. When you’re out there looking for work, ask the question of prospective employers. What systems do you use? Then, research that system to figure out its prevalence in the market: Are they using some niche software product built upon an ancient architecture? Is it a proprietary system that you’ll never see again? Is it a “legacy system”? Is it vertical specific?

Don’t underestimate the importance of these questions. No one has the bandwidth to learn all the tools currently offered. Examine your career aspirations carefully within the context of these technology tools because it can be difficult to backpedal. The tools you learn have just as much bearing on your career as the credentials you chose.

And inflation is a fact of life.

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. You can see more of his posts for GC here.

Credentials for Accountants: Certified Information Systems Auditor

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

If you’re really into internal audits and information systems, want to make decent money and never want to worry about having to find a job, you may want to look into the CISA.


Education Requirements
None that we know of, beyond what you’d need to secure a job in the field to gain required professional experience.

Professional Requirements
CISA candidates must have 5 years of relevant experience in IS auditing, control or security work and adhere to the IASCA Code of Professional Ethics. Experience must be obtained in the 10 years before taking the exam.

CISA Exam
The exam is administered twice a year (June and December) and candidates must register no less than two months before the exam date. The exam is made up of 200 multiple choice questions that must be answered within 4 hours. The score is graded from 200 – 800 points and a CISA candidate must score at least 450 points to pass. It covers the following areas:

IS Audit Process (10%)
IT Governance (15%)
Systems and Infrastructure Lifecycle Management (16% of Exam)
IT Service Delivery and Support (14%)
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (14%)

The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) sets the standards of and administers the CISA examination.

Compensation
PayScale has some interesting figures on compensation for those with the CISA and we have to say, it’s one of the more lucrative credentials we’ve covered thus far. Interestingly, GT pays its CISAs far better than P-Dubs.

Deloitte$59,942 – $86,500
Ernst & Young$60,737 – $90,757
KPMG$70,736 – $111,331
PricewaterhouseCoopers$58,448 – $97,657
Grant Thornton$56,500 – $143,400

IS Auditors make between $60,047 – $82,842 while IS Audit Managers can make up to $108,226. The money is good if you’re willing to put in the hours and pass a little more than half of the exam.

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 here.

Credentials for Accountants: Chartered Financial Analyst

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

Into investments and looking to secure a credential that is recognized the world over as a standard of professional excellence? Getting the Chartered Financial Analyst (“CFA”) credential might be for you. You won’t be alone as 139,900 candidates in 160 countries have enrolled for June CFA exams this year.

Here’s the rest of the skinny on the CFA:

Education Requirement
To obtain a CFA, all you need is a bachelor’s and four years of relevant work experience, or a combination of education and experience that totals at least four years.

Professional Requirements
CFAs must have 48 months of qualified work experience to qualify to take the exams.


CFA Exam
The exam is administered only in English by the CFA Institute in June and December. The Candidate Body of Knowledge is the playbook from which all CFAs derive their moves; those who have recently passed the CPA exam can think of it as the opposite of the CPA exams, whereupon BEC is the largest section. Topics include the time value of money, corporate governance, equity investments and portfolio management.

The exam consists of three levels and Each has its own emphasis, with all of them weighing ethics heavily.

Level I emphasizes tools and inputs, and includes an introduction to asset valuation, financial reporting and analysis, and portfolio management techniques.

Level II emphasizes asset valuation, and includes applications of the tools and inputs (including economics, financial reporting and analysis, and quantitative methods) in asset valuation.

Level III study program emphasizes portfolio management, and includes strategies for applying the tools, inputs, and asset valuation models in managing equity, fixed income, and derivative investments for individuals and institutions.

All levels must be passed in order to secure the CFA designation. Each exam is 6 hours. There is no passing score, only pass/fail and candidates are given score reports that explain their performance according to other candidates. The exam uses a psychometric grading system similar to the CPA exam.

Studying takes about 10 – 15 hours per week for 18 weeks. Unlike the CPA, CFA candidates can take the exams as many times as they need to pass and there is no time limit to do so.

Career Options
A large number of CFAs end up as portfolio managers however other career options include research analyst, consultant, financial advisor or investment banking analyst. 7% of CFAs are actually chief executives.

Compensation and Other Benefits
Portfolio managers can make $77,443 – $144,360 (national average) so the obvious incentive to obtaining a CFA is the money. CFAs are overwhelmingly male, about 82% according to PayScale. For CPAs, the CFA designation offers quite a bit of flexibility in one’s career to work outside of accounting with a focus on financial products and investments.

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.

Will a CMA or CFM Get You Some Kind of CPA Exam “Credit”?

The short answer is no. The medium answer is hell no and the long answer is the rest of this post but first, let’s address the reader question, shall we?

Will any of the sections passed for the CMA and/or CFM count against the requirements for the CPA examination? In other words, can I avoid taking certain sections of the CPA examination because I have passed the CMA and CFM?


ALL candidates have to pass all four parts of the exam and for the lucky ones, there’s even a fifth part to worry about called ethics but that’s not all of you so we won’t get into that. There is no credit given for life experience, other letters after your name, certifications, and/or letters from your Mom attesting to your good moral character. You don’t get extra credit for making your written communications 15 paragraphs long, nor do you get a bonus for having the prettiest scribbles on your scratch paper. Nothing. Sorry kid but them’s the breaks.

CMAs are not automatically eligible to sit for the CPA exam simply because they are CMAs however required coursework for both credentials are similar so if you are eligible to pursue one, you may be eligible to pursue the other without additional education. This career track is best accomplished by getting an MBA or Masters in accounting, not completing your Bachelor’s and simply picking up a few extra units to fulfill the CPA’s 150 hour requirement.

If you are into it, check out some recent IMA numbers on salary potential for CMAs and CPAs. So while you won’t be able to get out of any of the usual CPA exam gruntwork, it still might be worth it to pursue anyway. And bonus, you might just be able to count your CPE units twice for both designations.

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 here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

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 Internal Auditor

This is the fourth in our series on certifications for accountants. Previously, we’ve covered the CFP, CMA, and CFE so if you’re not sure what you want to be when you grow up, be sure to check those out.

So, what’s the CIA all about?


Education Requirement
CIA candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree. Unlike the CPA exam, which often requires certain coursework or a minimum master’s level education in accounting, the CIA certification has no such requirements. The CIA exam is administered year-round by the Institute of Internal Auditors.

Professional Requirements
Those interested in pursuing a CIA designation must have at least 24 months (2 years) professional experience in internal auditing or its equivalent. Equivalent experience would be in the areas audit/assessment disciplines, including external auditing, quality assurance, compliance, and internal control. Candidates with a master’s degree can substitute their degree for one year of experience. Candidates may sit for the CIA exam before satisfying the experience requirement but will not be certified until meeting this requirement.

Career Options
Certified Internal Auditors can be in public or private industry and experience a diverse workload checking controls, planning the audit process for their company, testing, and compiling reports. Internal auditors may also give feedback on management policies and procedures based on their findings.

Compensation and Other Benefits
CIAs can expect to make a median yearly salary of $55k freshly certified and around $100k with 20 years of experience, making it a cozy career choice for auditors (Payscale). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, growth in auditing and accounting positions is expected to rise 18% between 2006 and 2016, which gives CIAs a certain level of job security not seen in other industries. Equally important, executive responsibility attached to Sarbanes-Oxley means CIAs are that much more critical to an organization by isolating incidents of fraud or waste.

Obviously, CIAs are not in it for the money but for fraud-fighters who love information systems, technology and auditing, the CIA is a safe, always-in-need designation worth looking into!

Credentials for Accountants: Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

Check out our previous certification posts on the CMA and CFE if you are interested.

The CFP is a pretty common sense credential for an accountant to pursue if one is focused on client service and looking to work closely with clients to create a blueprint for their future financial success. If you became an accountant to help people put their finances together, this one is for you. Unless you’re the least bit unethical or otherwise of unsatisfactory moral fortitude; check the CFP board’s Candidate Fitness Standards if you’re not sure whether or not your sketchy past will pass.


Here’s a quick rundown on the CFP:

Education requirement
The CFP Certification Examination is administered by the CFP board and in order to take the exam, you will need to be knowledgeable in all of areas covered by the financial planning topic list. There are three ways to complete the educational requirement: CFP Board-Registered Programs, Challenge Status or Transcript Review.

CFP candidates must have a bachelor’s degree but that requirement is a condition of initial certification and is not needed to take the exam. The areas of financial planning are as follows:

• Financial planning: process and environment
• Fundamentals of insurance planning
• Income taxation
• Planning for retirement needs
• Investments
• Fundamentals of estate planning

Professional requirements
Three years of full-time relevant personal financial planning experience is a requirement for certification.

Career Options
There are approximately 59,000 CFPs today, twice the number there were a decade ago. Despite the explosion in this designation’s popularity or perhaps because of it, the CFP is still an in-demand certification that can only grow in these uncertain financial times. CFPs can end up at large or small firms, or wish to start a private practice.

Compensation and Other Benefits
CFPs with 20 years experience make twice as much as those just starting out in the field, according to PayScale. Starting median salary is about $50k, and by 20 years a CFP can make anywhere from $90 – $100k. Of course pay depends on location and NY CFPs will naturally make much more (about $75k in their first year) than, say, metro Houston CFPs. Naturally, adding an MBA to one’s resume on top of the CFP will likely earn you an extra $20k in your first year. Income potential is based mostly on performance (sales).

It’s clear that CFPs have a real desire to help their clients (and pay their bills), so if you’ve got stars in your eyes and are planning to make a partner’s salary one day, this may not be the designation for you. But if you’re driven, love finance, and have a real feel for investments and clients, perhaps this is just what you need.

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 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.