There are several well-known international certifications for accounting and finance professionals, including CMA, CPA, CIMA, ACCA, ACA, CIA, CFA, and others. The first step for you as a professional seeking a certification is determining which one will be the most beneficial. This requires looking not only at your current job, but also what you would like to do in the future. By looking ahead, you can be certain that you have the needed skills, experience, and certification(s) for your career.
I have been involved in professional certifications in accounting and finance since 1998 and through all of these years, the certification that is generally the most valuable is the CMA. Of course, if you want to be an internal auditor, you become a CIA and if you want to be an investment banker, you should become a CFA. However, if you are looking for a career in accounting or finance, are looking to start or operate a small or medium-sized business, or want to have a certification that will provide the most flexibility and most options for you in your career, the CMA is the best certification for you.
There are five main reasons that the CMA is the overall best accounting and finance credential:
1. The CMA Syllabus is practical and relevant to your job.
Everything in the CMA syllabus is something that a business does or should do. Such a practical syllabus provides a lot of benefits to you:
- It makes studying easier. It is a lot easier to study and learn something when its relevance to a business is easy to understand. Also, by being practical, there is a greater chance that you will have some experience or exposure to the concepts before you start studying.
- The content you learn is useful for your current and future jobs. Ideally, studying for your certification will help you perform your job better. Whether you are in accounting, finance, budgeting, management, or operations, what is covered on the CMA Exam is what a company does or should be doing.
- The knowledge does not limit you to a specific department or career path. With topics ranging from financial accounting to management accounting, to planning and budgeting, to internal controls, to ethics and decision making, CMA prepares you for any job that is connected to management of a small or medium-sized business, or the accounting and finance functions in any size company.
2. You only need a Bachelor’s degree and two years of relevant work experience.
While some accountants have advanced degrees, there are many accountants who started in a different career and may not have a business degree or number of hours of accounting courses. For the CMA exam, as long as you have a 3 or 4 year Bachelor’s degree in any subject, you meet the education requirement.
Furthermore, as long as you have two years of relevant work experience, you will meet the experience requirement. Your experience does not need to be with any specific position nor does your supervisor need to be a CMA.
3. You only need to pass two exams to become a CMA.
While it may seem at first that only two exams are not enough for a professional certification, the two CMA exams cover a wide range of topics that are all tested in depth. This means that you get a rigorous exam that covers everything it needs to cover, but without a multi-year time commitment. With only two exams, you will be able to earn your CMA in around a year (average), and you will actually have a certification. While there are certifications with many more exams, if you don’t complete them all there is no benefit to you.
4. Your CMA certification is internationally recognized.
In all likelihood, you will have a number of different jobs during your career, which may include working for a multinational corporation, or in another country. Because the CMA certification is internationally recognized, it will help you get a job anywhere in the world. Having a CMA will also show to others in your organization that you are committed to your profession, which will help with promotions.
5. The CMA Syllabus is practical and relevant to your job.
Yes, this was also #1, but it is so important that it needs to be listed twice. An international syllabus (without country-specific details such as US Tax law) allows you to learn what is needed in today’s international accounting and finance marketplace.
For all of these reasons, I strongly recommend CMA as the best international certificate in accounting and finance. Of course, when you have a particular career goal, or your company requires a specific certification, then you need to pursue that required certification. If, however, you are looking to develop and expand your career prospects and possibilities within accounting and finance, then I strongly recommend the CMA Certification.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA