Additional Credentials Can Boost an Already Strong CPA Career

by Alyzabeth R. Smith, CPA | Mar 18, 2022
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Specialized professional designations are more than just alphabet soup following your name on a business card. They enhance a practitioner’s skills and make him or her more attractive to employers and clients. Some designations have specific exam requirements; others insist on membership with the issuing organization. Our designation, the certified public accountant, has obvious mass appeal and has been ranked as one of the most trusted professions by the public. But niche designations are valuable too, often due to the scarcity of those holding the certification. For CPAs looking for an edge, a specialized designation may offer the desired advantage.

The volume of options, however, can be overwhelming. It can feel like you are wading through an ocean of options. If a practitioner is to invest in such an undertaking, it should be for a credential that will provide the most value in his or her practice area of choice. 

Below are 10 useful credentials for accounting professionals, accompanied by a brief summary. This is not intended to endorse one designation above any other or above any left off this list. Rather, the summary is designed to provide some consolidated information for CPAs looking to augment their skills. 

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) – This certification is for professionals who will be assisting couples in the separation of assets pursuant to divorce. A CDFA can assist with valuing shared assets and assessing the tax consequences of asset bifurcation. This designation is conferred by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts.

Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) – Those with this designation will be well-versed in forensic accounting related to bankruptcy, financial statement misstatements, and multiple areas of fraud detection. To achieve this AICPA-issued designation, CPAs must pass an exam and fulfill educational and work experience requirements. 

Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) – This designation is for those embarking on a career in fighting fraud. Those with this designation possess a mix of financial expertise and criminal theory. Fraud examination skills are useful when employed by a client, but they are also an asset to the company where the examiner is employed. 

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) – Offered by ISACA, the CISA credential stands as a renowned designation for professional accountants who audit, control, monitor, and assess information technology and business systems. It is vital for those looking to serve in the areas of information systems auditing; IT governance and management; information systems acquisition, development, and information; and other responsibilities.

Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) – The CITP certification has been offered since 2014 by CPA Canada in conjunction with the AICPA. The goal of the CITP is to identify accountants with the ability to provide business insight while leveraging knowledge of information relationships and supporting technologies. To qualify for the CITP, an accountant must display skills and expertise in the areas of IT assurance, IT risks, data analytics, cybersecurity, and more.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) – This designation is for individuals who want special training in creating, executing, and monitoring internal control procedures. These auditors make sure an organization’s records are a truthful depiction of the entity’s affairs. A selling point for this designation is that it has global recognition. 

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) – The CMA helps set the framework for an organization’s investment, management, and forecast plan. The designation has both educational and work experience requirements. 

Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) – A certified valuation analyst has unique training in business valuation. This expertise would be useful in serving clients involved in the gifting of a business interest, mergers and acquisitions, and litigation. 

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) – Many who may be familiar with certified financial planners (CFPs) may be less in tune with the expertise offered by CFAs. CFPs often focus on the needs of individuals; CFAs generally focus on corporate investment and analysis. CFAs are proficient in portfolio and wealth management, but they generally spend more time working with institutions. 

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) – The CGMA designation was developed through a partnership between the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Europe’s principal body of management accountants). This designation, newer than the CMA, also certifies professionals in general business management and strategy. While the CMA follows a more traditional test format, the CGMA exam is an expansive case study. Work experience is a requirement to earn the CGMA certification.

The above are only some of the many possible certification options for CPAs. Practitioners need to consider their current needs as well as where they want to drive their careers when weighing certification options. While the cost of an additional designation is in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000, the return on investment is often worth the outlay.  


Alyzabeth R. Smith, CPA, is a tax manager at Siegfried Advisory in Wilmington, Del., and a member of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. She can be reached at alyzabeth_smith@msn.com.

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