Professional Certification Opportunities for Accountants

By Hutchison, Paul D.; Fleischman, Gary M. | The CPA Journal, March 2003 | Go to article overview
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Professional Certification Opportunities for Accountants

Hutchison, Paul D., Fleischman, Gary M., The CPA Journal


In recent years, there has been a proliferation of professional certifications available for practicing accountants. But what is the impetus for accountants to seek one or more professional certifications? And what certifications are available for accountants? Before addressing these questions, it is important to grasp the role of certification.

Formal Education

Most practicing accountants have a business education that entailed rigorous coursework over four to five years, culminating in a degree in accounting. This education forms the bedrock of accounting knowledge that positions an accountant for a process of lifetime learning. Most modern degree programs provide the opportunity for accounting students to develop oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills, as well as exposure to organizational skills and technology. But an accounting degree alone is insufficient for many accountants to achieve their career goals. Many accountants desire further recognition of their ongoing professional knowledge, and wish to carve out specialization niches by obtaining professional certifications, some of which may be required to engage in public practice. For these persons, formal accounting education represents only the first step in pursuing professional certification.

Why Seek Proessional Certificaitons?

Accountants can accrue significant upward mobility by obtaining one or more professional certifications. Other benefits include the following:

* Certification indicates competency, which implies requisite or specialized accounting knowledge plus adherence to professional standards. Consequently, certification enhances one's reputation among colleagues and potential clients.

* For accountants, certification can be a marketing tool to differentiate themselves from other professionals. Furthermore, many employers use certification as an indication of competency and a means to differentiate persons in the hiring and promotion process.

* Many accountants obtain certification to increase their marketability and, ultimately, their compensation, Certification may permit accountants to charge higher consulting fees or to introduce new revenue sources.

* Accountants seek professional certification to provide market-driven, valueadded, specialized services to clients and customers, in addition to traditional services such as audit and tax.

Certifications Available to Accountants

The Exhibit provides an extensive listing of key certifications related to the accounting profession. The following discussion briefly describes each of the certifications listed therein.

Accredited Estate Planner, AEP. The National Association of Estate Planners & Councils offers this accreditation to individuals that have attained a specialized level of knowledge in estate planning. To obtain this designation, one must meet certain qualification requirements and pass two graduate level courses administered by the American College.

Accredited in Business Valuation, ABV. A specialization certification issued by the AICPA to CPAs with extensive experience and specialization in business valuation. The ABV designation is a marketing tool that enables CPAs to position themselves as the leading providers of business valuation services.

Associate Computing Professional ACP. Sponsored by the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals, the ACP is a computing designation for entry-level professionals. Candidates must pass a core examination demonstrating a broad understanding of computer systems plus an exam on one of six programming languages.

Certification in Control SelfAssessment, CCSA This is an Institute of Internal Auditors (IA) specialty designation for Certified Internal Auditors (CIA). Demonstrated by examination, this new certification program identifies the skill sets needed by successful practitioners and measures their understanding of control self-assessment.

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