Best Accounting Certifications: CPA, CFA, CMA, CIA, and More

accounting certificationWe’ve got a bowl of alphabet soup when it comes to finance and accounting certifications: CPA, CFA, CMA, CIA, CAIA, FRM, CFP, etc.

If you’re pursuing or maintaining a career in accounting, you’d benefit from getting an accounting certification. But, you need to know: Which one is the best? Does it make sense to get more than one?

For this reason, I’ve shared my analysis of these top accountant certifications and finance certifications here to help you discover which is right for you.

Accounting Certifications Comparison Chart

Focus & Recognition accounting certification cpa accounting certification cfa accounting certification cma accounting certification cia accounting certification caia
Focus Public + general accounting Finance + investment Management accounting Internal audit Alternative investment
Overall recognition 5-star 4-star 3-star 3-star 2-star
Industry recognition 5-star 5-star 4-star 4-star 4-star
Exam Requirements
Entry barrier 5-star 2-star 2-star 2-star 2-star
Need bachelor degree? smalltick smallcross smalltick smallcross smallcross
Need specific courses? smalltick smallcross smallcross smallcross smallcross
Exam Format accounting certification cpa accounting certification cfa accounting certification cma accounting certification cia accounting certification caia
# exam days per year 4 testing windows (9 months) 1-2 times a year 4 testing windows (6 months) Year round 2 times a year
Total exam hours 16 18 8 6.5 8
# parts/levels 4 3 2 3 2
Latest pass rates 48-51% 43% / 46% / 54% 40% / 50% 40% 66% / 67%
Estimated expenses US$1,000-3,000 $3,000-4,500 $1,300-2,500 $1,000-$2,000 $3,000

Video Summary of Various Accounting Certifications

Accounting Certification of Choice: Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The primary question for the process of choosing an accounting certification should be: which certification is the most useful?

For most accountants, the answer to that question is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification.

Most General Accounting Certification

The CPA certification is probably the most widely recognized accounting certification because it is the most general. One of the requirements for earning the CPA is passing the CPA Exam, and the exam content is very broad.

The CPA Exam covers accounting topics such as financial accounting, management accounting, corporate finance, strategic planning, audit, general business, and U.S. taxation. In fact, the CPA Exam covers so much material that it actually consists of 4 different sections and hundreds of questions.

For this reason, the CPA Exam is one of the most challenging accounting certification exams. Surprisingly, this facet of the CPA certification doesn’t detract from its popularity but rather adds to its prestige.

One of the Most Stipulated Accounting Certifications

The additional CPA requirements also contribute to the world-renowned reputation of the CPA certification. In the U.S., the states grant CPA licenses, and the state boards of accountancy oversee this process, which involves establishing the CPA licensure requirements. While the specifics of the CPA requirements vary per state board, the general certification guidelines are the 3 Es:

  • Examination: All state boards hold that candidates must pass the AICPA’s Uniform CPA Examination.
  • Education: Almost every state board expects candidates to earn 150 hours of education with an accounting concentration.
  • Experience: Most state boards require candidates to acquire 1-2 years of professional accounting experience.

Some state boards also make candidates pass a CPA ethics exam (the fourth “E”).

As you can see, the AICPA asks a lot of CPA candidates. The education requirement, in particular, is the highest among all accounting and finance certifications. Such strict requirements reinforce the perspective that earning the CPA certification is a particularly impressive feat that places CPAs in an elite group.

Most Regulated and One of the Oldest Accounting Certifications

The CPA certification is the most regulated because the CPA is the only qualification that includes the statutory right to sign audit reports and issue audit opinions.

Clearly, the CPA is the accounting certification of choice, but if you need any more reason to respect it, you should know that it is one of the oldest accounting certifications. The CPA’s long history began in 1896, yet thousands of candidates still sit for the exam every year.

If you’d like to join them so you can earn the most esteemed accounting certification around, start by investigating the best CPA review courses on the market and related CPA review discounts.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) Certification

Certified Management Accountant certification is almost like a subset of the CPA certification. The CMA certification focuses completely on management accounting, while the CPA only touches on it. Therefore, the CMA certification adds value with its specializations in cost accounting, financial analysis, and strategic planning.

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) administers the U.S. CMA program. Though this program is based in America, it is globally recognized because the CMA is available in 140 countries.

However, there are also many CMA equivalents around the world. These comparable certifications include the CIMA in the UK, the CMA Canada (part of CPA Canada), and the ICAI (formerly the ICWAI) in India. All of this competition is the reason why the U.S. CMA certification is not as popular among accountants as it would be.

Another reason the CMA certification is not as popular (though not any less useful) is because of its diminutive usefulness for public accountants.

The CMA does not benefit public accountants as much as the CPA does. However, if you hope to work in corporate accounting in the future, particularly in Fortune 500 companies or companies with manufacturing facilities requiring cost and inventory management, then the CMA is what you need.

This particular accounting certification can help you land a high-quality job in these industries. The CMA certification lets you engage in both the business management and finance sides of a company. Additionally, the expertise you gain from this vocational flexibility equips you for positions such as CEO, CFO, COO, and Vice President, Finance, among others.

CMA Requirements

A factor that has helped the CMA gain traction in America is the relaxed CMA requirements:

  • Examination: You have to pass the CMA exam, which has just 2 parts.
  • Education: You simply need any bachelor’s degree from virtually any university around the world.
  • Experience: You must acquire two years of relevant accounting experience.

The CMA is considered the gold standard in management accounting. If you know this is the career path you want to take, then learn more about how to become a CMA today. And if you’re ready to get started on the CMA exam, you’ll want to check out the best CMA review courses and CMA review discounts.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) Certification

The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification also supplies you with an accounting specialization. As you can see, the CIA designation is strictly for internal auditors. While internal auditors and compliance professionals have many certification options, the CIA certification is the most relevant. Internal audit is important for all companies, so the CIA will help you find a variety of employment opportunities. However, CIAs most often work for large companies performing audit procedures and helping independent auditors.

CIA Requirements

If CIA accounting greatly interests you, you can earn the certification by fulfilling the following CIA requirements:

  • Examination: You have to pass the CIA exam, which features 3 parts.
  • Education: You must have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited university. You can get this requirement partially or fully waived with 2-7 years of working experience in internal audit.
  • Experience: You need to accumulate 2 years of internal audit experience. A master’s degree in an applicable field can substitute for 12 months of work experience.

While earning the CIA certification is not as challenging as earning certifications like the CPA, CIA accounting is a distinct niche. If you are not interested in internal auditing, don’t get the CIA certification.

On the other hand, if you’re ready to take your internal auditing skills to the next level, discover how to become a certified internal auditor today. There are a handful of CIA review courses, and you can find the best CIA review courses and biggest CIA review discounts here.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Designation

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is the most popular title in the investment community. In fact, it is now a must-have for security analysts and asset managers. Honestly, the CFA is an advantage for just about any career in the finance and investment industries.

Most CFAs work for a hedge fund, investment fund, or Wall Street-based corporation, but the CFA can also lead to company management. Because the CFA trains you to think analytically about finance, investing, and business operations, you can use it to become a controller, CFO, or some other type of finance professional.

You can also utilize the CFA at a global level, as the CFA is the most international accounting and finance designation. The CFA’s popularity shot up since the CFA Institute (formerly AMIR) reached out to countries around the world in 1988. Today, CFA charter holders are active across the globe, and China has the highest number of CFA applicants.

CFA Requirements

Though the CFA focuses on finance, the low barrier of entry into the CFA program attracts many candidates with non-finance backgrounds. Earning the designation involves meeting 2 of these 3 these CFA requirements:

  • Examination: You need to pass the CFA exam, which has 3 levels.
  • Education: You must have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, OR
  • Experience: You have to obtain 4 years of relevant professional experience.

While the CFA designation allows you to develop well-rounded skills outside the realm of accounting, its scope is narrower than that of the CPA because it only covers finance and investment. If you’re an auditor or tax accountant, you may not want the CFA title.

Having said that, the CFA is a great avenue for going deeper into the realm of investment. Determine how to become a CFA today if that’s the realm for you. Learn about the best CFA courses and CFA review discounts.

Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Certification

The Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) certification is the new kid on the block.  The CAIA Association was established in 2002 but has grown rapidly. Due to the proliferation of alternative investment products, there are now 8,000+ CAIA charter holders. The CAIA is another very specialized designation, and it allows you to stand out among CFAs in the investment community. If your work already involves alternative investment, the CAIA program would be a good choice for you.

CAIA Requirements

In the past, the content of the CFA and CAIA exams overlaps considerably. But recently, the CAIA exam moved further away from standard portfolio management topics to better distinguish itself. Passing the CAIA exam is one of 3 CAIA requirements, and as with the CFA designation, you must meet 2 of the 3.

  • Examination: You have to pass the CAIA exam, which has 2 levels.
  • Education: You need a bachelor’s degree and one year of professional experience, OR
  • Experience: You must amass 4 years of relevant work experience.

Alternative investment is the fastest growing segment of the investment industry. If you would like to steer your career toward

  • hedge funds,
  • commodity trading (CTA),
  • real estate, and
  • private equity fund management,

or if you aspire to become

  • a chief investment officer,
  • a consultant to institutions, family offices, and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, investment analysts, regulators,
  • a due diligence officer,
  • an asset allocator,
  • a capital introduction specialist, or
  • a fund administrator,

then you should seriously consider the CAIA designation. As you can see, it provides a host of career possibilities! If you’d like to pursue the exciting potential of the CAIA, begin by getting answers to your CAIA exam FAQs.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) Certification

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification is currently the most recognized designation for information systems (IS) audit control, assurance, and security professionals. Due to a series of financial scandals, the Arthur Anderson fallout, and problems within internal control, the CISA certification has become quite popular. In fact, the number of CISAs has doubled in the last decade.

But the CISA has been around for a while now. The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) launched the CISA certification in 1976. ISACA itself began in 1969 to benefit information systems audit, assurance, security, risk, privacy, and governance professionals. ISACA membership has quadrupled in the last 10 years, and the association now has more than 140,000 members in 180 countries. The CISA is one of four certifications the ISACA grants, and more than 27,000 IT professionals take the exam every year.

Becoming a CISA is a good idea for auditors planning to prove their competency in IT auditing and their dedication to the industry. As a very technical and specialized certification, the CISA can help you qualify for exclusive career opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach. Of course, one of the biggest draws is the increased salary you can earn as you advance in the industry. Compared to general internal auditors, IT auditors can make $11,000-$21,000 more with each promotion. Such expansive payouts are the result of the high demand for CISAs in the wake of a growing emphasis on internal control.

CISA Requirements

If you’d like to become a CISA as well, you won’t have to do as much as you would to earn some of these other certifications. There are only 2 requirements for securing the CISA:

  • Examination: You need to pass the CISA exam, which just has one part.
  • Experience: You must have at least 5 years of experience in information system auditing, control or security.

IT skills are more important than ever, and with the CISA, you can be invaluable to the information systems industry. Jumpstart your IT auditing career by learning how to become CISA certified today. You can also find CISA discounts to help with your preparation.

Enrolled Agent (EA) Designation

The Enrolled Agent (EA) designation is the desirable credential for tax preparers. An enrolled agent is an expert in tax preparation. “Enrolled” means licensed to practice by the federal government, and “agent” means a person authorized to appear in the place of the taxpayer at the IRS.

Together with CPAs and attorneys, enrolled agents have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections, and appeals.

CPAs generally have a higher long-term earning potential, but EAs have the chance to earn a substantial amount during tax season. And while CPAs and attorneys typically begin their careers at firms before moving into private practice if they so choose, enrolled agents have their own clients and can, therefore, work at home with flexible hours.

The main reasons to become an enrolled agent include setting yourself apart from regular tax professionals, gaining clients’ trust with a qualification that includes receiving special privileges from the IRS, and differentiating yourself from attorneys and CPAs as a tax expert.

EA Requirements

The IRS created the enrolled agent designation in 1884, so it’s actually a few years older than the CPA certification. Because this designation deals directly with the IRS, former IRS employees can become enrolled agents without taking the EA exam, also known as the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE).

If you haven’t worked for the IRS before but seek to secure enrolled agent status, passing the EA exam is the only major enrolled agent requirement you must meet.

If you’re committed to a tax career in the U.S. and desire to establish yourself as a tax specialist, find out how to become an enrolled agent now. If you’re already certain you’ll be pursuing the EA exam, learn how to take advantage of EA course discounts and find the best enrolled agent courses.

Other Niche Designations

Overall, we’ve already discussed 7 major finance and accounting certifications, and that’s just a handful of them. Others include:

  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
  • Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP)
  • Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Accredited Financial Examiner (AFE)
  • Certified Bank Auditor (CBA)
  • Certified Forensic Accountant (CFA)
  • Accredited Business Accountant (ABA)
  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

So, if you continue to aim your career toward specific abilities and skills, one of these certifications may prove advantageous. However, many accountants earn one of the 7 certifications we discussed in the beginning of this article.

Popular Questions about Accounting Certifications

Which is the easiest accounting certification to earn?

Over the years, candidates have asked which is the easiest accounting certification to earn more times than I can count. In truth, the exam difficulty does vary, but I wouldn’t pick an accounting certification based on this criteria. You should instead choose the one that adds the most value to your career.

Try to avoid shortcuts and short-term gains. It’s much better to plan long-term so you can benefit long-term.

Which is the hardest accounting certification to get?

Just because an accounting certification has a reputation for being difficult to achieve does not mean that earning it would be an impossible task for you. Rather, if you are intelligent and hard-working, you can get any of these certifications!

That being said, we can see that some of these certifications have very stringent prerequisites, so their reputations may be well-founded. Looking at requirements alone, the CPA and the CFA certifications are the most demanding. However, the CPA and CFA exams usually have higher pass rates than the CIA exam and Part 1 of the CMA exam. Consequently, our perspective on certification difficulty can alter according to the factors we focus on.

How many accounting certifications do you need?

The answer really depends on your career path. How you want to specialize is also an aspect of this decision. If you can qualify for it, getting the CPA title is a good idea because the CPA is so prestigious and versatile. Earning one additional title can then help distinguish you even further.

However, I would advise against certain certification combinations. For example, the CMA and CFA lead to completely different career paths. Therefore, pairing these particular certifications wastes money, time, and effort. This matchup also leaves recruiters confused about what you want to do. In my opinion, getting a CPA and CFA, CPA and CMA, CPA and CIA, or CFA and CAIA makes more sense.

Should I get an MBA instead of or with an accounting certification?

This is another big question. Basically, I consider an accounting certification and an advanced degree different enough that you can get both, as they serve distinct purposes. But as always, you’ll find the answer to this question by reflecting on your own career goals and developing your understanding of these choices. To get started on the latter, read my thoughts on the CPA vs Master’s, the CFA vs MBA, and the CMA vs MBA.

Concluding Thoughts about Accounting Certifications

There are numerous accounting certifications you can get as an accounting and finance professional. The ones I’ve listed are the leaders in their respective fields. There are also tier 2 and tier 3 titles that you can get, but I think the cost of getting these may exceed the benefits.

But of course, I am always open to new ideas from my readers. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts on accounting certifications in the comments section below.

If you’d like to move forward with earning one of these popular accounting certifications, click the buttons below!

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • Deco says:

    Hello there,I just need advise on which Program to go for between CMA and CIMA can you please advise.And is it possible to get there broacher for them?

    Please advise

  • Sam says:

    Hello, I was just wondering which certificate would help me the most if I were to work in an FMCG company, I always thought of CMA but my decision is still clouded, any advise?

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Sam, CPA is the most recognized and versatile. If you have a choice (in terms of qualifying for the exam) and you have the stamina to complete 4 parts of the exam, I would still pick CPA over CMA. But CMA is valued in big FMCG companies esp those with big and complex manufacturing arms. It’s likely more interesting for you as well. Regards, Stephanie

  • Deco says:

    Hello Stephanie,I just wanted to know if it’s a good idea to combine CMA with CAIA?

  • Osama says:

    As the IIA website, the bachelor degree is required for the CIA?
    How i can make sure?

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      You can call them up or email them to make sure.
      Please see if your country is on this list:

      If not, then you should contact the IIA headquarters:

      Regards, Stephanie

      • amir says:

        Hello Stephanie, I’m working now as financial accountant in commercial company in Egypt , also before i have work as a leasing manager for big mall (Qatar) so i have experience in the management , actually i have no stability in my current position aiming to develop my qualifications to get more prestigious positions which certificate you might advised me to go for it and please advised me if i go for CPA it will give me good chance at the middle east area as we study US law and taxes.

        Amir Mohamed

  • Sami Missaoui says:

    Hello Stephanie,
    I was looking to all your explanation and it was really fructuous, but I still have a question which is better ACCA or CPA for a Tunisian with bachelor degree in Finance with 9 years of experience? also my diploma was done in French and not in English, but I have a good level in English now due to my experience.



    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Sami, yes, both have their merits and limitations. I would say that if you plan to work in UK / commonwealth countries or companies that are headquartered in these places, go for ACCA; otherwise, if you plan to work in US or US companies, US CPA is a better choice. It also depends whether you can get qualified for the CPA exam. For ACCA, shouldn’t be a problem as the entry barrier is much lower. Regards, Stephanie

  • amir says:

    Hello Stephanie, I’m working now as financial accountant in commercial company in Egypt , also before i have work as a leasing manager for big mall (Qatar) so i have experience in the management , actually i have no stability in my current position aiming to develop my qualifications to get more prestigious positions which certificate you might advised me to go for it and please advised me if i go for CPA it will give me good chance at the middle east area as we study US law and taxes.

    Amir Mohamed

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Amir, I may not be the best person to answer your question, but the fact the AICPA/NASBA decided to open up 4 exam sites in the Middle East shows that they are serious about expanding CPA in the region. If you aspire to work in the US or in US subsidiaries in the region, it’s worth it in my opinion. Regards, Stephanie

  • AHMED says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I enjoyed your detailed explanation above .. keep up the good work.
    I currently work for a Local gov. entity in the US as Fiscal Auditor. Considering this, would you suggest CIA over CGAP Certification for career growth? or just do my time since certification isn’t really necessary to get higher position (job item) where I work 🙂
    Also, what are the cons and pros for the CGAP vs. CIA?

    Thx a million.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Ahmed, thanks for your note. I am not familiar with CGAP to give a meaningful comparison, but if the specialty helps in your career, it is usually a good choice. CIA is good if you have a chance of switching to a more generlist role within internal audit, or if you foresee yourself working as the chief auditing executive in a company. If you don’t need the certification in your current and future job, there isn’t really a need to get any in my opinion. Just focus on doing a good job. If you still have extra time, spend time with your family 🙂 Stephanie

  • haitham says:

    Hi Stephanie
    thanx a lot for ur advises and i have a qustion about maximize funds prog? i hear about this prog from many years ago but i forget it’s name. do u have any idea about it? and if not what u think about a prog or master like this field..

    thanx again

  • Yash says:

    Currently I am pursuing CPA, I ve heard that the CMA syllabus(2 subjects) overlap with that of CPA. Will it be beneficial for me to pursue both? Or CMA has no value after becoming a CPA? Will it be considered as doing a diploma after engineering!?
    Also I am considering doing CISA. How much of the CISA portion overlaps with CPA IT portion in BEC? Is it too hard or doable?
    Thanking you in advance!

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Yash, I suggest that you take one exam at a time. There are some overlap between CPA and CMA, notably:
      1. the introductory financial accounting (FAR) in Section A of Part 1 of the CMA exam
      2. Quite a bit of BEC especially on cost accounting, but the ones in CMA exam are more complex
      3. Some AUD especially on internal audit

      For CISA, it’s really different and since IT portion in BEC is pretty small compared to the overall 4-part syllabus of the CPA exam, I wouldn’t take it simply to take advantage of the overlap.

      There is no need to get so many qualifications. One or two relevant ones are enough. The ability to perform well at work, how the resume is presented and interview / networking skills are also very important. Regards, Stephanie

      • Yash says:

        Thanks a lot Stephanie Ng,
        But I am not working right now and I am ready to devote my time as a full time student. The reason I am aiming for so many certifications is , I want to secure admission in top B schools like Wharton / Harvard. I think these certificates definitely appeal to the admission committee. Considering I am giving all my exams this year end and completed half CPA syllabus , should I still go for CMA and CISA or should go for them at a later point of time?

        • Stephanie Ng says:

          Hi Yash, I see, thanks for letting me know. I have to disagree on the point that top B school prefers certificates. It’s unique experience, leadership qualities and excellent performance in current job that matters in my opinion. Therefore, I would still say that you should take the other certifications later.

          If you have time and the energy to do this on fast track, you may consider taking several or all parts of the CPA exam together. I did that. Stressful but doable.

          • Yash says:

            Stephanie ,
            I agree with you 100% , but I just wanna say that between CPA+ work experience and CPA, CMA,CISA + work experience definitely second one will be given preference. After my CPA I am planning to join a Big4 firm and work for 3-4 for solid work experience before applying!

          • Stephanie Ng says:

            Sounds like a great plan! Stephanie

  • Zeeshan says:

    Hello dear,

    I have done mba in finance and currently doing job as accountant in gulf… which accounting certification will you suggest me with maximum exemptions awarded.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Zeeshan, I haven’t tried analyzing based on that… typically I encourage readers to go for a certification that is most relevant and useful to their careers. But to answer your question, CPA (US) is among the least exemption you can get. Regards, Stephanie

  • George says:

    Hi ,
    Thanks for creating such an awesome page for CPA aspirants!
    I am an international candidate. I will be coming this year to the US to give the Uniform CPA exam . I know getting a work visa is not an easy job in USA.. Can you suggest whether getting a job in Canada or Europe will be feasible considering I am a fresher?
    – GEORGE

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi George, I hope I can help, but really have no idea on how to do that in Canada/Europe. In general, the easiest way is to work in a multinational company, do an excellent job and request for transfer to other regional offices. I know of quite a few successful cases of people settling down in that office and move there permanently. Regards, Stephanie

      • George says:

        Thanks a lot Stephanie!
        So if I get a job in big 4 of asian cities like Mumbai, Hong Kong, Dubai, singapore ; will it be possible to transfer to NY, LA, London in the future?
        Today I am an intern. After becoming a CPA how many years of experience will it take to reach the managerial level?

        • Stephanie Ng says:

          Hi George, it is always possible, but it depends on individual’s performance in the firm, and whether there is a need in the overseas offices. It takes 5+ years to reach manager level once you start full time. Regards, Stephanie

  • Iiana says:

    Hi Stephanie;

    Thanks for what you are doing for us….I’ll be graduating this year in Spring with a BS in Business Admin opt Accounting 4yrs. My course focus was auditing because I want to be an internal auditor or forensic accountant. I think I have enough credits to qualify for the CPA exam but I have no working experience. My first question is, do I need to take the CPA exam….if so do I even qualify without work experience? Second question, Should I just take the CIA exam since it seems essential for auditors and then just concentrate on doing a better job at my work. I don’t want to do all these certifications for show I just want something that is going to help me progress in my career path which is forensic accounting and auditing.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Iiana, thanks for your note. If you aspire to be an internal audit manager and above (more on the strategic side of things) then getting the CPA is slightly better in the long term in my opinion, because it gives you the macro view of how things work beyond IA.

      For specialist role, CIA is good, and likely easier for you to pass.

      I have this page on CIA vs CPA with more detail comparison:

  • Azola says:

    Hi, thanks for the information shared. I am currently in South Africa and planning into going into lecturing financial accounting. I don’t know whether to go for MBA or SAIPA or SAICA or ACCA or a combination but I really want something to give me an advantage. I will complete my honours in accounting soon. Thanks

  • Yap says:

    Hi, thanks for the information. I’m currently graduated as a Diploma in Business Studies student in Malaysia. Can i or am i qualified to sit for CPA papers? Or should i sign up for degree course which have the exemption from CPA? Is CPA or ACCA a better certification? Thank you.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Yap, ACCA should be well recognized in Malaysia as far as I know. US CPA would be useful if you work in a US regional office, or in a local company with listing in the US. It’s also a better consideration if you plan to work in the US some day.

      As to whether you are eligible for the exam, I am not too sure what the diploma is (as different countries have different type of diplomas). Please check out this page for info on the educational requirements:

  • Edwin says:

    I am mba finance graduate working as a research associate what course u recommend as a best to enhance my career

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Edwin, it really depends on your interest, and I guess it’s something you know the best. In terms of compensation, each of these certifications can lead to very successful careers but the certification itself is only a part of it.

  • Saumil Turakhia says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    Thank you so much for such a nice analysis. Helped me a lot
    However, I am confused between CMA and FRM or Should I go for both??

    Please Reply,


  • anna says:

    Hello Stephanie,
    Could you please kindly advise on CTP (certified treasury professional) by AFP, if it is recognized and has any value. I am the senior treasury analyst (not in US), and would like to have a proof for my position, but as everyone I do think about the next step in career, and your opinion on CPA is very helpful. Is it reasonable to spend funds, time and energy on CTP.
    Thank you.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Anna, I am afraid I don’t know enough on CTP to provide an opinion… Sounds like a pretty niche qualification. I guess for that you’d consider only if you are on the treasury track.

  • Rob says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I asked this earlier but I cannot remember which forum I put it in.
    I asked about Canadian CPA vs. US CPA… I do want a CPA one day because AICPA has many specialization certificates that are only available if you have a CPA from Canada or usa.
    I don’t mind which country it comes from. I just want to get it done as fast as possible. You mentioned that the CPA US (with the new changes) can still be done faster then the Canadian CPA.
    Would you still recommend the US CPA in my situation?
    I live in canada but I don’t work in accounting specifically and I don’t do peoples taxes.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Rob, if you don’t work in accounting or tax (or something relevant), I am not sure if you are able to fulfill the experience requirement… so this may be your bottleneck for US CPA. Same case for Canada. May I ask why you want the CPA title then? Regards, Stephanie

  • soul334 says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for the informative read on various certifications. I am currently in a corporate internal audit job and want to know whether CMA or CIA (or BOTH) would help advance my career. If time, stamina, and cost are not deciding factors, which do you recommend that I do? I ultimately want to be in a more strategic, and less core finance / controllership function down the path… would appreciate your guidance.


    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Soul, you are most welcome. The typical qualification to go for (for IA) is CIA, but I understand what you mean by aiming for a more strategic role. CIA can help you do that in terms of ultimately reaching for the Chief Internal Auditor position, but if you are looking beyond IA, then CPA really is the best in my opinion. It is relevant to your current role and opens up to more opportunities in accounting and finance.

      In theory CMA is the most strategic, but it jumps a bit too far from your current job (at least that’s what a normal recruiter may feel). So people may see this a career switch and discount your IA experience. This is something you don’t want. If you can find a job that’s has both strategy and IA, it’s perfect and from there taking the CMA makes sense. Hope it helps! Stephanie

  • Shashank says:

    Hi Stephanie

    I am Indian with an MBA (Finance) from Symbiosis (India) and have 10 years work experience in the field of real estate valuation and investments, having worked in Cushman and Wakefield and Colliers International in India. I am looking to extend my career with a CPA qualification along with a CMA.

    Is this a good combination? I would appreciate if you could suggest any other that you seem viable. I am seeking to join real estate funds abroad like in Singapore, London, etc and feel with current qualification and experience, have reached a plateau

    Would appreciate your thoughts on this.

  • Anil Kumar says:

    Hi this is Anil
    very thanks for providing resourceful information.
    I Am persuing CA final group1 exam and qulified group2
    please suggest which course will best suits me…

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Anil, why don’t you complete your CA first? You can try working first, find where your passion is within accounting and finance, then go for the most relevant qualification. Regards, Stephanie

  • SYED says:

    Hi Staphanie,

    I have 4 years bachelors in Accounting & Finance from University of Karachi Pakistan & 5 years of Accounting experience from Pakistan.

    Currently I am in a process of Immigration to US.Which professional accounting certification is suitable for me? & what are the requirements or eligibility as I am immigrating from Pakistan

  • KAMAL says:

    Hi Staphanie,

    I have 4 years bachelors in Accounting & Finance from University of Karachi Pakistan & 5 years of Accounting experience from Pakistan.

    Currently I am in a process of Immigration to US.Which professional accounting certification is suitable for me? & what are the requirements or eligibility as I am immigrating from Pakistan to US?

    Is CPA is better or CIA?

  • Purva says:

    Hello I am doing CA . Please advice which other combination degree I can take while doing CA.
    My teacher is saying to do C.S.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hmm… what do you mean by “combination degree”? These are professional qualifications, not degrees. In fact, for most of them you need a degree to get qualify to sit for these exams. Hope this is clearer.

  • V S Kumar says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    This is Kumar.
    I would like to thank you for the useful content published.
    I am basically a graduate in Chemical Engineering. I started my career almost 9 years back as a Software engineer with one of the leading IT firm. During this period, I completed MBA (IT) through distance education mode. I later got an opportunity to work in a Chemical refinery. I was into Purchase and operations (Production) in the refinery for some time. I am currently into Technical audit group of Internal Audit of the refinery from the past 2 years. I work on the Enterprise Risk management also. I also get opportunity to learn and audit financial aspects. I am interested in finance, audit , ERM etc., and I want to become a hard core professional either in finance, internal audit or ERM.
    Please help me in guiding what professional course or certification to be done to achieve this.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Kumar, I am glad to know of your interest in audit and finance. While CPA is the broadest qualification and sounds good for you, you will likely need to make up for a lot of accounting courses… not sure if you want to do it?

      Alternatively, if you are happy to specialize in internal audit, the CIA certification is the most relevant. You might want to check out the details here:

  • amjad says:

    im doing master in accounting and finance please gude me what certificatiuon would be better for me after completion my master degree

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Amjad, it really depends on your long term career path — do you prefer accounting or finance? If not sure, you can wait a couple of years and see.

  • John says:

    hi! I am a CPA in the Philippines. I just to ask if I need to take another CPA exam in US if I want to work there. Thanks

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi John, you don’t really need a CPA license to work as accountant in the US. But without the title you may get stuck in a certain level… somewhere below the controller. At the same time, getting the CPA license doesn’t give you the authority or work permit to work in the US. So please do research and understand what you want to get out of the title before you apply for the exam. Hope it helps!

  • ABSALIN says:

    hi there ,my self ABSALIN
    Can i do CPA after my BBA degree…or can i do CPA after ICWAI india NOW it known as indian CMA
    plzzzz reply me ..with right guidance….


    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Absalin, I am afraid the ICWAI and most other professional qualifications are not useful to get qualified for the CPA exam… you can certainly go for the CPA exam but please don’t expect any exemptions.

  • Kishore Muhtamsetty says:

    I am a banker with two decades of experience in wholesale, corporate and retail banking domains. Presently I am working in UAE for one of the biggest banks of UAE in wholesale banking domain and having MBA-Finance qualification. My plan is to move to USA or Canada in next 3 – 4 years in Banking Industry and settle there. Could you please suggest which certificate would be suitable especially for a banker like me.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Kishore, I don’t think bankers need any qualifications, it’s their networking ability that matters?
      At least that was my feeling when I worked as a banker (investment banker, probably different from your case).

  • Ahmed says:

    I agree with Stephanie,
    I just left banking career in the US where i worked for Wells Fargo and Citibank and i can assure you that you absolutely need NO CERTIFICATE to be a banker in the U.S. only exception that if you decided to be an investment banker or Mortgage banker you will need a special certificate like (Series 6 and Series 63) or FINRA Securities Licenses (Series 65 & Series 66) and these two will open doors for you but in most cases the bank where you work for has to sponsor you and pay their enrollment fees or such on your behalf but again you can do on your own and if your plan to move to the U.S. within 3-4 years you better start now and get familiar with the U.S. banking standards and regulations and i will be straight forward with you (NO MATTER HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE YOU HAVE OR WHERE YOU GET IT FROM – IF ITS OUT OF THE USA THEY WON’T ACCEPT IT AND YOU’LL HAVE TO START FROM THE SCRATCH) this is why I’d like you to start familiarize your self with the US Banking system and Series 6, and series 63 and/or FINRA Securities Licenses (Series 65 & Series 66) because it will be beyond helpful and beneficial to you and to ANYONE who wants to work for Banks in the U.S. (but again you don’t have to be certified to be a banker in the U.S. only if you want to be an investment banker or Mortgage Banker)
    After Stephanie approval i will share with you an agency where you can get certified for Series 6, and Series 63 and FINRA Securities Licenses (Series 65 & Series 66) for absolutely half the price other places in the U.S. offer (You can get your classes online or Self-Study on your own pace or an Actual Class depends on your location) Its Called: A.D. Banker & Company and their website:
    Good Luck to y’all.


  • Blessmore Gadhula says:

    hi, l have an accounting undergrad and lm currently working as a taxman,was thinking of doing cta is it a good idea

  • Hina Dutta says:


    I’m Hina.
    Completed my Graduation by BSc (Bio) and PG by MBA (Finance).
    Kindly suggest do my qualifications match to do CMA ??

  • Hector says:

    Hi Stephanie, what do you think of CERTIFICATE IN INTERNATIONAL CASH MANAGEMENT?

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Hector,
      I have never heard of it myself, but it could be a respected certification in its own niche. Maybe you can explore that with those working in treasury.

  • Gaabouri says:

    Hi All,
    Thanks for this clear article.
    I have a question please: is CMA USA qualification recognized in Canada for accounting & finance jobs?
    i’m planning to enroll the CMA USA program soon.

  • H.b says:

    Hello. I am commerce graduate and I have 4 years of experience in internal auditing. But now I need a professional qualification in ia I m confused what I need to opt. I can not choose cpa because I don’t have master’s in accounting. So I just wanted to ask would cia ll beneficial for my career??

  • tolu says:

    please i dont really understand the exam format for CMA….and again,am an undergraduate,can i still register for it??

  • Rasika says:

    hello maam !!
    I am CA from India and have also completed my Masters in Commerce from India
    Currently i stay in US and wish to undego CPA.
    Am i eligible for the same??
    And what are the 150 study hours?? I am not getting it.

  • IMRAN says:

    Hello. I am ACCA and I have 2.5 years of experience in Accounts & Finnace. But now I want further degree or certificate I m confused what I need to opt. So I just wanted to ask what should i do thats beneficial for my career??



  • IMRAN says:

    Hello. I am ACCA and I have 2.5 years of experience in Accounts & Finnace. But now I want further degree or certificate I m confused what I need to opt. So I just wanted to ask what should i do that beneficial for my career??



  • shivangi Mishra says:

    Hi I have BSc with Mathematics and PGDM Finance with 6 years of work experience, please let me know if i am eligible for CMA certification

  • Victor says:

    i did my first degree in statistics. i presently work as an auditor. Will you advise taking CIA and CFE?

  • Bruno says:


    Its a requirement in our country that a qualification should be from a recognized registered institution. I send the request to Namibia Qualification Authority (“NQA”) for evaluation of (IMA) and the result i received today was that IMA is not recognized in Namibia and thus it’s qualification is not recognized by the NQA. What is your advice considering that, I do not intend to relocate from Namibia. I would like to use the qualification in Namibia? and How possible is that, considering IMA – CMA to be a world wide recognized institution

  • Renee Prater says:


    I am working as the Director of Accounting at public junior college, my boss, who happens to be the president, doesn’t think the CPA test is the right one for my position. He is a CPA and has a doctorate so thinks there might be a better certification for me. Can you suggest a certification that might be right for me.? I am just wanting some other suggestions. I plan to work for the college until I retire and would like to be CFO which we don’t have right now. The president previously held that position. Amy suggestions are appreciated.

  • vardhan choudhary says:

    I am doing integreated progroam of BBA-MBA program from O.P. Jindal university and i had compelted the 3 years bba program but It is a five year program and degree will be geeting us by college after our 5 year of Integrated program , so It is poosible for me to do CPA this year ,as it reqired a bachleor Degree.

  • Vishnu says:

    Am currently working as Night Auditor in Hotel industry from late 6 months in Dubai.I have 2.5year experience in Accounts from India.I completed B. Mom 3 year and MBA distance education.I would like to expand my career in UAE.Due to working in night shift, I couldn’t go to regular class.Kindly adviceme to pick a self study course.


  • Tatiana says:


    I just arrive to Miami for work. I have my CPA as Canadian but is not the legacy CA. I would like to do the CFA certification because I think the CPA US is a long way to me now.

    What option do you think is better for me?


  • Lex says:


    I like your article. I am a CPA and working in one of the big four. I agree with what you said about getting a CPA title then getting another to further distinguish yourself and “sort of” separate you from the rest. TBH, I’m planning of taking CISA certification soon since I’m currently working under risk assurance (i.e. IT audit). CPA certification is indeed versatile, no doubt. But when you’re thinking of specializing, getting another certification is recommended (CPA + another).

    To the author: How about CISA? I know it’s almost non-accounting anymore but I want to know your thoughts on this.



  • Kenneth Chiu says:

    It appears Forensic Accounting / Fraud Examiner being rasing concern. I am actually going to pursue CPA certification, should Forensic Accounting another field for further consideratoin?

    Thank you.

  • Srimathi says:

    I am studying B.E.,CSE can I do CMA?

  • Mohamed Abdel Fattah says:

    What about the CTP certification!

  • MANOJ KUMAR says:

    Hi There,

    I am professional with almost 12+ yrs experience in accounts and finance with MCom. and feeling my career got stuck at one place, want to do some professional course.

    can you pls suggest me any good course for me.


    Manoj Kumar

  • Kareem says:

    If there any one has become CPA later recently or is preparing for CPA exam soon contact me please .

  • NAWAL says:


    I already completed my diploma in banking in Oman,But i’m working right now in finance & accounts department in one of chemical company(finance & accounts department ) ,I like to complete MBA, kindly advise us as soon as possble

  • Paul Smith, CFA, CPA, MBA says:

    CFA ‘REQUIRES’ a bachelor degree as entry level. Please research stuff before you write it up.

  • Mani says:

    Is a degree done from an open university accepted in CPA??

  • OLUGBENGA says:

    Please i will like to apply for CPA, I have a Bachelor degree in Accounting, Professional stage of ICAN, with over 5 years working experience,
    How do i go about applying, the fees, and duration.?

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