To become a CPA, there are three requirements: the first is to have the required amount of education, the second is to pass the CPA and ethics Exam, and third, the applicant must have the necessary work-related experience in accounting. Most states have an education requirement of 150 credit hours from an accredited college or university. Although a master’s in business is not required, a typical accounting major bachelor’s degree does not provide enough credits to take the CPA Exam. As each state has specific requirements, it is important to check with your State Board of Accountancy.

The Board of Examiners of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) prepares and grades the Exam, which measures a candidate’s technical competence and personal attributes. Upon one’s completion of the Exam, the Board might conduct interviews, ask for letters of references, and verify the candidate’s employment and educational background. A score of at least 90 percent must be attained on the ethics exam, and it cannot be taken more than two years prior to submitting an application. Once these requirements are met, the person is granted a CPA certificate.

The advantages of being a CPA are the career opportunities and increased pay this designation has to offer.

Many senior managers, CFOs, and Certified Public Accountant and management consultants are CPAs. The average salary for a CPA is $90,000, with partners making $250,000 a year. A disadvantage to the CPA designation is the amount of time and expense it takes to be certified.

Another certification is the CMA or Certified Management Accountant certification, which requires a broad understanding of economics, business finance, decision-making, and ethics. The role of a CMA is to maximize profits while keeping costs low. A CMA is usually familiar with the product line the company has to offer and asked to determine unit cost and other factors in the manufacturing and marketing processes.

Five global organizations offer this accreditation, which focuses on financial planning, performance and controls, and decision-making. To become certified, the candidate must have two years of job-related working experience, hold a bachelor’s degree, be a member of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), and pass both parts of the CMA Exam. According to IMA, salaries for CMAs are 31 percent higher than non-certified professionals, with CMAs earning an average of $106,000 a year.

Jobs for CMAs are financial controller, CFO, finance director, and vice president of finance. Recipients of the CMA can enjoy higher pay, the prestige of a global certification, and more career advancement opportunities than their peers. The certification means the individual is proficient in management accounting and financial management. On the flipside, this is a rigorous exam, and not as well recognized as the CPA Exam.