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What are the Different Types of Certified Accountants?

By Deanira Bong
Updated May 17, 2024
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Although an accountant does not need a certification to work in the field, it increases his or her job opportunities and potential earnings. Accountants can choose from a large variety of certifications from many regulating bodies. Many of these certifications authenticate general accountancy skills, and others cater to specific specializations within the accounting profession, such as management accounting. Some of the titles available for a certified accountant are those of Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified General Accountant (CGA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

Accountants in the United States can get a CPA title from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). These certified accountants work in many areas of the business and financial services profession, but a large proportion works in the public accounting sector and the business and industry sector. Only CPAs can provide audit services to publicly traded U.S. companies.

Outside the U.S., accountants who want to work in public accounting and auditing often choose to obtain the Chartered Accountant title, which is provided by different organizations, depending on the country. The accounting bodies that provide the CA certification include the Chartered Accountants Ireland, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia and Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. These institutes have Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with one another, allowing these certified accountants to work in many countries.

Some certified accountants hold the CGA title issued by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada). The regulating body also offers certification to accountants in Bermuda, the Caribbean, China, Hong Kong, Mauritius and Mexico. CGA-Canada has MRAs with CPA Australia, CPA Ireland, Ordre des Experts-Comptables de France and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), so CGAs can access accounting occupations in different regulatory jurisdictions.

Some accountants choose to get certified through global organizations such as the ACCA, which has dozens of offices and active centers around the world. These accountants hold the ACCA and the Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) qualifications. The latter is easier to obtain, and many CATs go on to pursue the ACCA qualification.

Some certified accountants specifically focus on a specialization within the accounting field, such as Certified Management Accountants in the U.S. CMAs have accounting and financial management skills that make them suitable for jobs in financial planning, analysis, control, decision support and professional ethics. According to the regulating body that issues these certifications, the Institute of Management Accountants, CMAs earn more annually than their peers who don't have certification.

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) provides global certifications for specialized accounting sectors. Accountants who have certificates in business accounting from CIMA usually have little accounting background. CIMA also offers professional qualification for more experienced accountants and certificates in Islamic finance for accountants who want to work in Islamic financial institutions.

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