Some people need a little extra help keeping their finances in line and use the services of a certified public accountant. CPAs follow a rigorous educational path that typically includes five years of schooling and passing the difficult CPA exam. The number of female CPAs -- once scarce in the industry -- continues to increase each year, with women making up 56 percent of new accounting school graduates from 2008 to 2013, according to the American Institute of CPAs. Along with the CPA designation, accountants can opt for a chartered financial analyst credential, which can open the doors to different accounting careers.
More Career Choices
If you’re a CPA who wants to concentrate on financial planning and analysis rather than spreadsheets, the CFA certification is the way to go because the CFA program focuses on investment planning and analysis. Accountants looking to pursue a career at an investment bank as a research or security analyst will find the CFA designation gives them a leg up in the hiring process, as many current analysts are CFAs. Because the CFA designation shows employers you have a solid understanding of investment analysis and portfolio-management skills, it's helpful if you’re interested in fund management, hedge funds and mutual funds. The combination of CFA and CPA opens up more opportunities with financial companies because it shows you have extensive knowledge in both accounting and investment analysis.
As a CPA, the CFA designation gives you credibility in a wider knowledge base. Passing the three CFA exams means you have extensive knowledge in accounting, economics, statistical analysis and portfolio management. According to Investopedia, some professionals equate the CFA certification with earning a master’s degree in finance, with minors in accounting, economics, statistical analysis and portfolio management. Earning it won’t be easy; you’ll have to study for, take and pass three six-hour, demanding exams. Earning the CFA shows potential employers you have the discipline, work ethic and drive to complete difficult tasks. Passing the CFA exams shows you have the know-how and skills to succeed in the industry.
If you’re trying to decide between a CFA and a Master of Business Administration, it’s helpful to know that many employers prefer the CFA over the MBA, according to Investopedia. Earning a CFA not only costs less than an MBA, it takes less time to complete, allowing you to find that dream financial analyst job sooner or move up the career ladder quicker. On average, an MBA program takes two years of full-time study to complete and costs $40,000 a year. The CFA, on the other hand, requires on average of 300 hours of study and prep time per exam and costs $800 to $1,170 per exam. The CFA certification benefits you by giving you access to continuing education courses and professional resources that help you continually improve at your job and possibly advance faster and higher in the industry.
CPAs interested in working for international companies benefit from the CFA credential. Many countries allow CPAs to apply their CFA certifications to licenses in that country without having to go through the entire licensing process. CFA certifications can also mean higher salaries, as financial analyst positions are some of the highest paid in the industry, with many analysts earning six-figure salaries. According to the CFA Institute's 2007 Member Compensation Survey, depending on your exact position and years of experience, you can earn anywhere from $87,000 to $499,000 a year with a CFA designation. For example, portfolio managers with five to 10 years of experience earned between $135,000 and $398,000 a year. Financial bankers with same amount of experience made $153,000 a year, and investment bankers earned $323,000 a year.
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