Ask an Expert: Additional Credentials

March 31, 2015

Q: Right now, I’m struggling with what to do so far as additional certifications go. I’ve got the CPA down, but I’m still in the school/study mindset and want to take advantage of my free time. The only problem is that I don’t know what to look at (e.g., CMA, CIA, CFE, etc.) since I’ve only just started my career and don’t know where I want to end up. I don’t have the money for MBA/MAc at the moment, but it’s also on the to-do list. Where should I start?

A: First off, congratulations on passing your CPA exam so quickly. This is a great accomplishment that will prove to be beneficial for you. When a company/firm is looking to hire someone with a certification, 98 percent of the time that are requesting a CPA.

As far as other credentials go, I suggest that you assess what direction you want to take your career, and consider specialty designations based on the direction you choose. For example, if you want to pursue Internal Audit or Forensics then you might consider sitting for the CIA or CFE. However, if you aren’t heading in that direction, I wouldn’t waste your time or money. Forensics is something that a lot of people like the sound of, but the opportunities to do that work are fewer (specialized field) than traditional accounting/audit. You will need to network with forensic professionals already doing the work to get an opportunity in that field.

In regards to the CMA, unless you are in a heavy manufacturing/cost environment there is no need for a CMA. In my past experience with working with manufacturing clients looking for cost experience, the majority of the hiring managers still desire a CPA over a CMA.

When considering going back to school, I would make sure you have a plan before you spend the money for another degree. The majority of individuals that get their MAcc do so to get the required 150 hours, myself included. If I were in your shoes and choosing a graduate degree, I would choose an MBA with the caveat that I would only go back to MBA school if your desire is to be outside a traditional accounting/auditing profession. If you have an interest in the finance side of the world that is where an MBA can become more valuable.

My advice to you would be now that your CPA is under your belt, work the long hours to start establishing a career over the next three-four years and then reassess what you want to do, and keep in mind that your career aspirations can change over time.

- Kyle Allen, CPA, partner at Vaco Resources in Brentwood, Tenn. He can be reached at