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Certifications Beyond the CPA

While the Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, certification is certainly the most common certification, it is also the most comprehensive and typically the most difficult to pass. There are many other great options that bring value and credibility should you have trouble with passing the CPA or decide to specialize in an area of accounting and finance and therefore not need as comprehensive a certification. Here are a few options.

CMA – Offered by the Institute of Management Accountants, the CMA exam is a two-part exam with content including financial planning, analysis, control, and decision support. It originally was a four-part exam, but recent transitions tailored it to a two-part exam. This certification shows that a candidate holds knowledge in the areas of content on the exam, and in professional ethics, and other financial skills in high demand in the job market. Contrary to the CPA exam, the CMA is a global credential focused more on corporate accounting.

MFin – Master of Finance
While achieving a Master of Finance degree may seem more daunting than tackling a CPA certification, it isn’t for some candidates. Earning a Master of Finance degree allows you to focus on financial management and investment management alongside qualitative work to help boost your career to the next level. This program generally takes one to two years to complete, which can be similar to the time spent studying for and taking the CPA exam. Some might compare a MFin degree with an MBA, however there is much more exposure to finance, with much less focus on general business management coursework.

CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst
The CFA designation is considered the gold standard of the investment management industry, and is focused on those who play an active role in the investment decision-making process. Many who earn the title of CFA go on to become portfolio managers or financial analysts. While this is another challenging certification, it might be worth considering if you struggle with certain areas of the CPA exam and find yourself on a career path towards investment management. There are three parts to this exam, and the CFA Institute recommends about 20 hours a week of studying for about 6 months.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of alternatives to the CPA exam, these are some of the most common alternatives. These certifications and designations are not necessarily an “easier” option when compared to the CPA exam, but they might be better alternatives and a better fit for the future career you have set out to achieve.

Certifications Beyond the CPA

Interview Prep: What To Do The Night Before

Preparing for an interview can take a lot of work and energy, but what should you do the night before the big meeting? It’s important to remain confident of the prep work you’ve completed, and take a look through some suggestions to help you have a restful, productive night.

Prepare for small talk.
One thing that many candidates don’t consider when intensely preparing for an interview, is the time before the actual interview. Think of some light topic discussions to have with the person at the front desk, and the interviewer prior to and after the interview. If you haven’t prepared for this, it can catch candidates off guard, but by just thinking through and considering some topics that you’re interested in and have prepared for, you’ll be able to show your personality while engaging in small talk.

Prepare a good breakfast.
The night before the interview, go ahead and at least think through what you’ll have for breakfast and pre-organize the prep process if necessary. Make sure you allow enough time for yourself to have a good breakfast without rushing.

Pick out your outfit beforehand.
It’s also helpful to go ahead and choose your outfit beforehand. That way you won’t have to waste time going back and forth between which tie to wear or which blouse to wear, and you can focus on the interview.

Get accurate directions and examine them.
Make sure to check out at the interview location on a GPS and become comfortable with the route the night before the interview. You should have already checked this in case there’s an issue to where you need to reach someone at the location, but make sure to account for any expected traffic or alternative routes just in case.

Think of examples on how to elaborate on an answer.
Another helpful tip to keep in mind the night before an interview, is to think through and practice any illustrative examples you can share to help embellish an answer you’ve prepared. For example, you might have practiced a knock-it-out-of-the-park answer and noted an example to share. Practice sharing that example rather than just remembering to share it. That way you can be sure to really hit your points home with the interviewer.

Scroll through social media.
If you haven’t already done so, scroll through the social media sites for the company you are interviewing with. This might also give you some good, last minute interview or small talk content, while also highlighting how prepared you are due to the real-time nature of social media.

One of the most important tips to keep in mind during the night before an interview, is to relax. Don’t take the edge off with multiple drinks, but do find ways to help you relax. Take a long shower, watch a TV show, read a book, play a game with the family – or whatever helps you relax and enjoy yourself. By staying relaxed and going to bed early you’ll be more confident and mentally prepared going into your interview.

Don’t drink caffeine late in the day.
Make sure to be cognizant of when you drink caffeine the day before the interview. Don’t have caffeine later than you normally would. Remember, you want to be well rested and at your best!

Consider ways to stay focused and relaxed.
Lastly, consider ways to help you stay focused and relaxed while you wait for the interview to begin and on the way to the interview. Don’t psyche yourself out by getting too amped up or nervous. Instead, think of something you can bring with you to help stay calm. That could be an audio book, a Sudoku game, photos, and more. Do your best to consider some ways you can help calm yourself down the night before the interview, and you’ll be even more prepared than you were before!

There are tons of helpful tips and resources to help you prepare for your interview. For example, I recently wrote about Soft Skills to Highlight during Your Next Job Interview. Check that out as well.

Make sure to practice some of these tips during your interviews and on the night before your interview. Good luck!

Interview Prep: What To Do The Night Before

Mobile Accounting in a Technology-Driven World

In the day and age of the mobile technology take-over, mobile apps are being developed to use in all areas of life and business, including the accounting world.

For a long time accounting was one of those fields that followed very similar regimens and processes that had been around for decades; however, as technological advancements in every field, including accounting and finance, have pushed things forward software and systems have made it easier for accountants to do their job with greater efficiency and speed. This has been transforming the industry in recent years and one of the specific advancements is in the use of accounting applications that are now available on mobile devices.

One of the challenges with mobile accounting is the complexity associated with the implementation of a business-wide solution. It’s much more difficult to roll out a mobile solution for business accounting than it would be for personal use. Rolling out new accounting systems can be a major undertaking and even the implementation of an application that may improve things in the long run can be a big distraction and headache in the short term. Accounting and finance executives have to consider a number of factors and strategically assess how the application will align with the current systems and reporting as well as the true enhancements that can be expected if it goes well.

Current mobile accounting applications are most commonly seen improving typical tasks such as:

  • Processing payroll

  • Checking invoices

  • Reviewing transactions

  • Running reports

The simplicity and on-demand flexibility of being able to do these tasks on a mobile device is extremely appealing for those who work remotely, are traveling frequently, or are always on the go.

An important consideration, likely the most important consideration, when choosing to implement a mobile accounting solution is security. Security plans must be in place, and accountants must adapt to the ever-changing threats of cybersecurity with new systems and with mobile accounting. The accounting and finance executives must also determine which personnel will be using the platform and determine any protocols and security measures associated with mobile users. Guidelines and limitations should be in place on a per-user basis as the information being accessed is extremely sensitive.

Another consideration when determining the types of tools and tasks that are required for mobile accounting is determining if an app or if a mobile-friendly website will get the job done. Depending on the size of the team who will be using the mobile accounting software, a mobile-friendly website could be more appealing as it’s a little more flexible if there are device restrictions on the app being considered.

Lastly, compliance and other regulations must be adhered to when considering the enactment of mobile accounting. As we all know, different regulations are in place depending on the type of organization and its function, and this is exactly the case for mobile accounting as well. There will be specific regulations and rules that will apply specifically to mobile accounting, so make sure to be completely aware of any associated regulations or adjustments to a process when considering implementing a mobile accounting process.

Mobile Accounting in a Technology-Driven World