A State By State Accounting Guide

CPA Certification in Areas of Specialty

There is a wealth of opportunity for CPAs who seek specialty certification to enrich their skills within specialized areas of practice. A number of industry associations, such as the American Institute of CPAs, Institute of Management Accountants, Institute of Internal Auditors, and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, offer certificates that delineate a CPA’s area of special expertise. Certification helps clients in need of specialized talent identify CPAs who have expert level knowledge in specific areas. Although in many cases the knowledge and expertise within these specialty areas can be gained by experience and academic education, certification programs from professional organizations offer a valuable path to the instant recognition that comes with a credential in a specialty area of practice.


Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
- American Institute of CPAs The need to integrate financial information with technology has developed a demand for CPAs who understand the mechanism and design of accounting information systems. The CITP professional understands how information technology can improve business operations, reduce risk, and improve the reliability of financial reporting. Certification requires AICPA membership and is based on 100 points of accumulated experience and learning in five specific technology areas. The applicant must complete an application that awards points to each area of experience. An exam process was added to this specialty certification in the summer of 2011.

Accredited in Business Valuations (ABV)
American Institute of CPAs
The professional who seeks certification in business valuation needs to show documented experience in topic areas such as valuation tools, financial forecasting, cash flow valuation, and capitalization. The certification applicant must be an active AICPA member and complete an application that assigns a point value to each area of business experience and academic learning acquired. It is important to note that a portion of the needed points can be acquired through an exam option or a previously completed ASA (Accredited Senior Appraiser) or AM (Accredited Member) certification from the American Society of Appraisers.

Personal Finance Specialist (PFS)American Institute of CPAs
The Personal Financial Specialist candidates must have 2 years of experience and education in 9 topic areas of personal financial planning and tax regulations. Certification requires active AICPA membership and the successful completion of 6 self-study courses, 131 hours of continuing education, and an exam.

Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF)
American Institute of CPAs
Financial forensics is a specialty that includes knowledge and experience in topics such as business insolvency and bankruptcy, economic damages, computer forensic analysis, financial statement accuracy, and family law. CPAs who are active AICPA members can gain the CFF with five or more years of experience must have a minimum of 1,000 hours in forensic accounting areas and pass the four hour exam.

Certified Forensic Accountant (CrFA)
- American College of Forensic Examiners International
The CrFA professional designation is open to CPAs with a minimum of a bachelor's degree and some forensic accounting experience. Certification requires completion of study material and an exam that covers the concepts of forensic analysis, valuation, and judicial procedure. For non-CPAs, a "certificate of completion" option is available.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)Institute of Management Accountants
The Certified Management Accountant credential requires knowledge of business management in topic areas like financial analysis and planning, business economics, financial statement preparation, internal controls, cost management, and business ethics. A self-study program is available to IMA members in preparation for a two-part eight-hour exam.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)Institute of Internal Auditors
Auditing requires specialized knowledge of global and regional audit practices, issues, risks, and remedies. A CIA candidate must have a baccalaureate degree, two years of experience in internal auditing or a Master's degree, character references, and then must complete a four-part exam. Institute membership is not required. Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)Institute of Internal Auditors
Certification as a financial services auditor can be acquired in banking, insurance, or securities. Knowledge of audit principles and practices within the chosen discipline is required. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree or three years of business experience, plus two years of college education and one year of control-related business experience. Character references are required, but membership to the Institute is not.

Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP)
Institute of Internal Auditors
Certification in government auditing requires knowledge on all levels of government—including national, state, local or quasi-governmental. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree or three years of business experience plus two years of college education and two years of government audit experience. Character references are required, but membership to the Institute is not.

Certification in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA)
- Institute of Internal Auditors
The Control Self-Assessment certification demands knowledge of the fundamentals and processes of controls, business objectives, and risk. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree or three years of business experience plus two years of college education and one year of control-related business experience. In addition, seven hours of facilitation experience or 14 hours of facilitation training approved by the Institute must be completed. Character references are required, but membership to the Institute is not.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
Information Systems Audit and Control Association
An Information Systems Auditor certificate demonstrates evidence that a professional is proficient in practices and technology used to monitor, assess and control business information. This certification provides a valuable credential for professionals who work in information systems governance, assurance, and security. Requirements for certification include five years of work experience in information systems auditing, control, assurance, or security. Some substitutions for formal education or experience in alternate fields is allowed. The CISA exam is offered once per year and tests applicants on 6 different job practice areas. Review courses and manuals are available through the Institute, but membership is not required.