Certifications add value to the job search

By Paul A. Sharman, ACMA president & CEO, Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)

With today's uncertain economy and recent massive employee layoffs at large corporations such as Yahoo! and Ford, it's important now more than ever that job seekers do as much as possible to stand out from other applicants in this increasingly competitive marketplace. It is especially important for accounting and finance professionals to be equipped to comply with the new regulations imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, following the corporate fallouts at places such as Enron and WorldCom. Employers now need to be convinced that applicants are highly skilled and ethical professionals, who know how to avoid making egregious errors, thus ensuring a company's long-term growth and regulatory compliance.

The collapse of such organizations is a clear indication that there is a need for more properly qualified finance and accounting professionals to work inside organizations, and more companies are realizing how essential certain qualifications are to the vitality of their business. Today, however, although more than 90 percent of finance function professionals work inside corporations, students at American colleges and universities still are not being adequately prepared for this type of work. Accounting curricula at American colleges and universities continue to focus on the needs of public accounting and overlook the business-building skills needed by finance and accounting staff who work inside organizations -- decision support, planning, and control. After graduation, accounting professionals still need to continue to hone their skills through professional development and certification.

This lack of accountants with appropriate training and certification for roles inside organizations has created a talent shortage resulting in uncertainty, inaccurate filing, and ultimately, potential dishonesty to cover mistakes. As the world of accounting evolves, professionals need to be well equipped and prepared to take on these changes and challenges, while practicing their profession in an ethical manner. A professional certification in accounting demonstrates an educated individual who knows the industry and makes honest, ethical decisions and continuously maintains knowledge through relevant professional development.

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), a professional trade association dedicated to the career-long training and development of management accountants, recognizes a common denominator for financial disclosure problems – that there is a rapidly deteriorating "skills gap." Through the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification offered by IMA, finance and accounting professionals inside organizations can obtain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed and help their organizations thrive.

The CMA demonstrates proficiency in areas such as economics, business finance, cost management, performance management, financial reporting, decision analysis, and strategic planning with a strong emphasis on ethics. The CMA is the most appropriate certification for professionals working towards the CFO office. The program objectively tests and validates expertise in areas essential to analyzing, managing, and evaluating business solutions that contribute to the success of an organization.

Such a certification, for example, provides job seekers with the critical qualities employers look for – professionals who are prepared to properly record and report on financial performance and relay essential information to senior management. An employee who has obtained one or more certification gives the appearance of being a distinguished business professional who is knowledgeable about his or her work and committed to a high level of ethical standards.

Businesses around the world rely on CMAs for accounting, finance and information management, and, most importantly, the support of strategic planning and business solutions provided by these qualified professionals. Some of the largest companies around the world recognize that employing CMAs helps to improve company performance in an aggressive global business arena.

Earning appropriate certification in any industry can help improve one's on-the-job performance, while enhancing self-confidence, sense of accomplishment, and a polished resume, not to mention greater earning power. Unfortunately, this decade will be remembered for its financial reporting scandals, but it's never too late to change. Accounting and finance job seekers should acquire the skills and mindset needed to ensure the success of their business, personal goals, growth and integrity by obtaining a certification.

About the author
Paul A. Sharman, ACMA, is president and CEO of the Institute of Management Accountants, the world's leading organization dedicated to advancing the management accounting profession.

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