Certification Alphabet Soup

My actual profession is an auditor. Right now I audit large defense contractors for the D0D. Before that I audited state and local governmental agencies, employers who are “underground” (meaning they are working off the books) and was a senior accounting analyst for a large county.

None of these jobs ever require certification. Many of the jobs require years of experience, but getting an actual accounting certification isn’t necessary and I have never seen where it actually means that person is more capable then someone without a certification.

However, that being said it sometimes looks better to have certifications, even if they don’t actually mean you are skilled enough or even smart enough to do the job. So I have been looking over my CPA study materials, trying to figure out if I want to go this direction, or get a CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner). The CPA is a lot of study, a lot of tests and can take up to 18 months. The CFE and CIA could both be taken in that time, with a lot of time to spare.

CPA has most flexible overall (but I don’t plan on ever working for a CPA firm where its the most use) but this is a better $$ option. Most people when they hear the title CPA they have an idea that you are smart, can do anything for them accounting wise, etc. The fact is I can do that right now professionally without the certification and would charge a lot less is a pretty funny side note.

However, I don’t like the environment of most accounting firms, or other employers that look for CPAs. It pays really really well, but its like this little slice of hell. Filled with more politics and bootlicking then actually doing your job. Also it is mostly cubicle work. I hate both of those things, and I have Oppositional Defiance Disorder, meaning I don’t respond well to authority like figures. However, I will admit that I do like the flexibility in where I can work and the money. That wars with the fact that I hate routine, I dislike having to sit beside most people for long periods (my husband is the single exception to this rule), and I get bored with accounting in general.

On the other hand the CFE is part of what I love doing (auditing) but a lot more niche. It is a lot more interesting. I don’t like the day to day minutia of accounting, the cycles and the getting into the deep details. I prefer digging into accounting, finding if there are problems and basically telling people where they are wrong.

Auditing relies on a person being able to be assertive, able to handle people hating them, being quick on your feet, and most importantly flexible. I am not assertive in most parts of my life, but auditing is a definite exception. In addition I need to have things happening quickly, and I love being flexible. Most importantly I have no problem with conflict, which is a lot of auditing. People push back, yell at you, throw cans of pop at you or threaten you with a pistol (I have had those all happen to me).

That means the CFE is awesome. It just reinforces my credentials in auditing and would expose me to more jobs that are in that direction. The problem is like I said earlier, a lot more niche. Then again my whole professional history is pretty niche (and I do get head hunters after me several times a year for that niche). However, it is still limiting to where I can go and who I can work for.

Since Auditing is what I like, the CIA I will get eventually no matter what so that is just a matter of putting it in order. It will add to my credentials no matter what I do and it is fairly straight forward.

I guess the hard part for considering the CPA for me is I have audited dozens of CPAs and they are absolutely no smarter or more knowledgeable then accountants without that classification. Its purely to charge your customer more. When I was in school and asked why the “5th year rule” was enforced, the idea that a CPA needs a 5th year of college, and my teacher who helped with the CPA test design was specific and said it was to limit the pool of CPA candidates so they could charge more.

I wasn’t really shocked by that, but it really goes at the heart of my experience with the CPA. Of course there are exceptions, but the general rule that has been backed up by ten years of auditing CPAs fits right in there. I do have to say that they get really uppity when a non-CPA audits them, nails them and they get caught being wrong (sometimes doing it on purpose, sometimes they are idiots).

I will play around with the CPA study materials, but the 600+ hours of study needed to take it might be beyond what I want to do. I guess I will just talk to the hubby and get feedback.

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