At ExamMatrix, our ultimate goal is to help match you with the credential or certification that’s best for you.

Whether you’re deciding between becoming a certified public accountant – or CPA, a certified management accountant – or CMA, a certified internal auditor – or CIA, a certified information systems auditor – or CISA, or an enrolled agent – or EA, deciding on the career path best suited for you is contingent upon the amount of work experience and educational experience you’ve already acquired or are willing to commit to. Aside from experience requirements, it’s extremely important to be realistic about the amount of time you’re able to allot to studying for each respective exam prior to obtaining a credential.

Taking into account recommendations from the American Institute of CPAs – or AICPA, the Institute of Management Accountants – or IMA, the Information Systems Audit and Control Association – or ISACA, the Institute of Internal Auditors – or IIA, taking an accounting credential exam to join the ranks of finance professionals in the United States typically requires upwards of around 100 study hours or more. Depending on your level of education, how long ago you completed your Associate, Bachelor’s degree, or Master’s, and how fresh that information is in your mind – you may be able to save yourself some study time with an exam review best suited for your learning style.

Picking the best accounting certification exam for you involves plenty of time, dedication, and hard work. However, the benefits of joining the ranks of accounting professionals across the country – whether you end up working for an accounting firm, a small company, or independently – will undoubtedly enable you to have a fruitful career.

Which credential are you thinking of pursuing?

Let us know in the comments!

Carolyn M. Rivera: If you’re looking for a career change, want to add more skills to your resume, earn more money, or further your career – you might want to consider pursuing a credential or professional certification! There are quite a few credentials to choose from, yet all of them have different expectations in terms of education experience, work experience, exam format, and study demands.

In this video, I’ll give you a brief rundown of some of the requirements for acquiring each credential and from there you can learn more about the credential that sounds like the best fit for you!

The CPA credential:
Becoming a certified public accountant requires a student to earn at least 150 credit hours as an accounting major from an accredited college or university.
Professional and work requirements vary from state to state – so we recommend you visit the AICPA website to determine what exactly your state requires.
Once you fulfill your education and professional prerequisites, you’ll have to sit for the CPA exam.

The exam is made up of 4 parts that need to be completed within an 18-month time span. Each part includes multiple-choice questions, as well as various types of simulations that are designed to better test the real-world skills of an actual CPA. Most experts recommend studying anywhere from 100-200 hours per part to make sure you’re adequately prepared, though advances in adaptive learning technology have helped students cut those study times significantly.

The EA credential:
The enrolled agent credential has no formal education requirements, but previous work experience in taxation can make becoming an EA a lot easier. This can be a really beneficial credential to have under your belt. Becoming an EA either requires at least 5 years working in the IRS in the field of tax preparation or passing the SEE Exam.

The SEE exam, otherwise known as the Special Enrollment Exam, is a three-part exam focusing on individual and business tax preparation, representation of clients before the IRS, and tests your knowledge of general practices and procedures.  Most people recommend at least 50 hours of study time, per section, coming to at least 150 hours of study time.

The CMA certification:
This certified management accountant certification, offered by the Institute of Management Accountants, is especially beneficial because this certifications is recognized worldwide. That’s right! You can work as a CMA on long-term travels or start up your career in another country if you decide to move abroad. The CMA can be a great choice if you’re interested in business management, strategy, and finance. To become a CMA, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree or professional accounting certification, at least two years experience in the field, AND to pass the CMA exam.

The two-part CMA exam covers 11 competencies and takes about 12-18 months to finish both portions. You have up to 3 years to complete both. Most people recommend at least 75 – 90 hours of study time per part to prepare.

The CISA credential:
A certified Information systems auditor, or CiSA, oversees the information systems within an organization to ensure integrity and watch for issues. To become a CISA, you’ll need to earn at least 150 credit hours as an accounting major from an accredited college or university. In addition to education, you’ll need a minimum of 5 years of professional experience.

Finally, you’ll need to pass a 4-hour exam comprised of 150 questions This exam is relatively short compared to the rest! You must receive a scaled score of at least 450 to pass. Most people recommend studying an average of 2-3 hours per day to sit for the exam within 2 months.

The CIA credential:
A certified internal auditor is a position known for accountability. They make sure everyone within an organization plays by the rules.  This credential is great because it is another globally recognized certification.To become a CIA, you’ll need a mix of accounting education and work experience.

Those with an Associate’s degree must have at least 60 months of internal auditing experience. Students with a Bachelor’s degree need 24 months of internal auditing experience. Individuals with Master’s degrees need 12 months of internal auditing experience.

On top of work and education, you’ll need to pass a 3 part exam that takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete.  Most people recommend studying for at least 150 hours to be adequately prepared to take the test.


If you’re a soon-to-be or recent graduate or have work experience in one of these fields, you may have a bit of a leg up on studying because the materials are fresher in your mind. However, you will undoubtedly need to do additional studying using an exam review that will help you prepare for the credential you’re going after.

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