Should I Get Certified?

This is a question many people often ask. Going through the process of getting certified can be time consuming and costly. There are a few questions you should ask yourself and your employer prior to deciding to spend your valuable time and money going for a certification. Answering the questions below will help you to decide if a certification is right for you.

Question 1: What costs will my employer cover, if any?

Certifications and the study materials can get expensive. Find out if your employer will pay for the exam and study materials. In addition, will they pay for or provide the necessary continuing professional education (CPE) credits. If they cover all/or a majority of the costs, move right on to the next question. If you will have to cover the cost, make sure to research the following items:

  1. Examination cost
  2. Study materials including any live training courses/conferences
  3. Annual membership dues/renewal of certification (membership may be required to utilize the designation in some cases, e.g., CAMS)
  4. Annual cost of completing continuing professional education (CPE) credits (see CPE Calendar and Self-Study Listing for free CPE offerings)

Estimates of the current costs for a few certifications are included in the table below (membership cost is included when required or where it may save on exam cost/study materials). Click on the certification to find out the steps to becoming certified.

Certification Membership Cost Exam Cost* Study Cost** Total
CPA Varies $1,000 $900 – $3,400 $1,900 – $4,400
CIA $250 $750 $375 – $895 $1,375 – $1,895
CRCM N/A $725 $350 – $1,995 $1,075 – $2,725
CFE $200 $300 – $400 $219 – $1,995 $719 – $2,595
CAMS $295 $1,145 – $1,880 Included in exam cost $1,440 – $2,175
CISA $200 $415 $105 – $625 $720 – $1,240

*Exam costs may vary by state/country for some certifications; therefore, cost is approximate.

**There may be multiple options for study materials resulting in a wide range of costs.

Question 2: Will I have the time to dedicate studying for the examination(s)?

Obtaining a certification is not easy, it requires a diligent and focused effort to study and prepare for one or more examinations. It is especially difficult for those that have been away from school for a while as your study skills may be a little rusty. Not to mention all of the distractions we now face with smartphones, hundreds of channels on television, and the many personal obligations we all have. Look at a calendar to find out when (and where) the examination is held; some are held only certain times of the year while others allow you to schedule them at your convenience. Be sure you are able to dedicate the time necessary to prepare for the examination. Based on the cost examples in the prior question, you or your employer may not be happy to spend that money for a failed examination. Also, be prepared for what happens if you do not pass the exam; find out the timing for retaking the exam and if there are multiple exams (e.g., CPA), find out the window for passing them all.

Question 3: Will this help me receive a promotion/advance my career?

Some companies require certifications in certain fields (e.g., many companies want a financial analyst to be a CPA), or for promotion opportunities. At a former employer of mine, you needed to have a certification in order to be in a supervisory position. This is where it is important to think about your career goals and look at positions you want to see yourself in as your career progresses. If you are an Internal Auditor and plan on staying in Internal Audit, maybe the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation is appropriate for you. However, if you plan on moving to public accounting, or a finance/controller position, it may be better to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

From my personal experience in the banking industry, I have found that having a certification helps to distinguish you from other employees and often catches the eyes of hiring managers and human resources, which is crucial in determining whether or not you will be interviewed.

Question 4: What additional benefits will the certification provide me?

Once you become certified, there are often training, networking, and other benefits provided by the certifying organization. Both the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and the Association of Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (CAMS) provide multiple free CPE webinars each year to their members. This is also a good time to research if there is a chapter of the organization nearby; they often have meetings, events, and training where you can network with others in your field, earn CPE credits, and expand your knowledge.

Question 5: What value will the certification provide me?

Based on the answers to the previous questions, you should be able to determine what value the certification will ultimately provide you. Is the time and money you will need to put in worth it for what you will get out of the certification?

I am a big proponent of certifications, as I believe it demonstrates a desire to learn more about your field and shows that you have the dedication and drive to prepare and pass a difficult examination.

Week of 10/31 Free CPE Highlights

The Free CPE Webcast Calendar has been updated for November.  No webcasts are scheduled on Halloween, but the rest of the week is full of opportunities for free CPE credits.  Each day Tuesday through Friday there is at least one Tax CPE available:

There is also a Fraud related webcast on Tuesday at 1:00 EST from KPMG that should meet the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) fraud CPE requirement, Fraud: Internal Control Challenges.

Week of 10/3 Free CPE Highlights

This week there are two Accounting/Auditing CPEs and three and a half Tax CPEs available; however, one accounting and one tax webcast are both at the same time so you will have to choose which one to attend.

  • At 1:00pm EST on Wednesday, E&Y will be discussing SEC Comments and Trends for 1 Accounting CPE.
  • At 2:00pm EST on Wednesday, Deloitte will go over the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) Actions 8-10 and 13 related to Transfer Pricing for 1 Tax CPE.
  • At 2:00pm EST on Wednesday, PwC will be presenting its Quarterly Tax Accounting Webcast for 1 Accounting CPE.
  • At 10:00am EST on Thursday, PwC’s Tax Planning and Strategy panelists will be discussing Building a Business Case for Change for 1 Tax CPE.
  • At 3:00pm EST on Thursday Grant Thornton will be discussing Interweaving Sales and Use Taxes for 1.5 Tax CPEs.

I have added a few additional webcasts to the Free CPE Webcast Calendar from Grant Thornton, who also regularly offers free CPE webcasts, including the 1.5 Tax CPE webcast listed above.

Free Ethics Self-Study CPE Credits

The Anti-Fraud Collaboration group has created multiple ethics self-study courses that are available for free through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) training platform.  These courses are NASBA-compliant and count toward the annual ethics requirements for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), Certified Fraud Examiners (CFEs), and designations offered by the Society of Financial Examiners (SOFE). The course titles and links for accessing them at the AICPA’s website are included below; you will have to create an account with the AICPA in order to take the courses.

  1. Building a Fraud Resistant Organization (2 Ethics CPEs)
  2. Deterring Financial Fraud: What Else Can Be Done? (2 Ethics CPEs)
  3. How Corporate Culture Can Breed Fraud If Left Unchecked (2 Ethics CPEs)
  4. How to Improve Your Whistleblower Program and Address Impediments to Reporting (1.5 Ethics CPEs)
  5. Your Role in Sustaining a Culture That Deters Fraud (2 Ethics CPEs)

For more information on the Anti-Fraud Collaboration group, check out its website below:


Free Fraud CPEs for Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE)

If you are a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), free CPE webinars are periodically offered on the website.  If you attend the live webinar, it will generally be NASBA-compliant and may count toward other certifications as well (including the CPA). The archived recordings will still count toward the CFE CPE requirements, but will not likely count toward other certifications as they are not NASBA-compliant.

There are no upcoming scheduled free webinars; however, the following, archived webinars are available to ACFE members at no cost that provide 1 CPE credit each.  Click on the link, select Enroll Now, and enter your ACFE login information to register.

  1. Navigating Beneficial Ownership and Financial Transparency
  2. A Focused Approach: Best Practices for Uncovering Hidden Risk and Minimizing Exposure
  3. Failure to Launch? Breaking Down Barriers to Increase Use of Data Analytics
  4. The Impact of the Underground Economy and How Analytics Can Fight It
  5. Digital Decisioning in Today’s Fraud Environment
  6. Improving Application Fraud Detection Across Silos
  7. The Evolving Financial Crime Landscape: Using Next Generation Technologies to Solve the Puzzle
  8. Cyberthreats: The Gateway to Fraud

In addition to ACFE webinars, the larger public accounting firms have free webcasts that sometimes cover topics included in the ACFE’s definition of a “fraud-related” CPE. The CPE Calendar will be regularly updated so check back frequently for webcasts that include fraud-related topics. The following upcoming free webcast(s) below are fraud-related.

    1. 1/12/17  Cybersecurity: 3 Lines of Defense 

Another option for free fraud CPEs is However, be sure the webinar includes a certificate of completion (according to, you must receive a certificate of completion with the number of CPE hours attained in order for the CPE from a webinar to be accepted).

The Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) periodically offers free webinars on BrightTALK, which are fraud-related and include a certificate of completion (however, I am a member of ACAMS so I am not 100% sure if they will provide the certificates to non-members). Below are the upcoming free offerings from ACAMS that would count toward the fraud CPE requirements for the CFE. After clicking on the link, scroll to the bottom of the page to register for the webinar/create an account with BrightTALK.

  1. 1/19/17  360 Degree Review: 2016 Activities and Forecasts for 2017 (7:00am EST)
  2. 2/24/17  E-CDD, E-verification & E-signatures (7:00am EST)
  3. 3/2/17  APAC Update: Sanction Challenges in Business Relationships (9:00pm EST)
  4. 4/21/17  FinTech, Crowdfunding and Other Innovative Businesses (7:00am EST)
  5. 6/1/17  APAC Update: Enhancing UBO Practices (10:00pm EST)

Week of 9/26 Free CPE Highlights

This is a good week to get in your Accounting/Auditing CPEs with 2.5 hours available on Monday and Tuesday:

  • At 2:00pm EST on Monday, Deloitte will be presenting a Financial Tax Reporting  webcast for 1 CPE to discuss year-end updates, annual disclosures, and 2016 hot topics.
  • At 1:00pm EST on Tuesday, E&Y will be discussing the FASB’s New Leases Standard for 1.5 CPEs.

KPMG is also currently offering a free self-study course worth 1.5 CPEs in Accounting, which is also on the FASB’s new lease accounting standard. This is helpful for those that are not able to attend the above live webcasts. KPMG Self-Study CPE

There are also many opportunities for Tax CPEs all week, with at least one free tax related webcast each weekday except for Wednesday. A couple of the highlights are included below:

  • At 12:30pm EST on Monday, Deloitte will be discussing the newly proposed regulations under Section 2704, valuing interests in family-controlled entities for 1 CPE.
  • At 12:00pm EST on Tuesday, PwC will be presenting its Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Tax Quarterly Webcast for 1.5 CPEs.
  • At 1:00pm EST on Thursday, E&Y will be discussing complying with BEPS actions 8-10 guidelines on risk and allocations of intangible-related income for 1.5 CPEs.
  • At 2:00pm EST on Friday, KPMG will be giving its third quarter 2016 State Tax Update for 1 CPE.

Full details of upcoming free CPE webcasts along with the links for registration are included in the Free CPE Webcast Calendar.


Free CPEs for CPAs (and Other Certified Individuals)

There are many ways to earn your annual required continuing professional education (CPE). You could sign up with one of the numerous companies offering CPE courses for a “discounted” rate or you could attend a conference or seminar for a few thousand dollars. However, unless your company is willing to pick up the cost it can get very expensive. Fortunately though, there are plenty of free options from the larger public accounting firms and, if you plan appropriately, you will be able to meet your annual CPE requirements at no cost. Below I have included details of where to find the best free CPE webcasts as well as the related links to sign up for the courses.

Deloitte, Ernst & Young (E&Y), KPMG, and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) all regularly offer free CPE webcasts for CPAs (which also count for many other certifications). The links below have the current offerings of free webcasts from each company. Deloitte is my preferred source as it has a calendar format with multiple webcasts of various topics, including Accounting/Auditing. Both E&Y and KPMG also have a good number of free CPE webcasts. Once you create an account with KPMG, all of your CPE certificates will be stored on its website. In addition to the live webcasts, KPMG and PwC also occasionally offers free self-study courses for CPE credit at no charge.

After each webcast, you will be provided with a CPE certificate; Deloitte and E&Y provide them instantly and PwC and KPMG will email them to you at a later date. Follow the links below to see the upcoming webcasts for each company or check out the CPE Calendar for all upcoming free CPE webcasts by type (e.g., Accounting, Tax, etc.); the calendar also includes links that take you directly to the webcast page for registration so it is a great way to keep informed of upcoming free CPE webcasts. I will periodically post the highlights for the upcoming week and point out the rare free ethics CPEs if I am able to find them.

Deloitte Dbriefs

EY Thought Center Webcasts

KPMG Live CPE Seminars

PwC Webcasts

On-demand webcasts/self-study links:

PwC On-demand Free CPE

KPMG Self-Study (Lower right corner has a “Free Featured CPE Course”)