Importance of Credentials Depends on Job

One danger in personal strategizing for career development lies in overemphasizing credentials. For most positions credentialling is simply not as important as young people are lead to believe. Good jobs can be obtained and well done without a string of initials on a business card. The hard part is deciding if personal ambitions and career aspirations include the sacrifices it takes to get a CPA, an MBA, CMPA, Masters of Accounting, CIA, JD, or LLM.

Most positions do not have strict requirements in the job description on file in human resources. There is flexibility: CPA or M.B.A. CIA or appropriate experience. CMPA preferred.

This is necessary due to dynamics in the marketplace and changing hiring authorities inside companies. Employers compete for talented employees. Some employers do not attract credentialled candidates. Employers select among talented candidates. Many employers do not want or need credentials.

Because credentials are not qualifications. They only are one indicator that may predict future job performance.

There are positions, of course, where the lack of a credential is a disqualification.
An Audit Manager for a CPA firm needs to be a C.P.A. His firm sells the services that this credential designates. The certification is necessary not only to acquire the job, but more importantly to perform the duties of the job. Clients are buying the assurance a certified public accountant provides.

Another example is a healthcare tax lawyer. One can not reach the highest levels in this arena where the legal and accounting professions intersect without a B.A. JD, and a C.P.A. But does this person really need that LLM. - the extra year after law school - a masters in tax law?
Would a year of experience in the area by more appealing to an employer? Would an engaging personality be still more appealing?

There are a few points to consider when deciding how important credentialling is for you and the positions to which you aspire.

1.) A Bachelor's degree is very important. For most positions to which HFMA members aspire the lack of a four year degree becomes a skeleton in the closet. In discussions at every review, promotion or job interview the candidate comes to dread the discovery that, "I never finished my degree. " Put simply, -- get a B.A. degree.

2.) Safety Net / Authority rule of thumb. If the position to which you aspire is the company's ultimate authority to its internaI and external constituencies, then appropriate credentials will be virtual imperative. Regardless of title if the company has a financial authority above your position then credentials are not quite as important. The company has a safety net for that position. Decisions made there can be reviewed and approved.

In deciding to pursue a credentialling or degree program it's important to consider aspirations and ask the following questions:

1.) How important are credentials in getting the job? That depends on the interviewee's target audience. The less knowledge, confidence and judgment the interviewer has in the financial area the more important the credentialling is to that interviewer.

2.) How important are credentials to performing the job? Is the credential essential to the substance of the job, or does it speak more to the style or public relations aspect of the job? How important is that style to your target employer?

3.) How much sacrifice can you tolerate to get a credential or degree? No matter how much we keep our nose to the grindstone, a career is only one aspect of our life. Various components of our lives compete for our attention.

After meeting the experience requirement for a credential, is it too great a sacrifice to take a review course and sit for an exam? The benefit of passing the exam may be well worth the sacrifice.

Could a single parent meet the demands of a challenging full time job, the kids and an MBA course of study? Would the new job be that rewarding? The only reason to get a credential or degree is that the necessary work is a reward in itself. If you enjoy the learning in each class and each study session, then do it. If you don't - reexamine your priorities.

Those who enjoy this study will enjoy the positions that require these skills. The credentials tend to follow along as a matter of course. Those people that come to their positions this way make the best employees for their companies and the most fulfilled people for their families.

Those that find the credentialling drudgery, usually find jobs and marketplaces where experience is valued over credentials. They find happiness and success there too.

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