Rising demand for accounting and finance professionals with new skills is making it more likely that companies pay their employees to gain and maintain professional certifications.
Corporate support for employees’ efforts to maintain professional certifications has increased significantly in the past four years, research by Robert Half suggests. Of the more than 2,200 CFOs the staffing firm polled in the largest U.S. metro areas this year, 38% said their companies fully covered costs employees incurred to maintain professional certifications, and another 38% said they paid part of the costs.
Also, 76% of respondents said they paid all or part of the costs their employees incurred to receive professional certifications.
In 2012, when the U.S. economy was emerging from a recession with double-digit unemployment, 5% of CFOs said their companies reimbursed employees fully to maintain professional certifications, and 21% said their companies paid partial reimbursements. That was a significant decrease from 2006, when 29% of CFOs said their companies reimbursed employees fully and 17% said they made partial reimbursements.
Following the recession, U.S. companies reduced support for professional education along with other cost cuts by 2012, said Tom Hood, CPA/CITP, CGMA, president and CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs & the Business Learning Institute.
The 65% increase in the rate of corporate support for professional education since 2006, however, reflects the automation the profession has gone through and the growth in overseas business U.S. companies have experienced in the past 10 years, Hood said. “The skill set CFOs need is changing, and talent demand is increasing.”
Professional certifications help college graduates prepare for jobs by teaching them strategic and critical thinking, how to add insight to numbers, and critical communication skills, he said. Reimbursing costs to maintain professional certifications has become a key tool companies use to retain employees by developing their careers.
A professional certification such as a credential is a testimony to a finance professional’s technical knowledge, said Kathleen Downs, a Robert Half vice president. “Are companies valuing credentials? They definitely do.”
4 ways to make a case for credentials
Finance professionals interested in getting professional education costs reimbursed by their companies are more likely to be successful, Robert Half suggests, when they:
Prepare a business case. Put together an argument why a certification, license, or credential will help you contribute more to the company, and present it to your manager. Consider that some professional training has a stronger return on investment than others.
Highlight immediate and future benefits. Show examples of how the professional training will allow you to improve productivity, add revenue, take on new responsibilities, and develop leadership skills.
Share the wealth. Offer to share the information learned or mentor colleagues to extend the value of your added expertise.
Divide the cost. Don’t give up if the company denies your request to pay for training. Consider paying for part of the fees yourself, or revisit the conversation in a few months if you sense your boss may be more open to it in the future.
—Sabine Vollmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a JofA senior editor.