In this post, we will be discussing about all things related to certified public accounts. Be it a burgeoning startup or a non-profit organization or a multinational corporation, CPAs are the backbone of their success. The business atmosphere is growing ever more competitive and complicated and with it the demand for qualified and trustworthy advisers with requisite certification, experience and background is also increasing rapidly.
Strategic decisions are made by CPAs and they have more opportunities to make it big in the industry. This post is dedicated to exploring the steps involved in becoming a CPA, ranging from taking the examination to choosing the specialty to moving into management, with links to CPA related posts. This can be considered a detailed guide to knowing about CPA jobs and we plan to update this post with the passage of time.
A college degree is earned by majority of the accountants but if you want to pursue a career as a CPA professional, a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or business is mandatory. But this does not stop here. A number of CPA professionals get a master’s in business administration or go for an accelerated five year accounting program.
It varies from state of state but most of the programs require 150 semester hours of instruction which exceeds a conventional four year bachelor’s degree by about 30 hours. Advanced course work is also made obligatory by certain states in financial reporting, audit, taxes and other non-business fields. Regulations can be different from one state to another so you can check out the requirements for your state here.
These detailed articles can help you make an informed decision about pursuing a career as a CPA professional.
- Private or public: The demand for accounting is increasing rapidly along with salaries. But as has been discussed in this post, there can be subtle differences from daily routine to job positions and remuneration.
- CPA versus CMA: None of the two certifications are better than each other. It is only a matter of the one which is better for a certain individual. This post deals with the requirements, tests, benefits and salaries associated with the two certifications.
- 3 E’s to excellence: Education, examination and experience are the three parameters crucial in determining your success as a qualified CPA professional
Turmoil of CPA test
Along with education, majority of the states require CPA professionals to work for approximately 1,800 hours under the guardianship of a certified CPA which can be accomplished before, during or after the test. CPA aspirants take up preparatory classes for the four parts of the Uniform CPA Exam: Audit and Attestation, Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation and Business Environment and Concepts. The 16 hour examination was launched in 2017 and emphasizes on conceptual thinking in contrast to rote learning to ensure that the qualified candidates are able to face the rigors of modern day business complexities.
The exam is taken during the first couple of months of each quarter and spans over a few days. The sections can be taken in any sequence but once they qualify one part, it is mandatory that the other three are passed within a period of the next 18 months.
The application and test fee is around $1,000 but can be different from one state to another.
A number of state boards have made it obligatory for CPA professionals to maintain and enhance their skills by indulging themselves in continuous professional development courses. The CPA exam is formulated and marked by the American Institute of CPAs and requires an annual renewal fee and recertification after every three years.
CPA Jobs and Specializations
What is the actual job description of CPA professionals? Generally speaking, they are responsible for maintaining and monitoring financial accounts of organizations, government entities and customers. Corporate or private accountants do not require a CPA license but it is meant for public accountants who are employed by companies offering accounting services to others.
A wide array of positions encompass the work of CPAs and professionals choose specializations such as:
- Financial analysis: A financial analyst supports business growth by evaluating financial data, formulating reports to depict technical information, interpreting data affecting investment programs and assisting management in making informed decisions.
- Internal auditing: An internal auditor is designated to monitor and analyze an organization’s functioning by reviewing risk management issues, financial data and control processes.
- Information technology auditing: IT auditors take care of both the information technology aspect as well as the accounting aspect. They inspect the technological framework of a company, ensure that their systems remain safe from any security breach and comply with the requisite regulations.
- Tax accounting: A tax accountant keeps tax records and completes tax returns to guide companies in formulating appropriate tax strategies while ensuring compliance with tax laws.
- Managerial accounting: Budgets and financial documents are created by accounting managers. In addition, they also analyze and fine tune accounting processes and offer advice to the management for the healthy growth of the business.
Real Stories about CPA
Here are a few real stories about CPA professionals, their life long struggle and their road to success:
- Belicia Cespedes – The Youngest CPA at 17: Belicia started high school at the age of 10 and college at 13 and won trips to the Cheesacake Factory every time she passed a section of the CPA test. Her story is remarkably inspiring.
- How to become a CPA in 9 months: This is a truly inspiring story of Charlene Rhinehart in which she offers important advice to aspiring CPA professionals while guiding how the exam can be passed in 9 months!
- 5 ways to fail at the CPA exam: Ethan holds a senior post in the audit and assurance department of a regional public accounting company. He shares his blunt opinion about how not to take the CPA exam. His advice will certainly help you opt for a better plan in terms of preparation for the examination.
- Top 7 CPA skills: This post discusses a study in which 450 staff level finance and accounting professionals were asked skills they considered to be essential for CPA professionals.
Remuneration is an important aspect of any career. There is an ever increasing demand of CPA professionals and tends to put CPAs at the higher end of the salary spectrum.
You can consult the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals that discusses the starting ranges for more than 190 positions, variations among regions and the latest perks and benefits.
Typically, the starting salary for a senior manager or director in audit/assurance services is $131,250 at the midlevel and around $134,000 for a senior manager or director in tax services. These figures also include bonuses and incentives.
There is no stop to the good things associated with CPA jobs. According to the statistics revealed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an 11% increase in demand is projected from 2014 to 2020 for accountants and auditors. Currently, a short supply of skilled talent has reduced the unemployment rates for accounting and finance positions below the overall national rate.
Consequently, CPA hiring is getting a much expected kick with public accounting firms hiring at all levels. More focus is being diverted at recruiting professionals in audit and tax positions but companies are also looking hire professionals with expertise in risk, compliance, mergers and acquisitions.
CPAs with experience in public accounting, financial services and corporate financing are more likely to take on a great share of the company’s burden and excel in their careers. Here is an interesting post on 8 ways CPAs can make their way to crucial management positions.
It goes without saying that you need to keep enhancing your professional skills after passing the CPA examination. Here are the different training options enlisted in the post titled “CPE requirements offer learning opportunities for CPAs”.
It is no small a feat to become a certified CPA as it opens new vistas of opportunities for professionals to make it big.
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