Accounting is, and always has been, a vital part of any business. Whether small or large, there is a definitive need for people who can handle taxes, deal with accounts and take the stress out of paying bills.
As a CPA, you could level up your own skillset and take your career to incredible and fulfilling places. With CPA accreditation comes job security, massive career development, and enhanced professional respect.
Everything you need to know about becoming a CPA is right here, just for you. We’ve put together all the information you need to get yourself certified. We’ve broken down what’s involved when taking the exams, and what being a CPA could mean for you.
If you’re feeling like you’re ready to take the next step, keep reading to get the low down about CPA accreditation.
The Value in Becoming a CPA
Accountants are responsible for managing and decoding sensitive financial information, all in the name of helping businesses make informed decisions. As a CPA you would still be involved in this. However, an important distinction here is that while all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants are CPAs.
Some of the key differences are pretty big! A CPA can represent a taxpayer before the IRS and during tax audits, while a regular accountant cannot. CPAs can also sign tax returns on behalf of their clients and provide attestation services.
While accountants tend to do more routine work, CPAs are responsible for analyzing the numbers and helping businesses make high-level decisions. Because CPAs can write audited financial statements, they’re a huge necessity for big businesses.
While it isn’t mandatory to become a CPA in order to practice as an accountant, there are some significant benefits! With accreditation comes more credibility, job security, and financial security.
Despite concerns that accounting as a profession is becoming obsolete due to technological changes, there is actually a bigger variety of roles available than ever before. As job roles shift and change with new advancements in technology, it is becoming more important than ever to stay ahead of the curve.
More and more, we are finding that accounting is becoming a more analytical profession, rather than something that is data-centric. This is especially true as contemporary advancements take hold of the marketplace. This is great news for you!
The Next Steps
So what needs to happen next? There are a few technical things to cover if you want to become certified.
In order to become a CPA, you will need to pass the Uniform CPA Examination. This is a test conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). They both develop and score the tests. You must check your eligibility through either the AICPA or the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)
In order to take the exam, you must have a bachelor’s degree with 120-150 credit hours. You also need a minimum of one year’s experience practicing as an accountant. International candidates must meet the same requirements as their US peers. However, their countries must have a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with the NASBA.
In a lot of cases, there is also a final ethics exam, depending on where you are looking to get licensed.
What Happens in the Exam?
During the exam, you will move through four different sections. You are allowed a maximum of four hours per section and you will have 18 months to pass all four sections.
You need a minimum score of 75/99 per section to pass.
The four different sections are as follows:
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
As soon as you complete your tests, the exam files are sent to the AICPA for scoring, who then sends them to the NASBA to link with your identity. NASBA then transfers these scores to your state board for approval.
Keep in mind that undertaking CPA training and evaluation is a significant job! It’s believed to be one of the most challenging professional exams a person can take, and because of its unique format and scoring process, its pass rates sit at just over 50%.
What Job Opportunities Are Available as a CPA?
Depending on your personal skills and experience, you could find yourself working as a portfolio manager, a business consultant, and even a financial advisor. This is by no means an exhaustive list and experienced CPAs could even find work as managing partners, financial auditors, and forensic accountants.
All of these are well-earning careers and many CPAs end up leading entire teams. Project manager and financial consultant? Yes, please!
The average pay for a CPA is around $68,000 per annum but it is well within reach to hit $100,000 per year with experience and skill.
Add to that the stability that comes from being a key player in a business’s financial decisions and you’ll have no shortage of job opportunities and career advancements.
Additionally, becoming a CPA doesn’t limit you to just accounting as a career. Specialization could have you standing above the crowd, especially if you focus on modern trends like information technology and advanced tax compliance.
What Happens Next?
What we’re trying to say here is simple. Professional certification is only a stepping stone to greater things. In addition to countless more job opportunities and more credibility in the accounting industry, becoming a CPA comes with respect, prestige, and heightened job security.
With the right prep, attitude, and research, you could be well on your way to achieving this next step in your career. We know the exam process is challenging but others have paved the way forward. There is an abundance of resources available to make the task easier and we’re here to help.
If you liked this article, you’ll love our other financial path articles. Check them out today and get your professional development rolling!