Certified public accountants (CPAs) have a wide-ranging set of responsibilities depending on the specifics of their position, but generally speaking, CPAs provide professional advice to clients regarding a variety of tax and financial matters. Additionally, they may perform internal and external audits to ensure companies or other entities are following the proper guidelines for financial reporting. To be certified, individuals must first become accountants, which requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting.
How to Become a CPA: Steps
Although educational requirements are different for every state, a common requirement for CPAs is 150 semester hours of postsecondary study, which often includes some graduate-level coursework. Students generally accrue 120 of the required hours via a traditional bachelor’s degree program. To earn the entire 150 hours, some schools offer an option of a combined five-year bachelor’s and master’s degree program in accounting. Coursework usually begins with fundamental topics in accounting theory before advancing to cover more complicated issues like cost accounting.
Next, you should consider whether completing a graduate degree program is the right choice for you. While a graduate degree is not necessarily required to become a CPA, it may help the students who have only completed a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree program to meet the additional credit hour requirements to become a CPA.
The next step involves moving on to begin working in the accounting field. Before sitting for the certification examinations, state boards typically require all accountants to complete at least two years of work experience. There are many avenues for young accountants to find work in both the public and private sectors. You may work for an accounting firm or in an accounting department of nearly any type of company. Your duties may vary based on the nature of your employment, but will likely include tasks like verifying financial documents, preparing individual or corporate tax returns, or implementing financial measures and controls to reduce mismanagement of products and services.
After completing all of your education and work experience requirements, you are ready to sit for the certification exams.
The CPA Exam
Developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the CPA Exam is four different examinations. Each part of the Uniform exam consists of a four-hour test covering a different subset of topics and concepts. The four components of the CPA Uniform Examination are Auditing and Attestation, Financial Accounting & Reporting, Regulation and Business Environment & Concepts. To become a CPA, you must successfully complete all four sections within an 18-month testing window, finishing with a score of 75 or higher on each one.
The final step to a successful career as a CPA is to keep current with your education. To stay current with laws and practices, most states mandate CPAs to renew their licenses, which requires completing continuing education coursework. Additionally, some states may require CPAs to complete ethics courses as part of their continuing education requirements.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors are estimated to show an 11 percent job growth between now and 2024. The BLS statistics show the average annual salary of a CPA is $69,350.
Earn Your Online Accounting Degree
Jessup Online’s accredited online accounting degree allows you to explore the different areas of accounting and prepare for a career in any. Our degree combines topics on core business skills with specialized accounting principles to give you a strong foundation in accounting standards. Our program is ideal for those who wish to take the CPA exam and prepares you for a career as a CPA with hands-on experience with the latest accounting software for preparing financial statements and auditing. Additionally, our program’s courses offer you the opportunity to immediately apply your knowledge to highly relevant, real-world scenarios, such as preparing federal tax returns, corporate financial statements and comprehensive audit plans.