Becoming a CPA

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If you are considering a career in accounting, working as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) could be a fulfilling and lucrative choice. In a recent survey conducted by the AICPA, in which more than 1,200 CPAs across the country were polled, there was a three percent increase in the number of companies expecting to increase hiring for accounting professionals. This shows an increased optimism among accounting management executives and signals a good sign for students looking to pursue a career as a CPA.

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Certified Public Accountants Job Description

A CPA handles a wide range of duties, from filing taxes for individuals and corporations to financial planning services. A CPA who performs financial planning services for either an individual or a corporation typically assists clients with a number of financial functions, including:

  • public accounting
  • asset management
  • tax planning services
  • risk assessment and management
  • financial compliance
  • performing internal reviews

As a CPA, you will have numerous career setting available to choose from such as public accounting, corporate accounting, government, non-profit and academia.

Education Overview for Certified Public Accountants

The vast majority of careers in accounting require that you have at least a bachelor's degree. While you are earning your degree, you may wish to take classes that will help you reach your goal of becoming a CPA. In a typical four-year accounting degree program, you can expect approximately half of the credits to come from liberal arts courses and the other half to be related specifically to accounting. These courses may include the following:

  • Spreadsheets
  • Macroeconomics
  • Databases
  • Statistics
  • Logic and Critical Thinking Skills

Towards the end of your bachelor degree program, you should have the opportunity to complete an accounting internship. This will provide you with practical, hands-on experience in your chosen field. In many cases, internships can lead to a paying position. If your intern supervisor is unable to offer you a position, he or she can be a valuable reference for you when you apply for jobs in the future.

Another thing to consider before you enroll in a degree program is how well it fits into your current schedule. If you are already working full-time, attending classes online would be ideal. This gives you the opportunity to work around your schedule, while still receiving the same quality of education as students who attend classes on campus. If your schedule is more flexible, you may want to consider a combination of online and on-campus classes. The important thing is to find a school that understands your situation and is willing to accommodate you.

CPA Licensing Requirements

Depending on your state of residence, you may need to work for a certain number of months or years before you can sit for the CPA exam. Be certain to find out this important accounting career information while you are still in school. You don't want to graduate with the false assumption that you can take the CPA exam right away.

After ensuring that you meet eligibility requirements, you must contact the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to request to take the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam. Assuming you pass, your next step is to find out how many continuing education credits you must complete every year to maintain your status as a CPA.

How Much Can You Make as a CPA?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for all professionals in the accounting field was approximately $71,000 in 2012. This includes everyone from entry level accounting clerks to senior auditors. There are many factors that affect your salary as a CPA, including the size of the firm and how quickly you are able to advance. Your geographic location also plays a factor in the starting salary you will be offered as a CPA.

CPA Career Outlook

The field of accountancy in general should see an annual increase of 16 percent a year, according to the BLS. Some of the reasons for the high demand include growing corporate scandals, more individuals and private organizations in financial crisis and stricter financial laws and regulations. In an increasingly global economy, people with experience in international accounting will have the best job prospects. Those who have earned the designation of CPA can expect a career outlook that is similar to accountancy in general.

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