Do you have a knack for data and numbers? Most people with excellent number-crunching skills aspire to become accountants. It might seem like a specialized field, but the finance world is diverse. You can work on the company’s cost-management strategies as a cost accountant or utilize your market-know to become an investment accountant. Likewise, you can step away from the corporate world and kickstart a career in public accounting.
Today, employers look for certified public accountants (CPA) because of their expanded rights and privileges. Only licensed CPAs can report files with Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and provide auditing and attestation services. At the same time, they can perform specialized accounting procedures to align it with the organization’s financial structure. Alongside being a rewarding career choice, becoming a CPA can give you an edge over other accountants.
Above all, you can make 5%-15% more than the non-licensed counterparts as a CPA, and it can increase up to $50,000. After learning about the perks that come with CPAs, you might be wondering how to pursue ahead in this field. Let’s look at a step-by-step guide on how to become a certified public accountant.
1. Fulfill Educational Requirements
In the public accounting field, the educational requirements vary from state to state. Some might allow students to take a section of the CPA exam before graduating from college. In comparison, other states require students to have a bachelor’s degree to appear in the CPA exam. These degrees must be in accounting or business-related fields with specific coursework.
Students should have 24 credit hours in accounting, auditing, taxation, and 30 credit hours in business-related courses such as finance and law. However, if you’re a working student, you can avail yourself of online learning platforms. You can opt for an online MACC degree to get advanced credentials and accelerate your career to new heights. The online program will eliminate the hassle of traveling to college every day while building your core mathematical competencies. Additionally, the program will cover business analytics, forensic accounting, and finance, preparing you for the CPA exam.
2. Apply for CPA Exam
Applying for the CPA exam might seem like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, the application process is pretty complex. Firstly, you have to determine whether you are eligible to sit in the exam or not. Second, you have to verify your qualifications from the state board of accountancy. After this, you can submit the CPA exam application with a fee that is around $100-150. Once you get the approval, you can finish the application form and apply for the examination.
After registration, you will get a Notice to Schedule (NTS), allowing you to schedule and take any exam section. Remember, you will have four CPA exam sections covering a different subset of topics and concepts. Hence, take every section one by one to avoid failing the test. Lastly, schedule your exam at least one month before to avoid last-minute setbacks.
3. Review CPA Courses
It is always a great practice to start studying before applying for the exam, but that rarely happens. So, once you have applied for the exam, take out your books and begin learning. You have to pick a relevant CPA review course to make sure you’ll pass the exam. These courses provide study material related to all four sections of the test – auditing, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business concepts Like how to provide problem solving product to your employees to your customers how you can manage budgeting, reporting.
You can pick a review course that aligns with your learning style, budget, and study schedule. Here are the two best review courses available online.
- Becker CPA Review: Becker has helped thousands of candidates over the world pass the exam. They use a simple user interface and have seamless integration between practice questions and lectures.
- Gleim CPA Review: Gleim updates the course with audio lectures and videos, allowing students to understand concepts better.
4. Pass Your CPA Exam
The CPA exam has a scoring scale of 1-99, out of which 75 is the passing score. The accounting board has given students four test windows throughout the year. Although you can take all four sections in one go, experts recommend scheduling exams in different windows. That’s because every area has a different difficulty level.
Once you pass the first exam section, you will have 18-months to give the rest three. If you cannot clear all four sections in the 18-month window, you will have to retake the entire exam. Additionally, know that you can’t retake the same section multiple times. If you failed the auditing exam, you have to wait until the next window to retake the exam.
5. Gain Work Experience
Every state has a different requirement for CPA work experience. In many states, you only need one year of experience to get a CPA license and start working professionally. However, other states want students to have at least 3-4 work experiences to acquire the license.
Many people take up a part-time job in accounting firms to have relevant work experience, but that’s not how it works. You have to be working full-time as an accountant or an assistant to a CPA. Entry-level jobs such as bookkeeper and accounting clerk also come under CPA work requirements. Additionally, volunteer work in the finance field can contribute towards CPA requirements. Thus, if you can’t get a job quickly, help older people prepare taxes or work with non-profit organizations.
Believe it or not, becoming a CPA can be the best career decision. You will gain an edge over other professionals in the accounting industry while enjoying a lucrative salary. Likewise, you will get a chance to work in public with government professionals, offering greater market exposure. You can begin by fulfilling all the educational requirements and embark on this rewarding journey of becoming a CPA.