Certified Public Accountant – CPA

Becoming a certified public accountant undoubtedly opens the doors to many career prospects. In fact many potential employers prefer or require CPA-certification.

CPA Career Information

PWC assurance associate Scott P. Morency says, in an interview with CPATrack.com, that accounting is “the language of business”. As a certified public accountant (CPA) there will be numerous opportunities to use your skills and talents for the business vernacular. From forensic accounting and fraud investigations to consulting and reviewing tax returns, the roles are diverse and appeal to a variety of interests.

Workplaces are also wide-ranging and include working in governmental, corporate, criminal justice, entertainment, non-profit, educational, scientific, technological, environmental and sporting industries. Some CPAs even choose to volunteer their skills in their local communities or overseas.

According to the American Institute of CPAs, if you’re meant to be an accountant, “you’ve been working on the skills since your sandbox days”.

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) on its “Start Here Go Places” website, says that an accountant’s skill set includes the following: leadership (such as past tutoring or event organizing experience), communication (such as comfortable giving presentations or working in groups), being tech-savvy (such as experience using spreadsheet software and databases) and being business-savvy (such as being keen to develop creative solutions or business plans).

Have you noticed these skills in yourself since your adolescence? Then find out about what it takes to become a certified public accountant and how fulfilling it can be once you get there.

Job Description

While a CPA’s job duties vary according to role and workplace (from working for a company or as a freelancer to working in the non-profit, sporting or entertainment industry) as follows are some potential accounting duties you may perform:

  • Examining client financial statements to ensure their accuracy and are compliant with relevant regulations.
  • Providing clients with advice related to taxes and financial planning.
  • Performing financial crime/fraud investigations and testifying as experts.
  • Preparing or reviewing tax returns and ensuring clients file on time.
  • Evaluating client’s financial operations and suggesting improvements.
  • Ensuring current accounting systems are efficient and precise.
  • Effectively and cordially communicating with clients, colleagues and managers in person and in writing.
  • Keeping up to date with all laws and regulations relevant to accounting.

Examples of Job Opportunities for CPAs

  • Public Accountant
  • Managerial Accountant
  • Financial or Compliance Analyst
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Government Accountant (even for federal agencies like the FBI)
  • Educator
  • Auditor
  • Controller
  • Business Manager
  • Chief Financial Officer (after several years experience)

Accounting Degree

Not all accountants are Certified Public Accountants. In order to earn this well respected credential you must go through a challenging yet rewarding process. While each state has jurisdiction over certifying its CPAs, the majority require 150 semester hours of relevant higher education.

This can be earned in a variety of ways. For example, if you take an Accounting Bachelor’s degree you can take additional courses (at the graduate level for instance) to fulfill the remainder of the required credit hours. Alternatively, you could complete a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s program or a relevant Master’s degree (after having already completed your Bachelor’s degree).

Check with your state board of accountancy to find out what their exact educational requirements are.

Accounting Degree FAQs

Do I need to complete a Master’s to become a CPA?

No you do not need a Master’s degree to become a Certified Public Accountant. However, you may find completing a Master’s in Accounting, Business Administration or another relevant specialty may be your desirable route for meeting the credit hour requirement for certification. Plus some employers prefer (in some cases require) their prospective CPAs to have a Master’s degree.

Can I take an accounting degree online?

Yes some universities do offer online accounting degree programs.

What kinds of classes will I take as part of an accounting degree?

Along with courses that focus specifically on accounting, generally you will take classes in economics, management, marketing, statistics/math, communications, taxation, business operations, information technology and ethics/policy. A number of programs also offer the opportunity for students to complete an internship.

Accounting Certification & Licensing

“Getting your CPA certification opens the kinds of doors that can fast-track you into influential jobs in every industry,” states the AICPA. “Whom do you think the FBI recruits to investigate criminal fraud? What profession is often a stepping-stone to holding positions like Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO)?”

Becoming a certified public accountant undoubtedly opens the doors to many career prospects. In fact many potential employers prefer or require CPA-certification. Once you meet the educational and experiential requirements dictated by your particular state’s board of accountancy, you are eligible to sit for a four-part national certification exam. Upon successfully passing the exam, you can earn your CPA. * Note that some states have a two-tier system, where you can write the exam to receive your certificate before fulfilling the experiential requirement; once the experiential component is completed you can obtain your license.

Salary & Job Outlook

Salary & Job Outlook

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary and job outlook for accountants and auditors are:
  • Median Annual Salary: $61,690 *
  • Job Outlook: 16% increase in jobs from 2010 to 2020 **

Note: According to the AICPA, CPAs earn roughly 10-15% more when they begin working compared to non-credentialed accountants; additionally CPAs are more attractive to employers than non-CPAs.

  • Source Data
  • * Salary Data Provided by http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
  • ** Job Growth Data Provided by http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm