It’s not surprising that one of the most profitable careers in finance is a CPA. CPAs, or certified public accountants, are the ultimate experts in the realm of accounting. If you are great at crunching numbers, balancing budgets, and think you can lend your skills to businesses, learning how to a CPA may be what you are looking for.
Below, you’ll learn how to become a CPA, what you need to join the board of accountancy, and how to become an accountant in three easy steps.
What Is a CPA?
CPAs have gained executives’ trust all over the world, from Fortune 500 companies to mom-and-pop shops and everything in-between. They have modified their existing financial bona fides and passed the challenging Uniform CPA exam to prove they are financial masters.
What Does a CPA Do?
Before a business makes an important financial decision, they will often seek a CPA’s guidance. These financial professionals are experts on how to make basic as well as complicated business decisions.
CPAs find work at public accounting firms, small businesses, and even companies like Amazon, Comcast, or Apple.
Advises Individuals Regarding Finances
Above all, CPAs are expert financial advisors. CPAs scan the economic landscape for windfalls or hazards and help companies through all fiscal quarters. They are keen observers of financial trends. A talented CPA will have the ear of high-ranking executives at a company. Their advice is highly sought after.
Helps in Managing Accounts
CPAs have their hand in multiple pots. They can specialize in a specific subset of accounting or engage in more general financial practices. CPAs can help with bookkeeping, auditing, and financial consulting.
Essential CPA Skills
Excellent Math Skills
CPA candidates need to be math experts. While a calculator is a mathematician’s most helpful tool, as a CPA candidate, you need to be able to do basic and some complicated math. There is no room for error here; you are responsible for the financial success of businesses.
Although a standard accountant job won’t have you completing advanced equations, you will need to prove you are comfortable with math and its basics.
Great Communication Skills
CPAs work alongside business executives and with other groups of people. It naturally follows that a CPA candidate needs to communicate their ideas properly to maximize profits and minimize losses.
If a CPA isn’t a good communicator, a company could potentially experience a set back through misunderstandings. You don’t need to be a masterful public speaker by any means. However, you need to relay advanced financial ideas and predictions to high-level executives.
CPAs pride themselves on their financial expertise. Not only in their concrete accounting experience but with solving complex problems. CPAs need to examine many factors of economic prosperity.
Will the next business quarter be profitable for a particular company? Why is a company experiencing financial loss over the fiscal year? These and more complicated economic issues will be the CPA’s bailiwick.
CPA Salaries and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting and auditing are stable occupations. Median salaries are around $71,550 per year, with some of the highest salaries reaching $124,450.
The average salary for a CPA is around $119,000. Add significant accounting experience to the mix, and you can earn $152,000. CPAs can earn significant pay increases every year, more than a standard accountant job.
Accounting and certified public accounting are reliable careers that are always in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that accountancy will open up nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next decade. The accountancy field, in general, will grow by four percent. This is a steady, standard increase.
How Long Does it Take to Become a CPA?
A CPA must first complete a bachelor’s degree, preferably in an accounting program. A standard bachelor’s degree will take a student around four years to complete. Some of the most notable degree programs to take are:
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting
- Bachelor of Accounting/Accountancy
- Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, many determined CPAs join Master of Business Administration (MBA) accounting programs. These expert accounting programs aren’t necessary for becoming a CPA. However, businesses and corporations prefer a CPA candidate to have their master’s degree to prove their expertise.
AIPCA recommends about 150 hours are required to receive your CPA license. Overall, it will take around seven to eight years to be a fully-fledged CPA.
How to Become a CPA: A Step by Step Guide
You can become a CPA by following these three easy steps.
Step 1: Go to School: Undergrad to Continuing Education
There is no shortage of fantastic degree programs for an aspiring accountant and CPA. First, you must seek out how to become an accountant to build your future CPA career.
Students must complete their bachelor’s degrees in accounting before considering the pathway to becoming a CPA. Motivated individuals can go a step further and aim for their master’s degree in accounting to bolster their credentials.
This is a fantastic place to start your journey through an accounting program if you are a high school student. AICPA, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, offers comprehensive and detailed tools for you to see what works for you.
Step 2: Apply to Take the Uniform CPA Exam
All states require that aspiring CPAs must complete the Uniform CPA exam. This is a four-part exam. It covers four different foundations of accounting:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
- Regulation (REG)
Some universities and continuing education outlets allow a future CPA to complete part of their Uniform CPA exam while still attending an accounting program. This helps free up more time after you finish your academic career.
The Uniform CPA exam will allow you to earn your CPA license in whatever jurisdiction you are in. The process is relatively simple, yet includes many steps. It would be best if you specified what state board of accountancy to join.
Step 3: Pass the CPA Exam and Get Your CPA License
This is what it all comes down to. There is no need to feel nervous about this challenging exam; there are many study materials and tutorials found right on the AICPA site.
Once you have passed the Uniform CPA exam and earned your CPA license, it’s time to hit the ground running and start looking for various jobs in your field.
Should You Become a CPA?
If you are an accountant and need somewhat of a boost, or someone in continuing education, becoming a CPA could be a fantastic option for your future. CPAs and accountants are highly regarded and sought after in all facets of the business world.
There are a ton of benefits to becoming a CPA. The entry-level salary is astounding, the job outlook is steady for the foreseeable future, and there is an abundance of different helpful tools to help you through multiple public accounting programs.
Now that you know how to become a CPA, hit the books and get ready for the Uniform CPA Exam.
Are a CPA and an accountant the same?
Not exactly. CPA itself stands for ‘certified public accountant.’ Although you can see people use both terms ‘CPA’ and ‘accountant’ interchangeably, they are quite different. The main difference lies in their education and accounting experience.
A CPA candidate must meet stricter education requirements, passing the CPA exam to earn their certification.
What can you do with a CPA license?
Having a CPA license grants you an immense amount of freedom. You can choose to work in your local neighborhood business. You could also choose to work with international corporations. You can choose to focus on auditing, tax consulting, and management.
Aside from the standard CPA fields, you can further specialize in unique areas like financial forensics and IT consulting.
Do you need a master’s degree to become a CPA?
You don’t need to graduate from master’s degree programs to become a CPA. Many opportunities for CPA exist solely with the possession of a bachelor’s degree.
However, many businesses and corporations will prefer CPA candidates to have a master’s degree before hiring them.
Do I need a lot of accounting experience to become a CPA?
Being a CPA is not a stress-free position, and it requires years of accountant job experience. Your first prerequisites are a bachelor’s degree in accounting or accountancy. There is no limit to taking the Uniform CPA exam, so don’t feel pressured. Taking a gap between an accounting program and taking the CPA exam is an excellent time to earn accounting experience.