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How to Become a CPA

Become a CPA Certified public accountants, or CPAs, are accredited professionals with the skills and dedication necessary to manage a business's financial aspects. Strategic thinking about the general logistical operations of a company is a crucial component of a CPA’s work, as is financial auditing, planning, and reporting. The data and analytics that a certified accountant also go a long way in the business objective creation process, tuning business owners in on the risks they need to take or avoid to ensure the success of their enterprise. CPAs can work directly for a larger company but, in many cases, through outsourced accounting firms.

If you’re interested in becoming a certified public accountant, you’ll need considerable education and training. The regulations and requirements for becoming a CPA vary somewhat depending on your state of certification, just as the business and tax laws differ from state to state. In this article, we’ll review the key steps and educational requirements you’ll need to meet to qualify for certification. Speaking with an academic advisor at your college or university can also help you identify what you need to do to achieve your accounting field goals.

Requirements for Becoming a CPA

Becoming a CPA requires significant time and dedication, regardless of what track you take to get there. Accountants are responsible for a considerable amount of a business’s financial successes, particularly when it comes to scaling up the company's size while decreasing overhead costs. In short, CPAs are a vital factor in making a business profitable.

Become a CPA Completion of a 4-Year Bachelor’s Degree Program

To start your journey towards becoming a successful accounting professional, you’ll need to obtain a college or university degree from an accredited institution within the United States. While you aren’t strictly required to obtain your bachelor’s degree in accounting or business, these programs allow the later stages of the process to become much more manageable, particularly when you’re applying for the CPA exam. The minimum requirement for this degree is 120 credits, which breaks down to 15 credits per semester.

The Value of a Major in Accounting

For most individuals with the goal of becoming a CPA, a major in accounting can prove to support your overall business career and management skillset significantly. However, it technically isn’t necessary, as long as you’re willing to make up some of the coursework at a later time. Courses for university accounting programs usually include introductions to both financial and managerial accounting. Accounting theory, ethics, and income tax accounting classes are critical parts of this degree.

Coursework in cost accounting, federal and state tax studies, and entity management are also standard components of an accounting degree. If you aren’t 100% sure if accounting is right for you, taking a few introductory classes will usually get a good idea of whether your organizational skills, interests, and way of thinking are a good match for this line of work.

30 Additional Accounting Credit Hours

After completing your 120-credit hour bachelor’s degree, you’ll also need to complete an additional 27-30 credits of coursework that’s entirely dedicated to developing your accounting skillset at a professional level. Many colleges and universities offer these additional credits as a part of their accounting programs so that the program lasts up to 5 years. With the right mix of Advanced Placement credits in high school, you may be able to complete these additional credit hours, alongside your bachelor’s degree, in just four years of education.

For those seeking a truly well-rounded education in accounting, a master’s degree in the subject may be beneficial. Master’s degrees include the required 30 additional credit hours above your bachelor’s degree. If you want to become a CPA but didn’t major in accounting, completing a master’s degree program is usually necessary. With the combination of a bachelor’s and master’s degree, your education may take up to seven years. However, most candidates for certification can usually complete the educational requirements in six years or less.

Become a CPA Entry-Level Accounting Experience

After you’ve completed all the necessary educational requirements for becoming a CPA, you’ll need to finish a set term of entry-level accounting work. In most states, the requirement for registering for the CPA exam is 1,800 hours of work experience, which breaks down to pretty close to a year of experience. The work position must also qualify for CPA certification in that it relates directly to accounting and utilizes the skills you’ve gained through your bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

Passing Scores on All Sections of the CPA Exam

Once you’ve finished all work and education requirements, you can register for the uniform CPA examination. The exam contains four major sections, each of which you’ll need a passing score on to achieve certification. The sections are as follows: Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation.

After completing the uniform CPA examination, you’ll have to pass the certification ethics examination. For further information on the CPA exam, including what you need to do to register and what you should study, visit the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy or Depending on your state of residence, there may also be other testing requirements.

Job Opportunities for CPAs

Positions that require CPA certification are typically stable, well-paid jobs that allow the accountant to affect the financial outcomes and operations of a business. As a CPA, you’ll play a key role in the development of business strategies and build financial projections and risk analysis presentations that allow the CFO or CEO to may more informed decisions. Many CPAs are hired directly by larger companies, though others may work with an outsourcing firm, taking on multiple client businesses at once on a fractionalized basis. Beginning Your Professional Accounting Career
Ready to begin your career as a certified public accountant? To get started, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, preferably in accounting or finance. Then you’ll need to finish 30 additional credit hours of accounting coursework, along with a significant amount of entry level-work experience. While it might seem like a challenging journey to achieve this certification, it will prove to be invaluable for your future accounting career.

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 26th February 2022.

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