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The Road to Becoming a CPA

accounting-761599_640In an unstable labor market, the accounting field can serve as a beacon of hope to those looking to find steady employment. If you’re interested in pursuing career success in this industry, consider your position aspirations. Whether you hope to provide accounting services to businesses or individuals, becoming a CPA can serve you well in your career. Follow these essential steps and you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding profession.

Why Become a CPA?

Before getting started, it’s important to examine the reasons becoming a CPA can serve you well. For one, as previously mentioned, it’s a stable career choice. Recent statistics have projected that employment growth for those in accounting and auditing should increase by 11 percent by 2024. Moreover, CPAs are indispensable in nearly every industry; companies and individuals will always require financial guidance. When it comes to compensation, there’s no denying that getting your certification is worth it; according to one survey, those with a CPA certification can expect to make 10 percent more than accountants without the designation. Better employment outlook, better pay, and more prestige—it’s easy to see why many accounting professionals pursue this designation.

Consider Other Designations

Are you sure the CPA certification is correct for your career aspirations? Perhaps you want to go into management; a CMA may suit you better. Perhaps you’re looking to become a financial analyst; your time and money would be better spent on attempting to pass the financial analyst exam to acquire your CFA. Maybe you’ve always had an interest in tax resolution; a position as a federally licensed Enrolled Agent could be the right choice. Make sure you take your time before jumping in; each of these paths requires months and sometimes years of commitment, so it’s important to really know it’s what you want.

Education Requirements

If you’ve decided becoming a CPA is the right path for you, you’ll need to acquire your bachelor’s degree in accounting, or a similar major like finance. There are many prerequisites for those hoping to receive this designation; you must have at least 150 credit hours in related disciplines, which generally means you’ll pursue a master’s degree or some type of further education after getting your undergraduate degree. The requirements can vary by state, so it’s essential to do some research before attempting to take the CPA Exam.

The CPA Exam

No doubt one of the most feared hurdles on the path to becoming a CPA, this exam is notoriously difficult. This computer-based exam is comprised of four sections, all of which must be taken at different sittings. These sections include: Auditing and Attestation; Business Environment and Concepts; Financial Accounting and Reporting; and Regulation. The first and third sections are four hours each, while the second and fourth sections are slotted for three hours. There’s no set pattern for taking the exams; however, once you pass one section, you’ll be required to pass the other three within the span of 18 months.

Review Courses Are Essential

As you begin to prepare for your exam, you’ll need to purchase a CPA Exam study guide. There are a variety of companies with fantastic resources; it’s important to utilize a service that offers mock exams as well so you can practice taking the test. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare; most candidates dedicated weeks and even months of study to just one portion of the exam.

You’ve Passed, Now What?

After passing all four parts of the CPA Exam, you may be tasked with passing an ethics exam. This is an open book test administered by some states, and it’s significantly easier to pass than the CPA Exam. After passing, you’ll also need to begin acquiring work experience. This may mean obtaining an internship that turns into employment, or starting with an entry-level job at first just to gain the right hands-on experience. Check local listings for job openings, call local firms, and browse the CPA job postings on CPA Job Finder.  With the CPA certification under your belt, you should have no problem finding employment in the industry of your choice, so get out there are get started.

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