Public Accounting: Careers, Skills, and How to Become a CPA

How to become a certified public accountant

To practice as a CPA, you must hold a CPA license through your state licensing board. Certification simply means you have passed the CPA exam and qualify for the next steps in the licensing process. Licenses are issued by state accounting boards and require additional actions and professional development hours to maintain.

How to become a certified public accountant

We’ll go into these in more detail in the next section of this article. Each state sets its specific requirements for your eligibility to take the Uniform CPA Exam. Many states require you to hold a bachelor’s degree, and most require or will require 150 hours of post-high school education.

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AICPA also reported a decline in accounting majors, contributing to an overall shortage in accountants. It’s important to note that states have different CPE requirements and deadlines. For example, states have different requirements for the number of hours of ethics CPE you’ll have to do, and accept various types of education. It’s always best to check your state’s rules and regulations before starting your CPE. Many states have passed versions of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). This has helped to create more consistency in licensing across states so that you can be mobile while working in this profession.

CPA — a term used for both the certification and the professionals holding the credential — is the only officially approved accounting and auditing credential in the United States. Becoming a CPA typically requires 150 college credits and approximately 2,000 hours of accounting experience working with a licensed CPA professional. To acquire certification, CPA candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree and the equivalent of 150 semester hours of college credit. One year of relevant professional experience in academia, government, private industry, or public practice is also a common standard.

Some states require CPA candidates to be at least 18 to 21 years old, and a few require that you’re a citizen or permanent resident. As an aspiring CPA, you might want to consider an online accounting degree program, which offers convenience and flexibility, especially when working full time while going to school. Online programs may also provide a flexible or accelerated format. You might like to consider the Online Master’s of Accounting (iMSA), offered by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Accounting internships undertaken in school do not normally qualify toward experience-based CPA requirements.

Matos began her career at Ernst & Young, where she audited a diverse set of companies, primarily in consumer products and media and entertainment. She has worked in the private industry as an accountant for law firms and ITOCHU Corporation, an international conglomerate that manages over 20 subsidiaries and affiliates. Matos stays up to date on changes in the accounting industry through educational courses. First, you will need at least a four-year bachelor’s degree and additional credits. Some candidates complete graduate degrees or a certificate to fulfill the educational requirements.

What is public accounting?

If you are a “numbers person” or interested only in the accounting profession, the CPA may be better for you. In 1934, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) required all publicly traded companies to file periodic financial reports endorsed by members of the accounting industry. The AICPA established accounting standards until 1973 when the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) was launched to set standards for private companies. Experience in public accounting and your degree and licensure can make getting hired as a CPA easier. Also, some states require two years of public accounting experience to get a CPA license. Confirm whether your state requires experience for licensure here.

  1. They are also involved in tax reporting and filing for both individuals and businesses.
  2. Individuals are also required to complete 150 hours of education and have no fewer than two years of public accounting experience.
  3. He is also an expert in discreetly helping those who have gotten behind on their tax filings get back in compliance.
  4. Be certain to understand the requirements in your state and any states you intend to work in to ensure your license is accepted.

While not all accountants are CPAs, all CPAs must start out as accountants. After meeting your state’s education requirements, you’ll qualify to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination®, which is required to become a CPA. This 16-hour exam includes multiple-choice questions, essay questions and scenario-based questions that require you to apply your knowledge to address specific workplace situations.

Tax manager

International equivalency exams are also offered so that CPAs can work in countries other than the one in which they were certified. Other countries have certifications equivalent to the CPA designation, notably, the chartered accountant (CA) designation. Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact… Divide your career goals into short-term milestones and long-term goals. For example, a short-term milestone might be to acquire an in-demand skill like using accounting software, while a long-term goal might be to advance into a leadership position. When you become a CPA, you can be responsible for preparing financial statements for your clients and filing reports with the SEC.

Obtain Licensure

As a certified public accountant, you’ll have the opportunity to work with individuals and businesses in various industries, advising on financial and tax-related matters. You may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as forensic services, taxes, or working within an industry like health care. Alternatively, depending on your career path, you can focus on a wide spectrum of accounting services.

Public accounting careers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides job outlook data for various careers. While the BLS doesn’t specifically single out CPAs, it does provide data for the broader category of accountants and auditors, which includes CPAs. Employment for accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 4% from 2022 to 2032, which is about average when compared to other occupations. NASBA lists licensing requirements for each U.S. jurisdiction on its website. Familiarize yourself with your state’s specific standards early in the process to ensure you don’t miss any steps. While all states require you to pass an exam to become a CPA, other standards may vary by state.

All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network. As you fulfill the CPA requirements, it’s a good idea to keep your job search materials updated, including your resume and LinkedIn profile. It’s also a good idea to improve your interviewing skills, such as researching a company, preparing questions to ask the hiring manager, and presenting your qualifications. You may find that for some accounting positions, employers require or prefer candidates with a master’s degree. Other examples of goals include managing an accounting team, working for a large accounting firm, or starting your own business as a CPA. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA®) created the CPA exam with input from the state boards of accountancy and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

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