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What Does It Take To Become A CPA?

Aug 17, 2007
Although becoming a CPA is not a cakewalk, it pays to know what it really takes to become a CPA.

College Education and Training in the Formative Years

The way to the big job always takes years of preparation. A bachelor's degree from your university or college in accounting or any related line of expertise is the first step. Using the job demands of entry-level positions in Federal and several State governments as a reference, a 4-year college degree is the norm; this includes 24 semester hours of auditing or accounting. But it is not entirely surprising to see some employers deciding to hire candidates with a combination they consider equivalent to the above, in education and a number of years of work experience.

To practice as in independent auditor or a tax consultant or investment advisor, one needs to have two mandatory things.

1. Certification from American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, AICPA
2. License from your State Board Of Accountancy

The Core Structure of CPA

Since early last year, 42 states along with the District of Columbia have adopted the recommendations of AICPA. CPA candidates are required by the new recommendations to complete 150 hrs of semester course work- that is an additional 30 hrs after the usual four years college graduation. The rest of the states, barring a few, follow a similar certification procedure by enactment of their own law to the effect.

The accounting curriculum varies slightly from state to state. Following the AICPA recommendations, colleges and universities have altered their course syllabi for master's degree candidates to include the 150 credit hours of mandatory studies. Aspiring candidates would do well to check the exact requirements and the curricula applicable in their states.

The CPA examination is a rigorous 2-day, 4 part Uniform CPA Examination prepared by AICPA. Many states allow you to pass the 4-part exam in separate parts. You can take the examination in centers around the country.

Passing the Exams Is Not All

To succeed as a CPA, one must be capable of handling multiple responsibilities as dictated by business and market forces. For example, businesses are demanding expert advice from CPAs on matters as varied as tax planning, auditing, investment analysis, HR analysis, scrutinizing financial embezzlement and organized crime. Although there are recent restrictions on any one single CPA advising the same organization on multiple issues, a private CPA can advise different clients on various issues. There are no such restrictions on internal auditors.

Anyone planning to pursue a career as a CPA must have strong analytical abilities and an aptitude for mathematics. One should be able to critically analyze data, draw comparisons and interpret figures quickly and infer accurately from the resulting figures in order that decision making is expedited. Skills in computers, stock analysis, and knowledge of micro and macroeconomics and interpersonal skills all help.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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