A bachelor’s degree in accounting focuses on developing easily transferable skills, such as critical reasoning, statistical analysis, strategic problem-solving, and business ethics. These skills qualify bachelor’s in accounting graduates for a wealth of careers across industries and occupations. Common jobs in accounting include accountant, auditor, budget analyst, and personal financial advisor.
What is an Accountant?
A Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, is a professional who has passed the CPA examination, is licensed by one of the states, and maintains the necessary CPA licensing qualifications[i].
The CPA’s license is renewed periodically as long as they meet the state’s qualification requirements, including continuing professional education credits. A CPA license is a symbol of quality assurance and achievement and is the accounting profession’s highest competence standard.
Educational Requirements to Become an Accountant
Becoming a CPA is one of the best achievements that you can have in your career as a public accountant. Getting your certificate from the state board will give you a great sense of pride and accomplishment that you have managed to attain one of the highest attainable career goals. There is also a huge financial benefit that comes with becoming a CPA. However, it is easier said than done; becoming a CPA requires you to go through many years of education, passing the CPA exam and professional accounting experience.
The first and most vital step to becoming a CPA is undergoing the relevant education[ii]. It is a requirement by most, if not all states, that you must have a bachelor’s degree for you to be considered for verification as a CPA. There are, however, some states that can allow you to take a section of the CPA examination even before you clear and graduate from college.
The degree programs you have to pursue must be associated with the accounting or business field and must capture a specific coursework set. Typically, all CPA candidates must have undertaken a minimum of 24 college credit hours doing auditing, accounting, and taxation education. They also must have a minimum of 30 college credit hours undertaking business-related courses such as finance, management, and business law.
All the CPA qualification requirements could vary with states, so you must check with the state’s board where you wish to sit for the CPA exam. In some states, you will find that the requirement is that you must have 150 semester hours to be allowed to sit for the CPA exam as opposed to the usual 120 college credit hour accounting degree requirement.
Overall, most states will allow you to sit for the CPA exam if you have only a qualified degree. Once you are done with your bachelor’s degree, you are now ready and qualified to apply for the CPA exam. To be in a good position to pass the CPA exam, you will need to get a review course and begin studying for this exam.
There are four CPA exam sections, and passing the exam will require you to get a score of at least 75 out of the possible 99. After you have passed all the four sections of the CPA examination, you will be required to take an ethics exam, which is more of a take home examination than a real exam.
Upon passing the ethics exam, you will need to fulfill your work experience requirement[iii]. If you have met this requirement, the final step will be paying the state board licensure fees and waiting for your certificate.
The Roles of an Accountant
Overall, CPAs are responsible for the management of financial reports for businesses and individuals. They are tasked with auditing financial reports to ensure compliance as well as reviewing financial status to sort out any discrepancies. Their primary responsibilities include[iv]:
– Performing activities related to bookkeeping, tax filing and remittance, financial planning, and taking care of government audits.
– Maintaining and auditing financial records of a business or individuals.
– Overseeing budget management and also accounts payable and receivable.
– Advising business management on tax ramifications and key business decisions.
– Auditing accounts to check for errors, fraud, misinformation, and overspending.
– Providing consultancy services in matters related to compensation, asset protection, and benefits
– Providing financial advice regarding saving money, strategic planning, budgeting, fraud detection, and prevention.
– Identifying and investigating financial variances.
– Liaising with tax returns to analyze financial information for timely tax remittance.
– Forecasting business revenues and handling ledgers.
– Formulating and analyzing budgets.
The Final Word
Every business doesn’t need to have an accountant. However, accountants are hugely beneficial to your business; they save you time, energy, and money. Hiring one is one of the best decisions a business owner can make.
If you are considering hiring or becoming a CPA, you should ensure that they are vetted and verified. Research thoroughly to avoid falling prey to fake accountants who are now tricking innocent clients, especially on online platforms.
[i] Schmid, G. (2020, August 25). Certified Public Accountant: What They Are and Why You Need One. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.fundera.com/blog/certified-public-accountant
[ii] Boyd, K. (2020, July 20). How to Become a CPA in the US: A Step-by-Step Guide to Licensure. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.ais-cpa.com/how-to-become-a-cpa/
[iii] Writers, S. (2019, July 01). CPA in the USA: Requirements by State – The Accounting Degree Review. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.accounting-degree.org/cpa-requirements-by-state/
[iv] Certified Public Accountant Job Description: America’s Job Exchange. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.americasjobexchange.com/certified-public-accountant-job-description