5 Things to Know About Becoming a CPA

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Earning your master’s in accounting can help you learn the skills needed to pass the certified public accountant (CPA) exam and improve your abilities as an accountant. An advanced degree could also heighten your earning potential, enhance your job security, and much more.

Here are the reasons you’ll be glad you went through the rigorous journey of adding ‘CPA’ to the end of your name.

What is a CPA?

A certified public accountant is someone who has earned their CPA license, indicating that they went through a meticulous program and passed a high-level examination. Becoming a CPA represents a dedication to providing clients premier customer service, ethical decision-making skills, and a commitment to professional excellence.

Aspiring CPAs must have completed at least a bachelor’s degree and a total of 150 semester hours of related coursework in order to obtain the CPA license. You may also have to meet experience requirements to earn licensure, depending on your state.

After you pass the exam and obtain licensure, you can look forward to a life of exciting career opportunities where no two days are ever the same.

A Day in the Life of a CPA

This is a client-facing position helping people find the best possible outcome for their tax situation. Instead of sitting alone in a cubicle, a CPA collaborates with other accountants in their department to solve problems for their customers. The goal of a CPA is to understand what the client wants for their finances and how they want their money managed.

A public CPA may solely focus on auditing accounts, managing tax services, and offering general consulting services. They will be responsible for meeting and managing their own individual clients, giving them advice and objective insights.

For a not-for-profit, the CPA may solely be focused on serving their organization through financial advice, internal auditing, setting up budgets, and pooling resources.

This is similar to a CPA’s role in a governmental accounting position where they will be responsible for auditing performance levels, compliance, and investigative audits.

In a business environment, CPAs must follow monthly accounting cycles as part of an accountant’s best practices. This workflow includes:

  • Tracking transactions made in the company
  • Managing timesheet entries
  • Posting earnings
  • Trial balancing to check on the balance of their debits and credits
  • Analyzing model account balances
  • Adjusting timesheet entries
  • Preparing financial statements
  • Closing the books for the month

Many accountants use software programs like Excel or QuickBooks to make their jobs more efficient and accurate. Depending on the size of the company, they may use other programs such as Xero or NetSuite, as well as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Tax Season

The CPA team of accountants is responsible for keeping close records of not only the business’ tax-relevant information but its employees as well.

There are two categories of tax filing a CPA may encounter depending on their specialty: personal or business tax filing.

Personal tax accounts include what tax each individual pays on their income for the year. The upside of working in this sector is that there is only one big flare-up in April and a small follow-up in October for those who filed for a six-month extension. This is what many accountants call the “April rush,” when they’ll earn about half of their yearly salary in just a few short months.

Female accountant working at a desk.

The business tax season depends on the size of the company. Small organizations pay taxes on a quarterly basis, whereas larger firms and sole proprietors or self-employed individuals only pay once a year.

For more information, check out our blog on the topic of a day in the life of a CPA.

What to Expect When Becoming a CPA

How do you know that this role will bring you the promising future you’ve been dreaming of? Here are seven things you can expect while on the job.

1. You’ll Work with Numbers

While there are programs and calculators to save time and help you ensure your work is accurate, you should enjoy being around numbers every day. In this profession, you can expect to be crunching the numbers concerning everything from how much someone owes in taxes to how much a person can expect to receive in a loan.

2. You’ll Collaborate Closely with Clients

A CPA will need to be empathetic to every client’s circumstance. This means taking into account their current life status as well as their financial standing. These relationships build rapport and trust and reveal more details about a client’s current position than they might have otherwise revealed — giving way to a more educated consultation.

3. You’ll Experience Heightened Customer Service Standards

When other people entrust you with their money, they want to make sure that you are giving them accurate advice. This is key to earning loyalty. Since 2020, 71% of consumers say they have more loyalty to their accounting firms because of their experience with them, according to a research study by Deposit Accounts. Consumers now expect a higher standard of how the people who manage their money respond to their situation.

4. You’ll Have Opportunities to Excel Further

For hiring managers and individual clients, seeing that a candidate spent the time and effort to take the next step in their education will typically put that candidate at the top of a company’s hiring list. It demonstrates that you have a strong commitment to your professional standing and care about the work you put into it.

5. You’ll Rely on Your Coworkers

While accounting and even having a private practice might seem like you won’t need to work with other professionals, a CPA usually does. Your mentors, fellow accountants, and coworkers will be your shoulder to lean on during the busy season and leaders who will inspire you along the way.

6. You Can Achieve a Stable Career

Accounting is a profession that just about everyone needs, is highly regarded, and offers a host of job opportunities. Accounting has a plethora of avenues to pursue a fulfilling career in “finance, business forecasting, business analytics, and more. That’s because accounting provides the financial, analytical, and problem-solving skills essential in the 21st-century economy,” according to a 2018 BusinessInsider article.

7. You’ll Never Stop Learning New Skills

To maintain your license, you must take review courses and, in most states, an ethics exam soon after you pass your CPA exam. The expectations from the public and from leaders in the accounting profession change, develop, and grow — and so should you.

Getting Your Accounting Degree

The first step toward earning your CPA certification is completing your education. You’ll not only meet the minimum requirements for the certification but you will have a better foundation in the field of accounting.

Develop your skills in class while you take on the real world with a program like UAB’s online master’s degree in accounting. It could be your first step toward achieving the prestigious title of CPA and give you the flexibility you need to earn while you learn. The online program is flexible, so you have the chance to gain real-world work experience while earning your master’s degree.

Reach out to an admissions counselor or apply online to get started.

 

Recommended Readings:

The CPA’s Typical Day

Finance vs. Accounting Degree: How to Choose the Right Program for Your Career Goals

What Is Governmental Accounting, and What Makes It Unique?

 

Sources:

Becker, Alabama CPA requirements

IRS, Business Taxes

Deposit Accounts, Survey, Consumers Trust Banks More Than the Federal Government