accounting

The Ultimate Accounting Career Guide for 2021

Looking back into the field of accounting, there was a period in time where accountants wore green visors and used adding machines to get the job done. Today, accountants have swapped these for sophisticated technology that can be utilized anywhere, at any time.

Complex as the work may seem, accounting is all about extracting gathering, computing, and interpreting numerical data which businesses and organizations of all types and sizes across industries can’t do without. Individuals with an Accounting degree will find their skills useful in the government, non-profit organizations, and private companies.

top attributes of accountants

Accounting appeals to students who are interested in business and investments. Holders of this degree find fulfillment in using their knowledge to reach the objectives of their own business or the company they work for.

Accountants are gifted in the mathematics arena. That said, this degree is for anyone; it’s not just for geniuses. If you are highly interested in accounting work and possess strong analysis and communication skills, you can always pursue the degree.

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Accounting as a Degree

For you to become marketable, you need not only demonstrate a well-balanced understanding of Accounting but also act upon the current business climate. Aside from taking this major, consider taking a minor subject on History or Political Science as these programs tend to widen your perspective about the financial markets.

An undergraduate degree is composed of a 120-credit hour of elective, required, and specialized courses. Students usually earn their degree within four years of full-time study. Part-time students typically take longer ranging from four to seven years (depending on the limitations schools may impose to complete their requirements).

For students with a different degree, you can take a 30-credit hour program of accounting courses to earn your degree. This is a good alternative for working professionals who plan to change careers or enhance their knowledge of this niche.

To get an entry-level job as an accountant, a bachelor’s degree or similar is a prerequisite. In some states, accountants without college credits but with experience are already considered as professional accountants, but opportunities may be limited. Some use these entry-level jobs as work experience while earning their degree part-time.

Graduates with certifications such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA) usually have a higher job prospect. Graduate students may also pursue other fields such as Information Technology, Advanced Financial Accounting, Business Ethics, Economics, and Business Statistics to complement their accounting degree. It gives students the chance to diversify their portfolio for employers to find attractive.

Students pursuing a CPA licensure need to pass a national exam and other state requirements to get accredited. Students need to accomplish another 150 semester hour coursework on top of the usual four-year bachelor’s degree hence the necessity for discipline and grit for you to achieve this level. The CPA examination is categorized into four parts where you need to pass the exams one at a time. Once you’ve taken this path, you may also need to attend seminars and workshops so you can keep your license.

The Ultimate Guide To Business Administration (MBA, DBA) Degrees

Types of Accounting Degrees

There are several options to explore if you’re planning to pursue accounting as a degree.

The Bachelor of Science in Accounting (BSACC) covers technical and analytical methods in Accounting where you also get to touch on advanced mathematics. This is typically an entry point for those who plan to get into corporate accounting, governmental accounting, and accounting information systems.

key accounting courses

In the U.S, higher job opportunities are experienced in several industries including accounting services. Students can choose the Bachelor of Science (B.S), Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting (BBA), and Bachelor of Accounting (BAC).

The Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting (BSBA) is intended for students interested in the ‘number crunching’ aspect of businesses. Students get to learn about business practices and management on top of topics such as accounting, marketing, information technology, and business-society relationships.

The Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting (BBA) is almost similar to BSBA with fewer math requirements. This may be ideal for students who are looking to learn the basics of accounting for businesses with a higher concentration of the curriculum focused on business-related topics such as economics and business law.  

The Bachelor of Accounting/Accounting (BAC) coursework is intended for students who have high mathematical and analytical skills. It’s usually considered an entry for those taking advanced degrees like a Master’s degree in Accounting or Business Administration.

Here are some basic accounting courses you’ll likely encounter:

  • Managerial accounting
  • Cost Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Financial Accounting
  • Accounting Information Systems
  • International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)
  • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Accounting Specializations

Whether you’re going for an undergraduate or graduate level, you need to pick a specialization to narrow down your efforts and excel best the field that best suits you. In selecting your specialization, you need to be focused on an industry that you see yourself pursue in the future.

Forensic Accounting

This specialization prepares students to put to practice accounting methods in the realm of legalities and investigations. This type of specialization will usually require 150-credit hour coursework where you need to take the CPA after completing the program. From here, you need to take another exam to become a Certified Forensic Accountant (Cr.FA). You will encounter topics such as introduction to the legal system, corporate governance, fraud examination, and legal elements of fraud in your study.

Tax Accounting

For students planning to take on the corporate arena, taking a specialization in Tax Accounting will help them develop their accounting skill in tax return preparations for corporations, organizations, and private companies filed in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Here, you will encounter everything about income tax, individual income tax, corporate and business tax, state, local, and international tax as well as gift, trust, and estate tax courses. You will also encounter tax law and ethics.

Information Management and Technology Assurance

Aside from the basic accounting courses, students will be trained to use computer-assisted auditing techniques (CAAT). CAAT will help students derive accounting solutions used for organizations and big companies. You will encounter technical aspects of these accounting programs and learn computer courses such as flow charts, computer network theories, maintenance of information system, and data-flow diagrams.  

Environmental Accounting

This is an emerging specialization where students are taught to deal with company management and internal auditing of its books using sustainable solutions. You are expected to help managers solve problems focused on environmental implications and keep track of ecological assets. Just like CPA certification, students need to be a Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA) to becoming a legitimate environmental accountant. All CPEAs are regulated by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Financial Accounting

If you’re looking for job positions in a corporate company, you will want to take this specialization. You will encounter topics on corporate finance and reporting, economics, and management. Along with basic accounting courses, you will also understand federal regulations as well as documenting and reporting financial sheets communicated to the Board of Directors (BOD), shareholders, consumers, and the government, particularly the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission.

Managerial Accounting

Complementing your accounting core courses, students will be taking management electives for this specialization. You will need to learn how to supervise accounting departments or do the accounting work aside from being the manager. You will be given a broader education on business-related courses necessary for advancing into leadership positions in a corporation (i.e., Chief Financial Officer) or public organizations. Common topics you may encounter include managerial control in hospitality operations and cost accounting and management control.

Sports Accounting

If you’re planning to ride the economic trend, specializing in sports could be your best choice. Statistica’s data showed that sports revenue amounted to US$11,974 million this 2019 YOY (year over year) and expected to swell to US$15,501 million by 2023. Students are taking this specialization on spectator sports business. You may be given a background on the dynamics and systems of a specific sport including how to manage salaries and bargaining agreements. This may serve as an entry point to take a Master’s degree in Business Administration in Sports Management.

Online vs. Brick and Mortar Accounting Degrees

Several universities are offering various degrees, including graduate and Ph.D. levels, to help distant learners and working professionals study part-time through an online platform. In choosing the kind of platform to accomplishing your degree, it should be in line with your academic goals, personal fulfillment, and lifestyle.

accounting degrees

For Accounting, some students may learn better if they’re in a classroom setting so they can discuss more unfamiliar topics. For some with mathematics acumen or necessary flexibility in earning their degree, an online class may be a good option.

The top factors to consider before deciding to enroll in the program include proper mindset, chosen specialization or field of interest, the best school and location, and adequate financing. Earning a degree in Accounting is no easy feat; it’s best to plan and research ahead of time!

Traditional Format (On-campus)

One of the primary reason students choose on-campus degrees is the community and college life. University life is something college students would not want to miss. So if you’re a freshman taking up an accounting degree in a physical school, this allows you to create networks and be part of the community. If you prefer to study with a group, learn more through interactions, and study with a group, going for a traditional school might be the right option for you.

Students learning in a physical class get immediate feedback during the study. In an online setting, you might not be able to get instant feedback mainly if lectures are pre-recorded. It may also be a challenge for students to raise questions for online classes since most of these lectures are structured with a time-limit (though you can reach them through a virtual portal). Teachers are also more likely to pay more attention to student queries in a traditional classroom setting compared its online counterpart.

There are often fewer distractions when you’re enrolled for an on-campus accounting degree. Your environment is set-up for learning conducive for focusing and studying. Classroom settings are also ideal for flowing discussions where you get an immediate response about a particular topic or discourse with other students which widens the debate for further investigation.

When you’re taking an accounting class, you’ll likely ask questions about the fundamentals, financial ratios, and accounting principles taught more clearly if it’s done through the visuals. Though an online class provides this, accounting topics can become complicated to those who are not mathematically inclined.

It’s not cheap earning a degree. Hence, you allot money and time to accomplishing it. When you’re taking a degree on-campus, you need to stick to a schedule. Currently, some universities provide hybrid classes where some classes may be done online, but practicums are done on-campus. For full on-campus courses, you will need to set aside a schedule so you can hit the targeted schedule for accomplishing requirements.

Online Campus / Virtual Classes

For the most part, online classes are intended for distance learners looking to earn a degree abroad (particularly in the U.S) or adults with work commitments.

Students prefer to take their classes online because of the convenience it offers. You’re not restricted to a specific number of days in attendance per week to accomplish tasks or sit in lectures. Online classes will only require your laptop (or desktop), a headset, and a stable internet connection. It won’t matter where you take your lectures provided that you take them accordingly since some schools set them every week. Taking online classes also cuts down costs for logistics and accommodations especially if your school is on a different state or country.

When you miss a class on-campus, your GPA score usually takes a hit hence the necessity to take your class promptly. An online campus is not restricted by this rule only that you take them weekly (for most schools). When there’s an emergency or overtime for work, this won’t be a problem on your end.

You will encounter people of different ages, race, and background when you take an online platform. This may also be an excellent platform to get connected with people from different parts of the globe.

Distant learners and out-of-state students also find this a convenient way to take their education further without giving up their current work or personal commitments.

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Financing Your Accounting Education

Most of these online campuses have financial aid available to ease tuition fees for those seeking assistance. Whether you’re opting for a traditional or online degree, there are various ways to get financial help to pursue your education.

financing your accounting education

School grants are given as ‘free’ gift to eligible students. These don’t need to be repaid but require you to finish all the requirements stipulated in your program. Grants usually come with higher expectations like maintaining a particular GPA score to continue receiving the funds.

Loans are often the most suitable type of financial assistance. You can borrow money through the government (Free Application for Federal Students Aid or FAFSA), institutional loan, or bank loan. If you’re opting to go for FAFSA, you will be required to pay back the amount you loaned, but the government pays back its interest. With private loans, you may encounter certain restrictions and requirements with higher interest rates.

Most institutions also offer scholarships. The requirements for the application can range from outstanding academic accomplishments, sports, leadership, or arts. Private awards are given to exceptional students with an extraordinary level of skill or intelligence. A full commitment to excelling academically and earning a high GPA score are typically required of Accounting degree scholars.

Students who are already committed to work may opt to go for Work-Study programs that serve as an alternative to financial assistance. Students are allowed to find part-time jobs within or without their schools in exchange for their education through this program.  

Veterans and military personnel planning to take a new career path or enhance their skills set may want to look into Veteran Education benefits. Some schools with Yellow Ribbon or GI Bill programs provide financial help or credit transfers using your previous military courses, training, or experience. This may help cut down the time and money to accomplish your degree.

Accounting Career Pathways, Information, and Outlook

accounting career pathways

According to BLS, accountants and auditors have an expected growth of 6 percent from 2020 to 2028. Enrollees in numerous U.S-based universities and schools have shown an increasing number of students taking this course. Furthermore, data showed increasing demand to hire accounting graduates from as early as 2000 where accounting firms are hiring accountants predominantly for skills in auditing, taxation, financial auditing, and assurance services.

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While this career has a promising outlook, entry-level accountants work is not ‘glamorous.’ Routine tasks are expected. Eventually, you’ll get better at in time. What was taught in school may not always be applicable in the real-world setting so learn the trade fast to succeed in this industry. Expect things to be challenging at first but make the most to accumulate new skills as you along. Also, it’s expected that longer working hours happen during tax periods and yearly budgeting.

Students with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting may also get the opportunity to advance to senior positions such as supervisors, financial manager, internal audit manager, commercial vice president, top executive, and chief cost accountant. Accountants who excel in their craft often become partners with other accountants and create a private firm.

Critical thinking and efficient communication are two essential characteristics of accountants. They need to solve problems in a structured method and be able to relay it from technical to layman terms (especially if you’re working in a company where there are lots of clients and shareholders).

The annual wage for accountants (and auditors) are estimated around $71,550 as of May 2019 with finance, insurance, and company management as top paying industries. With cloud computing becoming fast staples in most companies, demand for accountants may be reduced unless he or she can efficiently wade through these types of technology.

Unique Accounting Careers

Corporate Entertainment Accountant

Consider this your ticket to ‘glamour’ land. Corporate entertainment accountants are CPA accredited professionals who work directly for movie studios and production institutions. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with famous movie makers, producers, and yes, the possibility of getting selfies with top celebrities in the movie and music industry. You will likely look into financial statements and work on budgets, the accuracy of embedded numbers, and royalty distributions, to name a few. While this work may have its perks, expect long working hours. On average, corporate entertainment accountants earn $57,083 per year.

Forensic Accounting

Considered the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ in the financial industry, forensic accountants unearth questionable financial statements whether for company verification or government investigation. You will likely work with government agencies in uncovering frauds and terrorist transactions. Forensic accountants have high attention to detail and critical thinking to solve embezzlement and other fraudulent methods. CPA accreditation and a background in finance, law, or accounting will land you a promising career in this field.

Entrepreneurial Accountant

Entrepreneurs in the U.S have been steadily rising and providing jobs for locals and abroad. From small to large businesses, entrepreneurial accountants are essential in helping these companies flourish and move forward in their endeavors. Just like an accountant, your task is to help companies in evaluating risks, finding opportunities, maximizing resources, and preventing unnecessary expenses. Pay for this type of job will vary, but those with certifications and work experience in a specialized field may earn better salaries.

IRS Agent

The Internal Revenue Service is an agency from the government dealing with taxes. Your job as an IRS agent is to ensure that these entities, whether private or corporation, pay their taxes accordingly, follow regulations, and pay it on time. An IRS agent goes after tax violators where it can get physically demanding hence the necessity for being physically fit for the job. You will also be trained for firearm use for safety purposes. To become an IRS agent, an accounting background will be an advantage.

Accounting Software Creator

Accounting software is widely used in various organizations, personal use, and corporations. An accounting software developer is a maverick in creating software solutions for number-crunching issues unique to these companies. You will collaborate with the finance team and investigate financial statements and reports. It is essential that you have a background in researching, programming, and accounting when you take on this role.

Nonprofit Organization Accountants

Accountants may find themselves lucrative and fulfilling careers in the non-profit organization sector. Accountants may find themselves working in organizations that deal with animal rights, saving the environment, or helping the homeless get a better chance in life. Some accountants use this platform to land higher paying jobs in the future. If you’re considering an enriched entry-level position as an accountant, this may be an excellent place to start. Better opportunities and salaries are given to those with CPA accreditation, graduate-level degree, or those with dual degrees.

Ballot Tabulator

While this is not a typical accounting job, ballot tabulators for significant awards are accountants. The Heisman Trophy, a prestigious football award, is tabulated by accountants from Deloitte and Touche. Accountants also do Oscars and Grammy ballot tabulations. Certain firms are chosen for this task and will require the firm to keep the results private.

Travel Accounting Careers

travel accounting

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) / Auditor

CPAs almost always have essential roles to fill in in every agency. CPAs are accredited accountants that have taken on a rigorous four-series exam making them valuable human assets for companies. If you carry this accreditation, you may be required to travel to verify financial records, methods, and accounting procedures for publicly-listed companies as an auditor. You may be required to travel from one state to another to observe processes and deliver evaluations. International travels are not far if you happen to work for big firms and look into foreign businesses outside the country.

Investment Consultant / Banker

As a consultant, your years of experience are valuable, and your insights will help businesses flourish with your recommendations. Investment bankers or consultants help companies in merging or acquiring individual companies. Some companies may be reaching out to you for consultation outside your hometown so frequent traveling may be necessary for this job.

Money Manager

The wealthy among nations have been growing. Money managers are those that manage securities and investment for their high profile entities. Experienced money managers are often called to fly out of the state or country for clients that need money manager to secure and trade investments to get better profit returns.  Money managers are those with fiduciary control over individual or corporate investments. In some cases, money managers are called portfolio or investment managers.

Bank Examiners

Just like auditors, bank examiners also monitor agencies except that they monitor loans, credit unions, banks, and savings. You will be required to evaluate banking practices and procedures within that organization and send reports to agencies asking for it. Bank examiners often travel outside the country to ensure the quality of bank practices and regulations are carried out of the same company outside its hometown.

Mergers and Acquisition (M&A) Analyst

Also called an M&A analyst, these individuals specialize in merging of businesses from America to that of nearby countries or states. Some local companies may take on international trades and do business outside the U.S hence the importance of this type of service. M&A analysts have a deep understanding of the global market to guide them in acquiring or merging with potential deals.

Software Developer

Accounting software developers is a specific industry for those that carry dual degrees in both programming and accounting. Some companies may offer developers to visit them in their hometown hence the necessity for frequent traveling. As an accountant developer, you will need to research into current markets, assess the needs of the company, and develop software to solve issues faced by the finance department. Some software developers may be asked to educate the accounting staff in using the program as well.

Fleet Manager

While this may be a unique career, fleet managers are in charge of selecting vehicles and ensuring all goods are delivered on time within established budgets. It’s the kind of job that requires critical thinking, the use of software programs, and relevant experience in operations. While it’s not significantly number-crunching work, companies abroad may require you to fly out of the country and manage processes for their business. You will be handling profit-loss accounting using the software and see if there are emerging patterns to improve or minimize losses.

What qualities should I have to be a successful accountant?

Accountants are highly organized. Considering ‘organization’ is a key quality of an accountant, you need to have this ability because you’ll face piles of figures and data. When you have a good, reliable, and efficient system, you won’t have to waste time getting to the next step and get timely results.

Accountants pay high attention to detail especially if you want to specialize in forensics. It is a meticulous job where you need to pay close attention to erroneous and ‘suspicious’ figures.

A good accountant requires consistency since you’ll be dealing with a lot of numbers and computations. When you make a mistake, ‘overhauling’ your work could take a considerable amount of your time. Inaccurate results may cause shareholders to doubt the credibility and profitability of a company because of inaccurate computations hence leading to loss of support and opportunities. You need to be patient, pay attention, express commitment, and work hard.

Accountants pay high attention to detail especially if you want to specialize in forensics. It is a meticulous job where you need to pay close attention to erroneous and ‘suspicious’ figures. A good accountant requires consistency since you’ll be dealing with a lot of numbers and computations. When you make a mistake, ‘overhauling’ your work could take a considerable amount of your time. Inaccurate results may cause shareholders to doubt the credibility and profitability of a company because of inaccurate computations hence leading to loss of support and opportunities. You need to be patient, pay attention, express commitment, and work hard.

accounting

It’s also an accountant’s responsibility to know their clients and their goals. Aside from excellent number-crunching skills, you need to understand the sector and industry of your client or company. As an accountant, you bring value to your client’s business by giving them recommendations for them to grow, expand, and make the most of the market’s opportunities.

Some exceptional accountants have excellent communication skills. Your goal is to help your clients understand what the numbers represent and how they can improve it. When you were in school, you can easily communicate with your classmates because you speak the same “language.” But when you become a professional accountant, you need to disclose information into words understood by many.

Managing your time well is another characteristic of an accountant. Since you’ll be juggling multiple tasks, you need to be strategic in planning and executing those tasks. With a structured system is in place, you can effectively allocate time to research, analyze, and execute those plans according to your set schedules. Back jobs cost time and money.  Furthermore, clients will be happier when things are done faster and still get accurate results.

With technology becoming more dominant in the daily lives of accountants, taking a basic IT course might help give you an edge against other accountants. You will be faced with various applications and software hence the necessity to learn whenever you have the opportunity. Those who adapt faster will be given more opportunities to sharpen their skills so you can better perform in the job.

Professionalism goes hand in hand with ethics. Some businesses may get into a bind and feel that the best way out is to break the law. When you have strong values and work ethics, you can maintain the company’s sustainability and still follow the right strategies.

Flexibility is another crucial attribute of an accountant. Faced with rapid shifts in technology, constant learning is a must for you to keep updated with the latest tools. If there’s a learning opportunity, never miss the chance to do so.

What programs will best complement my Accounting degree?

Whether you’re getting a minor or another major, it all depends on the industry you’d like to pursue after graduation or if you decide to take another career shift.

Taking a minor in language may help you gain a new skill. Two-thirds of top executives speak at least two languages. Aside from cultural sensitivity, it also keeps you from misleading biases that may influence your decisions. This may also be an additional touch-up on your resume considering bi-linguists are better at mental juggling. It would also mean that you can negotiate with overseas business partners for expansions or joint ventures. Most of U.S companies prefer employees with dual languages mainly English and Spanish.

Multi-lingual CPA’s may find better opportunities as an account manager of an international company. It would also be a lucrative jump to start your private practice providing auditing, tax services, and accounting services to small business owners locally or overseas.

Taking a business administration will give you a better insight into law, communication, ethics, and marketing. Your education in international markets may also appeal to big corporations on top of your accounting acumen. Your skill will help businesses identify errors and improve outputs/profits, lessen the impact of losses, and pitch business ideas.

With two degrees under your belt, you can also do consultations hence giving you the freedom to work at your own pace.

Businesses today work inherently with technology. A computer information system degree will help you wade through the latest technology in creating accurate financial projections and insights. Data is a big thing in any industry across the board.  Accountants with an IT background may be looked on with more favor than those without.

Economics is another major that might complement an accounting degree. With the financial markets always on the constant move, economists with a mathematical background delve into deriving relevant results suitable for economies locally, nationally, or internationally. Your skills and knowledge will become an asset particularly in the government and private companies looking into international expansion.

If your passion is teaching, you may want to look into education. Obtaining an education major could help develop a framework for educating and persuading your audience. Your goal is efficiency, clarity, and relatability. By having these two majors, you will have broader job opportunities in the academic, research, and marketing industries.

If your field is into number-crunching and you’d want to know more about the financial markets, taking finance with your accounting degree would only make sense. Equipped with the fundamentals of accounting and finance, statistics, business principles, and marketing, you will have the ability to work in any industry in assessing and developing the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. You will have the ability to weigh in risks and make financial decisions to improve profits and minimize losses.

Almost similarly to finance is mathematics, Finance primarily deals with financial markets and investments. Mathematics tackles statistics and calculus needed for making financial summaries of the company’s funds. This will be a plus on your resume if you’re considering technical jobs in the finance industry.

How will internships work with an Accounting degree?

If you’re taking this course as an undergraduate, you may need a spring internship in the institution you are enrolled in. A bachelor’s degree in accounting serves as an entry-level platform for future accountants or preparation for higher education if you plan to pursue a graduate degree or Ph.D.

Internships are vital to helping students put to practice in real-world situations what they learned in school. As part of the curriculum, students need to gain enough experience necessary for professional accounting tasks.

To become a professional accountant, earn at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Taking an associate’s degree is not enough to cover all subjects necessary to prepare you for full-time accounting jobs. Typically, full-time students earn their degree in four years with around 120 to 150 credit hours to your degree.

Accounting programs usually consist of business, non-business, and business elements. For some schools, only those pursuing graduate level accounting will undergo internship.

Upon completion of an internship from a particular company, you will have an idea on the kind of tasks accountants do. If you happen to land an internship in a large company, there’s a higher tendency they will hire you after graduation. However, if you’re having a hard time finding employment, you will have enough connections during the internship to lead you to other job opportunities.

Internships have corresponding academic credits added to your degree. However, if your school doesn’t require you to do this, you can still apply for one on your own. This will be a plus on your resume or lead you to a job in the future as most employers find graduates who underwent internships more favorable.

Considering that accounting degrees are available online, internships may differ from those taken on-campus.

Students may take their internships from accredited institutions near home. This would be beneficial for students planning to practice their profession in their community.

Virtual internships may be available, but these are usually subject to school regulations. Online students who struggle with managing their time, especially with a course as part of their schedules, can serve as interns during work vacation days and the weekends.

Internships may also be a way to add credit to your requirements, but this may vary per institution. If your school doesn’t require you to take an internship and you’d want to, it is best to ask about credit transfer eligibility. Many academic institutions regularly present potential internship opportunities.

Virtual internships may be available and are suitable for those pursuing a specialization on technology. For this to work, you have to be self-reliant and comfortable with doing emails, Web conferences, and phone calls.  

How do I prepare for a CPA exam?

Prior enrolling in an accounting specialization, it’s best to check the passing rate for graduates taking the CPA exam. As this is considered an “enduring and rigorous” series of exams, taking some time to research will help you in the long run.

Students pursuing a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, employers are likely to give you better job opportunities considering your skill and knowledge. Aside from a better job (and pay), CPAs have rewarding careers with better options.

Accounting graduates planning to take a CPA exam (also known as the Uniform CPA Examination) further enhance your knowledge on this subject. Prior taking the exam, the National Association of State Board of Accounting (NASBA) stipulated that students need to accomplish all necessary education (bachelor degree as a minimum requirement) and internship requirements (if applicable). If you’ve only acquired a 120-credit hour program, an additional 30 credit may be necessary before taking the CPA exam.

To obtain the license, you need to take a four-part exam. However, you don’t take all four parts at once. A Content Specific Outline will be provided to guide you on what to expect for the exams. Exam tutorials and resources will be provided to help you navigate through the study course.

“One size doesn’t fit all” also applies to learning. While reading may work for some, some might find interaction a better approach. Every moment counts so optimizing your study method might help you get ahead of preparations.

Look for study materials or review centers offering CPA study courses. Some students prefer to study from accounting teachers, experts, and fellow reviewers in preparation for the exam. Check for passing rates. Ask for the program format for this four-part exam. Assess for money-back guarantee and return policies. Search for reviews and see what others are saying about the program.

Online shops such as eBay and Amazon may have some used review materials at a lesser price. If you’re opting to shop online, make sure that you’re getting the latest resources for this four-part exam. Set aside time for studying. Commit to 400 to 500 hours per month or 30 hours every week for the 16 weeks to stay on track and make the most of your time. Despite its similarities with Accounting tests, CPA exams cover a lot more material at less time to learn it all.

Get every opportunity you can to learn. There are audio materials available that you can listen during commute time or when you’re taking a walk. While you might not be able to absorb everything, you can get the most of your study time during these breaks.

If you’re contemplating of pursuing higher education, choose either from a graduate degree of the same program or a complementary one (such as Business Administration or Finance) after you finished all the exams. Though CPAs primarily work as public accountants, you also have opportunities to engage in business valuation, taxation, international accounting, and personal financial planning for private companies.

What are the benefits of earning a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential?

Many accountants are contemplating taking a CPA exam because of the opportunities it presents after getting licensed. The demands and commitment needed to achieve this is no easy feat hence the necessity to assess if you’re really up for the challenge.

You’re probably aware by now that this requires advanced education, most commonly combined with the undergraduate and graduate accounting program, as part of the preparatory stage. However, some students are taking this after fulfilling their undergraduate program for a smoother transition.

Other factors may include the respect and prestige you’ll get. CPA holders are often considered as the ‘elite’ group of accountants as they hold a high level of accounting proficiency and skills than those without.

cpa salary

According to AICPA, here are several reasons why taking the CPA exam might help you advance your career. With new compliance standards, booming healthcare industry, use of digital technology, hiring people for organizational fit and skills, and utilizing project professionals (one-time but labor intensive accounting tasks such as merger and acquisitions), CPA holders are likely to land lucrative careers where the demand is high, but the supply is low. Currently, the most in-demand jobs in the U.S market are controllers, senior financial analysts, managers, and general accountants, payroll managers, and accountants with more than three years of work experience.

On average, CPA holders in the U.S earn $56,000 per annum with entry-level positions ranging at $45,000 to $75,000 per annum. Licensed CPAs are also likely to make 10 percent more compared to those without the license. For some states, you will be required to get at least two years of accounting work experience to be eligible for the CPA exam.

During the first years of your work as an entry-level accountant, you will be exposed to various challenges and information. This is the best time to gauge and see which department you’re likely to excel so that when you take the exam, you’ll know which direction to take afterward. Some graduate students may be considering taking the exam (or are already studying for the CPA exam) during their 2nd to the 3rd year of work experience.

CPAs can either take public accounting or private accounting (or corporate/management accounting). Public accountants are likely to earn more than those practicing in the private sector. If you’re contemplating on public accounting, you can choose auditing or assurance, advisory, IT audit or assurance, and taxation. While the demands for this job may be challenging, public accounting generally promises with higher pay and better benefits than private practice.  

For private accountants, you may be required more than just a CPA license. Some companies need CMA (Certified Management Accountant), and CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) licenses to be eligible for the job. Entry-level positions for this practice include internal auditor, accounts payable, chief financial officer, financial analyst, and corporate accountant to name a few. Most graduates opt to practice in a private company since transitioning to more rigorous accounting work is easier.

If you are working for a larger company, expect a higher pay with more significant responsibilities. International companies such as the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms may provide exceptional benefits, perks, and privileges. But with smaller firms, employees are given more flexibility with access to management. Some CPA holders work for smaller firms to get more say on the benefits and possibly get higher positions as the firm grows.