Are you a high school student curious about resumes? Or the CPA exam? Or the size of your future paycheck? Enter your question below and we’ll have a real-life CPA answer it.
If you are in college or beyond, get the answers to your questions by contacting the Academic & Career Awareness team.
Check out these questions or ask your own.
Mehrunnisa Khan, Senior Accountant
I use a lot of my people skills. These are imperative in a team-oriented environment, in which each team member has a different personality, so it's important to be able to collaborate with team members in achieving targeted work goals. People skills are also useful in meetings with the client, where speaking with impact and tact is imperative to our business relationship.
Another key skill is time management. On any given day, I may have more than one responsibility/job to work on and knowing what to prioritize and how much time to spend on the task at hand is imperative in achieving goals in a timely fashion.
With respect to how much math I employ on the job, the math is really not that complicated. The calculator does most of the work for me. My job is really about understanding what the numbers mean and how they impact how much work I need to do to audit them.
Dan Dehner, Senior Consultant
It is never too early to start thinking about a career in accounting, and I applaud your interest at such a young age. The forensic accounting field is a thriving industry that is constantly seeking motivated individuals with a specific background. Accounting fraud examination requires certain base level skills, and the easiest way to obtain those skills is to become an auditor for a public accounting firm out of college. I encourage you to attend a university that has a strong accounting program. This can be achieved straight out of high school or from a junior college.
As far as what classes to take, I would focus on high level mathematics courses before college (i.e. AP Statistics and Calculus). This helps build your analytical skills. When in college, focus your studies in accounting and business administration. Also, I would recommend taking business law classes, which are very valuable since most forensic accounting projects are focused around litigation.
Your goal after school should be to begin in the audit group of a public accounting firm, which will allow you to develop an in-depth understanding of accounting transactions as they relate to financial statements and business processes. I always recommend at least three years in public accounting before pursuing other roles. This advice is not all-inclusive, and it certainly isn’t the only pathway to the forensic accounting field. However, it is the method that I recommend because I believe it is the best way to obtain the necessary baseline skills to be a successful forensic professional.
As far as the CPA exam is concerned, the simple answer is that the exam is a challenge, but certainly not impossible. I believe any student who is able to complete an accounting degree can pass the exam as long as they put forth the necessary effort. I would be happy to answer more questions in depth, so feel free to follow-up with me directly by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can get prepared for college by getting a head start in high school. Some ways to get ahead of the pack if you are interested in going to college to study business or accounting include:
- Look for high school courses that prepare you to take exams through CLEP (College Level Examination Program). Pass the CLEP and you may request to be waived from a comparable course in college. You’ll not only save big on college tuition, you’ll earn three to 12 college credits.
- Consider Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Same principle as CLEP. Pass the AP course final exam and you’re three or four college credits ahead of the game.
- Learn and earn online. Log on to more than Facebook. Earn high school and college credits by enrolling in online classes.
- If your school offers an Academy of Finance (AOF) program, consider signing up. AOF not only prepares you for a job in the banking, finance, financial planning and accounting fields, it can help bankroll your education. A three-year program, AOF offers business courses, a course where you can earn college credits, a paid summer internship and access to national scholarships.
More ways you can get ahead of the pack before heading to college, join organizations like Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Business Professionals of America (BPA). They’re great resources for leadership training, networking and internship opportunities.
Mehrunnisa Khan, Senior Accountant
I don't believe in the word, "hard." I believe that anything is achievable if you are dedicated and disciplined. Each candidate should set up an action plan which details how many hours/day will be dedicated to studying (I would suggest 1-2 hours) and stick to it!
Additionally, I would suggest the following:
1. Skim through the text and spend most of the time on the practice problems and tests- you should keep doing them even if you’ve memorized the answers. Browse through the lectures if you have time to watch them. If your not at work or asleep you should be studying and don’t do anything else until after you take your exam.
2. Get the administrative tasks that go along with the CPA out of the way while you are still in school (get transcripts together, send in the application and get your notice to schedule). Also plan the dates you want to sit for each exam. Then start studying before you begin work.
3. If your strategy isn’t working you should change it. If you study at home, go to the library instead. Give up all distractions (TV, fantasy football, facebook, twitter, etc.).
4. Get the exam out of the way because the longer you wait the harder you have to study. It's a slam to your confidence if you fail the first time, but that just means that you have to put more time into the second round.
Most important thing is to stay focused on your goal and work to achieve it. And achieveing the CPA is certainly worth it.
Tara Hagan, Audit Manager
Absolutely. You will learn the income statement and balance sheet right off the bat when you’re an accountant, but more than that, you will learn how to interpret them and infer from the financial statements how a company is performing. You will also learn nuances, such as how financial statements vary from industry to industry. For example, you can an airline company’s financials will look different from a casinos financials or a football teams financials or a financial company’s financials. As a CPA, you learn all the rules and regulations for the various industries.
Oftentimes, as a CPA, you find yourself spending more time on other financial reports and legal documents, not just an income statement and balance sheet – the footnotes to the financials, various SEC filings, legal contracts, lease agreements, debt agreements, the list goes on.