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Q: I am 26 and graduated in 2006 with a bachelors degree in marketing. I am very interested in pursuing an accounting career and obtain my CPA. How do I get started? Do I need to take undergraduate classes in order to be qualified?

I could not be more supportive of your consideration in broadening your career opportunities by pursuing a license as a Certified Public Accountant.

My background includes a path similar to yours. While I started my accounting coursework from day one upon entering college, my feeling was that the future was going to require a broader skill set. I believed even CPAs were going to be called upon to market themselves and their firms. Merely relying on marketing firms or hired marketing talent would not be sufficient. Those that can market themselves will be ahead of those who do not.

It turns out I was right. My combined Marketing / Accounting course work and professional experience provides a comfort level others do not have, whether it is creating web site disclosures or speaking in public. I strongly encourage those starting their education to put their attention toward rounding out their college experience by focusing on more than just their accounting major course work and adding a second major as I did.

Your situation in considering such a move after graduation will add some challenge to completing this journey.

First I would suggest you try to obtain some work experience in the accounting field and ensure this is truly where your heart is. At the same time it is critical to conduct some research to determine the requirements to sit for the CPA examination in your state and then to become Certified. In most states I am familiar with the requirements are established by State Statute and the enforcement of the Statute is delegated to a State Government body. In my case the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy has the responsibility to detail the educational and professional requirements to become a CPA.

So you first need to determine in which State you want to live and work and or establish your practice. I would be fairly certain that state will have an Accountancy Board with a website that will disclose the requirements I mentioned.

Many states require that you have approximately 150 semester hours in college level coursework including upper level accounting courses. In many cases this may require a Master's Degree. The 150 semester hours are not all in accounting hours so as I stated before, chart a course where non-accounting hours provide you specific skills you may need for your future. Also be aware that states may require professional work experience under a CPA before you will be issued your license.

Once you have determined what your state requires you will have to obtain a transcript of your coursework and determine what hours you have satisfied and what courses you still must satisfy in order to be permitted to sit for the CPA exam.

I hope this reinforces your desire to pursue this field. Your first step is to determine your permanent state of residency and find the appropriate governing body that oversees the accounting profession. They should have a web disclosure detailing what you will need to make the transition to the field of accounting.

Best of luck!

Colleges & Classes, CPA Exam & Certification

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Q: I have a bachelor's degree in finance. I am looking to work toward my CPA but understand I need certain education requirements in course hours in accounting that need to be met. Certain certificate programs claim to fulfill the education requirement for the CPA. Is the certificate program route from a community or local college a legitimate approach toward obtaining the necessary education and preparing for the CPA? Also from an employers point of veiw, how does a certificate look?

Answered by:
AICPA

Most local and community colleges have an accreditation of some type, so the programs should meet the proper requirements. As long as the credit hour requirements are met, a community or local college should be a legitimate approach. As for preparing for the CPA exam, some curriculums do a better job than others for a career in accounting. With that being said, there are some schools that include a CPA examination review course as an offering. Each candidate may have different needs, so make sure to ask questions of the school (and the accounting faculty, if possible) before enrolling.

From an employer's point of view, we look for candidates that have met the 150 hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam, not necessarily students who have earned a Masters degree. The best advice I can offer is to check with the state board of accountancy in each candidate's state to make sure the student understands the requirements to sit for the CPA examination in their home state.

Colleges & Classes, CPA Exam & Certification

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Q: I'm doing my Chartered Accountancy Course in ICAI. Can I get my CPA license? If I can, what is the procedure?

Answered by:
AICPA

Information on becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the U.S. is available here: www.cpa-exam.org

The first thing you should know is that the AICPA is a voluntary membership organization and does not license CPAs in the U.S. Licenses are granted by the individual states. Once you decide in which state you would like to become licensed, you should contact the State Board of Accountancy in that state for further information on their requirements. You may be requested to send a copy of your university transcripts to that state in order for them to verify your educational qualifications. If applicable, they would then tell you what additional courses you need to complete before you would be permitted to sit for the CPA Exam. It is possible that you would be able to complete those courses in the country where you are located. For contact information on each of the State Boards of Accountancy, go to: www.nasba.org

Once your educational qualifications meet the requirements of the state board, you are then eligible to sit for the CPA exam. This exam is primarily offered only in the United States, although there are sites in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. After passing the exam, and meeting necessary experience or other requirements, the State Board of Accountancy would then issue you a CPA license. Once you have been issued a CPA license, you are eligible for full membership in the AICPA.

International Students

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Q: I have been trying hard to figure out my career and have convinced myself that I want to be an accountant. I am a bit scared though. Advise me on how to build my confidence, believe in myself and make it to the top. I need encouragement for the profession.

There is a direct correlation between the apprehension you feel and the decision you have just made to become a CPA. To be a successful CPA you must be more than convinced. You have to know that this is the path you want to pursue because quite honestly it is not easy. The journey to become a CPA demands commitment, sacrifice, the ability to rise above disappointment, optimistic response to constructive criticism, a perspective that all challenges are huge opportunities, and a strong sense of self-worth. It's not a decision that should be made lightly.

The great news is all you have to do to calm your fear and be more self-confident is plan accordingly, prepare purposely, be persistent in your thirst for knowledge, never be afraid to make a mistake, and accept that you won't know all the answers. The biggest myth that exists today is that after you finish school you will be expected to walk into a company and know everything there is to know about accounting. This is not true so relax.

Companies expect you to have a strong accounting foundation but each company has its own unique cultural environment and training process. You must be very observant and find yourself mentors who hold the positions you strive to someday obtain. These mentors will be able to assist you during difficult times and provide the necessary guidance you need to progress throughout your career. So take a deep breath, trust that you will have all the tools you need to be successful, and I look forward to hearing about your success.

Being a CPA

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Q: I am a student doing CA from India through ICAI. I wish to become a CPA also. Can I get my credits transferred to the university which I join in the US?

Answered by:
AICPA

Information on becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the U.S. is available here: www.cpa-exam.org

The first thing you should know is that the AICPA is a voluntary membership organization and does not license CPAs in the U.S. Licenses are granted by the individual states. Once you decide in which state you would like to become licensed, you should contact the State Board of Accountancy in that state for further information on their requirements. You may be requested to send a copy of your university transcripts to that state in order for them to verify your educational qualifications. If applicable, they would then tell you what additional courses you need to complete before you would be permitted to sit for the CPA Exam. It is possible that you would be able to complete those courses in the country where you are located. For contact information on each of the State Boards of Accountancy, go to: www.nasba.org

Once your educational qualifications meet the requirements of the state board, you are then eligible to sit for the CPA exam. This exam is primarily offered only in the United States, although there are sites in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. After passing the exam, and meeting necessary experience or other requirements, the State Board of Accountancy would then issue you a CPA license. Once you have been issued a CPA license, you are eligible for full membership in the AICPA.

International Students

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