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.
Tara Hagan, Audit Manager
First off, if you’re interested in pursuing accounting in the long run, you should read the requirements to become a CPA. Some states require a Masters degree or 150 credit hours in college or work experience in a public accounting firm. Find out what your state requires here: www.startheregoplaces.com
Accounting is a good way to learn the fundamentals of how any company operates. You’ll be privy to learning the cash inflows and outflows, the financial structure of the company, and how to help a company plan for the future. It’s a very useful background to have.
Heidi Brundage, Technical Manager - Human Capital
The market today looks roughly like it did about 15 years ago. CPAs are still in demand. However, multiple offers for accounting majors right off campus will not be automatic. In today’s economy, large firms and companies are closely scrutinizing their hiring budgets and current headcount. It’s no secret that some public firms recently experienced a period of layoffs or right-sizing, appropriately named for counseling out poor performers. But it is not well known that many small CPA firms continue to weather the tough economy well. And there are also parts of the country and specific industries that have seen little negative effects of the recession. In those small firms and markets, we see job opportunities for accountants, especially CPAs. Check it out for yourself by reviewing the job postings on the AICPA’s CPA Job Finder at www.cpajobfinder.com.
In the 2009 PCPS CPA Firms Top Issues Survey, the majority of responding participants anticipated no change or even a slight increase in hiring between years. (Visit tinyurl.com for more on the survey.) Some medium-sized firms have told us that they are continuing their internship programs and will be hiring off campus again this year. And all firms agree that it won’t be long until the talent war for strong accountants is again in full force. They just don’t know exactly when this happen.
Although the job market for accountants has slowed as compared with a decade of a seller’s market, there remain opportunities. And the bottom line is that top performers and those with credentials, like a CPA, have great advantages over the rest of the competition.
Wade G. Becker, Regional Managing Partner
Choosing a college can be a strenuous process if you do not begin with an adequate amount of lead time. So start as early as you can when performing your due diligence. In my opinion, there are a few things to consider:
Quality - Ensure that the educational institution has gained a quality nationally recognized accreditation of their business program at a minimum. A nationally recognized accreditation of their accounting program is a plus. The state university I attended had their college of business accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Their accounting program was not accredited but had a good reputation that allowed me the opportunity to interview with national accounting firms which further me to begin to build a solid career resume when I graduated. A distinguishing factor with my resume was that I had earned adequate credits through my universities' program to be able to sit for the CPA exam. I would highly encourage anyone thinking about an accounting career to be positioned to be able to sit for the CPA exam when they graduate from college.
Cost - Be reasonable with what you and/or your family can afford. I cringe when I hear of students who attend a prestigious college that is very expensive and then drop out after a year or two because they feel it is too costly or that they do not want to accumulate more student debt. It is better to get a degree from a lower cost school than end up with no degree at all. If you have to utilize loans as a way to complete your degree, keep in mind that not obtaining a degree makes it even more difficult to pay off student loans after college. My degree is from a state university and I have had and continue to have many people working with me and reporting to me that spent significantly more on their education. While the prestige of the institution may have some bearing on obtaining the first interview of your career within a select few organizations, the dedication, work ethic, and responsiveness to your career commitment will be more important than the prestige of the educational institution that you attended. If there is an organization you are intent on working for before you enter college, inquire of their human resource department and see if they have certain educational institutions that they exclusively recruit from. Most accredited accounting programs do not have a shortage of good job opportunities for their graduates who have a solid GPA and are well rounded in their extra-curricular activities.
Fit - Pick an educational institution that fits your personality within reason of cost. Do you like large classes? Do you like the city? Do you like rural settings? Do you want to be able to see your hometown friends and family often? Does it have an active campus community? Does it have active extra curricular clubs and intramural sports? The list is endless, but consider these points. Never choose a college solely because someone else has went there or a friend is going there......choose it for yourself and the fit it has with your values in life.
Once again, start early in your research of educational institutions and look for quality, a balanced approach to cost, and ensure the educational institution fits you personally. This approach with most likely lend itself to picking the right college for yourself.
The great thing about becoming a CPA after graduating from college is the fact that there are so many different career options available. You can choose an industry or field that you are interested in and/ or you can choose a job based on the benefits it provides. Based on my experience, I was able to come out of college and work in a job that I found very interesting using both my majors (MIS and Accounting) which I never considered to be a tiring nine to five. I was able to travel and work on really interesting projects. As I have continued in my career, I took another job that offered more work/ life balance, and while a work more closely to a nine to five schedule, I am still challenged everyday and I get to have a personal life outside of work which became important to me a few years after graduating from college. I feel that becoming a CPA allows you to have a lot more choices so you can have a job that challenges you professionally but also provides balance personally.
I want to start with emphasizing that both the CPA and CMA are quality credentials. Both credentials will be beneficial for anyone who obtains them. If you have to pursue one credential first, I would pursue the CPA. This is because the CPA is transferable. If you take my career for example- I have been a Public Accountant, an Internal Auditor, and a Controller. The diversity of the CPA was valuable to me, as I did not have to obtain a new credential each time I transitioned into a new role. On the job postings for each of these roles a CPA was listed as a plus. This was not true for the other credentials (the CMA was listed as a plus for a Controller, but not an Auditor). The path to Controller is not always straight. No matter what positions you have to take to get to Controller, having the CPA in your toolkit will help you out on your journey.