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Q: I'm considering which department I should go into between tax and audit. Could you compare both departments?

I commend you for asking these questions early on. The career options for an accountant are endless. The good news is that you are on the right start to a very rewarding career, no matter which path you choose.

There is a great need for both audit and tax professionals in the public accounting world. According to the AICPA's 2009 Trends Report, firms hire more auditors than tax folks, but that gap appears to be shrinking. You're going to experience a tremendous amount of exposure to the profession in either field. I started my career in audit and would do it all over again. I worked with different people on every engagement, traveled and saw a range of industries. In the big firms, there is a definite career path for auditors and a different one for tax professionals. However, in smaller firms, you'll most likely to work in all areas of the firm and therefore become a generalist early on, perhaps before deciding to specialize in a particular area. Learn more about big vs. small here. I think work hours are probably the same for both audit and tax but the workload seasons will vary a bit (e.g. tax season is heavy in Feb-Apr and Sep-Oct, while audit is busy based on year-ends and Jan-Mar). My advice is to not over think this decision and go with your gut. There will be chances for you to switch down the road and you can’t go wrong with public accounting.

Check out Robert Half’s 2009 Salary Guide for more information on salaries. Tax and audit in public accounting should be very comparable.

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that the bigger the firm and the more focus on audit, the more travel you’ll do. This statement does not mean that small firms don’t have out of town clients or that tax professionals don’t travel. From where I sit, it appears that auditors travel more than tax professionals because they need to observe more things at the client in person. Be sure to ask around for other opinions on this subject. And remember that “travel” is a subjective term because sometimes the travel is an hour away to a rural area and other times it’s to the center of a major city.

Finally, I firmly believe that credentials are extremely helpful in a competitive business environment. I am not that familiar with the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), however I understand that it is well known in the finance industry. I recommend that if anyone becomes an expert in an area or has a special interest in diving deep into something, attaining an additional credential is an excellent way to hold yourself out as a specialist to potential clients. In fact, the AICPA offers credentials that are specific to CPAs, such as the PFS (Personal Financial Specialist). You can learn more about these Specialized Communities at aicpacommunities.org.

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. And again, you should be very proud of the fact that you are planning your career so early on. I’m certain you are going to do great things!

Internships & First Job, Public Accounting

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Q: Is a Masters in Accounting worth anything once you become a CPA?

Answered by:
AICPA

Thank you for your question and for visiting us at StartHereGoPlaces.com. In most cases, the additional academic work and skills required by today's CPA is best obtained at the graduate level. Graduate-level programs are an excellent way to more fully develop skills such as communication, presentation, and interpersonal relations, and to combine them with your technical knowledge.

In addition, it has been shown that students who get a graduate education have a substantially higher rate of success on the Uniform CPA Examination. Further, master's degree holders receive starting salaries that are approximately 10 to 20 percent higher than the starting salaries of those with only bachelor's degrees. Finally, there is evidence that promotions to manager and partner and to corporate managerial positions are increasingly going to individuals with master's degrees.

For these reasons, leading professional organizations such as the AICPA, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and the Federation of Schools of Accountancy have consistently supported the 150-hour education requirement for entry into the accounting profession.

Being a CPA, Colleges & Classes

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Q: How does the Master's of Accountancy Program help prepare you personally for the CPA exam? (anecdotes please)

The Master's of Accountancy and a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) both give you broader based education which helps you succeed as a CPA. The CPA profession requires broad based knowledge and experience because the business community of today has very complex and broad reaching issues which the profession is called on to address.

As it relates to the CPA exam, deep technical knowledge and broad business issues knowledge are tested. The additional education will almost certainly be an aid on the exam.

Colleges & Classes, CPA Exam & Certification

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Q: How many years of study does it take to become a CPA?

Answered by:
AICPA

Thank you for your question. To start, you need to obtain an accounting degree from an accredited college or university. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's and master's degree programs for accounting. Currently, more than 40 states have adopted what is known as the 150-hour requirement, which is the number of semester hours needed in order for you to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination.

To earn 150 semester hours of education, you do not necessarily have to get a master's degree. You can meet the requirement at the undergraduate level or get a bachelor's degree and take some courses at the graduate level. You can also choose any of the following:

· Combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master's degree at the same school or at a different one;

· Combine an undergraduate degree in some other discipline with a master's in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting;

· Enroll in an integrated five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master's degree in accounting.

To learn more specific information about what it will take to become a CPA in your preferred state, contact your local state CPA society.

Colleges & Classes, CPA Exam & Certification

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Q: What does it take to be a CPA?

Answered by:
AICPA

Thank you for your question and interest in learning what it takes to become a CPA. Before you do anything else, complete a program of study in accounting at a college/university. The AICPA recommends at least 150 semester hours of college coursework. To keep pace with new developments in business and technology, a majority of states require 150 credit hours of education at an accredited college or university as a prerequisite to CPA certification.

The next step is to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination. While the Exam is developed and graded by the AICPA, eligibility to sit for the CPA Exam is determined by the state board of accountancy in each of the 55 U.S. jurisdictions (includes the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam). To learn more about certification, please visit the AICPA’s dedicated member Web site for more information about the Examination process.

Upon passing the CPA Exam, you will receive your CPA certificate. This is not a license to practice. There are other educational and professional work experience requirements for licensure that vary from state to state. The AICPA’s dedicated member Web site provides more information and details on certification requirements.

Once you have obtained your CPA license to practice, you will need to take continuing professional education courses annually to retain your license.

Thank you again for your interest in becoming a CPA. We hope you will continue your journey and share your success with us.

Colleges & Classes, CPA Exam & Certification

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