4 Steps to Earning your CPA Certification

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Acquiring CPA certification may seem like a daunting task, but when we break down steps, the pathway to success is quite attainable. Having CPA certification gives an accountant a much better standing among employers, not to mention a higher salary. In fact, becoming a CPA only includes a few additional responsibilities in the world of accounting. CPA's often file reports with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), prepare tax returns, recommend changes to a company's financial procedures and audit financial statements. Often times, there are also additional expectations such as an increased workload during tax seasons. Becoming a CPA also entails a variety of key skills. CPA's are usually strong in math, organized and pay close attention to detail. In today's technological world, CPA's will also gain invaluable skills with financial analysis and accounting software. All in all, making the leap up to CPA is a challenge that is worth tackling. The added skills and respect you will gain from employers will last a lifetime.

Steps to Finally Becoming a CPA

1. Acquire a Bachelor's Degree in a relevant field.

2. Pass the CPA exam.

3. Acquire work experience.

4. Apply for your license.

Explaining the Steps

Many of you already have finished the first step, which is getting a Bachelor's Degree (or higher) in a field relevant to the world of accounting. Employers usually like to see qualified candidates with a Bachelor of Science degree in accountancy, or a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting. Although these aren't the only degrees that CPA's have, they are certainly the most common. In some cases, non-accounting degrees that are in similar or related fields will be considered in the eyes of an employer, but it is strongly recommended that serious candidates pursue one of the above Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Business Administration degrees. An additional step that some students can take is additional education to prepare for the CPA exam. Many universities now offer additional classes at the end of students' education to help them best prepare to become a CPA. Elective courses that are relevant to the CPA exam should also be taken into consideration. The CPA exam course requirements differ from state to state, but this is definitely something that should be paid close attention to.

After locking down a solid educational background, preferably in accounting, the next step for an aspiring CPA is to take the CPA exam. CPA exam requirements are specific to each U.S. state, so graduating students need to keep in mind the requirements in terms of semester-hours and coursework. However, despite different requirements in each state, the CPA exam is uniform across the entire country. The CPA exam is something that aspiring CPAs should take quite seriously and spend considerable time preparing for. Reading books, taking courses, and practicing are sure ways to fast-track your success. The four major topics covered on the CPA exam are: attestation, business environment and concepts, regulation, and financial accounting and reporting. Students must be comfortable in all of these subject areas before attempting the exam.

Many accountants already have considerable work experience, but for graduating students or those who lack experience, approximately 1 year of work experience in accounting is required for CPA certification. This work experience will ideally cover many of the day-to-day tasks of a CPA, and is often overseen by a current CPA. Once again, some of the work experience requirements may depend on the state you live in. Finally, gaining work experience is an important step towards becoming accustomed to the financial analysis software that is widely used in modern-day accounting.

The final step is to apply for your CPA license through your State Board of Accountancy. Normally, CPA's will be required to renew their licenses every few years. At times, CPA's may also be asked to fulfill continuing education requirements.

That concludes the process of becoming a Certified Public Accountant. If you think you have what it takes to become a CPA, then taking the extra time to prepare will be a valuable investment for the rest of your life. If you know it's the right thing to do, then don't hesitate, and take action!

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