Becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) is often suggested as a valuable career move for accountants. But what about it is beneficial? What are the perks of becoming a CPA? And is it worth the time and effort it takes to become one?
The Basics of CPA Certification
Before you can become certified as a CPA, there are several requirements you’ll need to meet. While the specifics vary slightly by state, you’ll always need to meet minimums in the following areas:
- Accounting education. You can’t be certified as a CPA unless you have a background in accounting. In most states, that means earning a specified number of hours of accounting education, or holding a 4-year degree.
- Job experience. You’ll also need at least some accounting job experience. Typically, you’ll need somewhere between 6 months and 2 years of experience. Fortunately, that can come from an entry-level position.
- The CPA exam. The CPA exam is the big limiting factor preventing you from becoming certified as a CPA. It’s a comprehensive, 4-part exam that will test your knowledge in a variety of different subjects; once you pass, you’ll be in a position to get certified.
- Miscellaneous other requirements. In some states, you’ll need to pass a specific ethics exam before becoming a CPA. You may need to meet other requirements as well.
In the CPA exam itself, you’ll need to show mastery over four main sections:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD). This section covers your responsibilities as an accountant, the ethics of accountancy, general principles, and other elements of auditing and attestation.
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). This section covers your knowledge of corporate governance, high-level economics, finance management, operations management, and other aspects of accountancy related to business.
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR). This section covers your knowledge of financial reporting, statement accounts, state and local regulations, and conceptual frameworks, among other things.
- Regulation (REG). This section covers your knowledge of many different types of financial and business laws, taxation, and other topics related to regulation.
The Perks of Becoming a CPA
So why would someone go through these intensive steps?
There are several benefits to becoming certified, including:
- More job opportunities. There are many accounting jobs that are entry-level, requiring little (if any) past education or experience. But if you’re interested in better-paying, more prestigious jobs, you’ll need to prove your merits. Earning your CPA will open the door to far more employment opportunities, now and in the future.
- Higher chances of promotion. If you’re interested in climbing the corporate ladder or getting to manage other employees, CPA certification may help you. It proves that you have knowledge and expertise in several important areas related to accounting and shows how much you care about your profession. Accordingly, you’ll have a higher chance of getting the promotion you’ve always wanted.
- A higher salary. In most cases, once you become certified as a CPA, you’ll be in a position to make more money. CPAs tend to be more knowledgeable and more experienced than their counterparts, and they can therefore bring more value to the organizations for which they work. Depending on your position, you may be able to request a raise immediately once certified. Alternatively, you can apply for a different job that offers higher pay.
- A competitive advantage. There are tons of accounting jobs posted on a regular basis – and tons of people applying for them. It can be tough, even if you have experience, to stand out. But having a CPA certification is an easy way to distinguish yourself.
- Opportunities for business ownership. If you’ve ever been interested in starting your own accounting business, you should know that CPA certification can help you in many ways. Your knowledge and experience will allow you to do better work – and the prestige of the title will help you land more clients.
- Prestige and respect. The CPA certification carries a lot of prestige and respect in the accounting community. Bearing the title may help you connect with other professionals, expanding your network and influence.
- Job security. Once you have CPA certification, you’ll feel more secure about the future of your career. CPAs are always in demand, so you shouldn’t ever have trouble finding a job again.
- Confidence and satisfaction. For some people, CPA certification is mostly a personal achievement. They want to prove that they have what it takes to get certified, and they feel confident about their accomplishment as a result.
As you can see, there are many different reasons why people get certified as CPAs. It’s a time-consuming and effort-intensive process, but it’s worth the investment if you want to maximize your career prospects in the long term – or if you just want the prestige of the title.