Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) sounds like a good idea on paper. It’s a reliable career path with some good earning potential and plenty of opportunities. But are you suited for this career? And, if so, how do you become a CPA?
Why Become a CPA?
When you pursue a career as an accountant, people – including friends, family members, professors, and colleagues – always ask the same question: Are you going to get your CPA license? But have you ever paused to consider why people reference the CPA route so often?
While the acronym sounds pretty slick, there’s more to becoming a CPA than being able to put those three letters next to your name at the top of a resume. Some of the benefits include:
- The money is hard to beat. A CPA typically makes 10-15 percent more per year than standard accountants (and many make considerably higher amounts).
- It’s hard to find a career that offers more job security and stability than a CPA. Employment of CPAs is supposed to increase rather dramatically over the next few years, and every medium-sized and large company needs one (or multiple) on staff.
- Most people think of CPAs as pencil pushers who sit in an office all day and look at spreadsheets, but there’s actually a lot of variety in the industry. Not only can you work for companies across many different fields, but there are also plenty of niches – including really interesting jobs like those found in forensic accounting.
At the end of the day, being a CPA sets you apart. It comes with prestige and respect – as well as the knowledge that you’re in the upper echelon of your profession. And with that sort of reputation and confidence, there are very few limitations on how you can proceed.
How to Become a CPA
“The board of accountancy requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting or some specific number of units in accounting,” Accountingverse explains. “The certification also requires that you complete and pass the CPA licensure exam. Candidates are required to pass each exam part with a grade not lower than 75%. Additional rules and conditions may be set by the board.”
Sounds simple enough, right? Well…not so fast. The CPA exam is extremely tough. Each year, more people fail than pass each of the exam’s four parts. If you want to become a CPA, you have to be diligent in your preparation and strategic in your execution.
1. Carve Out Plenty of Time to Study
Nothing takes the place of study time. This isn’t a high school science test that you can cram for the night before and pass with flying colors. If you want to stand a chance of passing, you need to really put in the time.
In all, you should be spending 90-120 hours preparing for each section of the exam. That’s a total of 360-480 hours. At 18 hours per week (two hours per workday and eight hours over the weekends), that means you need to spend five to six weeks per section.
2. Choose the Right Exam Prep Course
The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. There are CPA exam prep courses available online, and they’re extremely helpful. Not only do they have lots of good content, but they also help pace your studying.
The key is to choose the right exam prep course. While any course provider can rattle off a bunch of features and benefits of using their materials, you ultimately want to listen to the people who have taken these courses in the past. Look for exam prep services that provide customer testimonials and course reviews.
3. Practice Case-Based Simulation
The multiple-choice questions on the CPA exam are fairly straightforward. The most challenging aspect is the case-based simulation, where you’re required to replicate real-world situations. This accounts for 30 percent of the exam (and is the area where most people have trouble).
As you prepare for the exam, spend a lot of time working through case-based simulations. A good exam prep service will have an abundance of these scenarios in their curriculum.
Jumpstart Your Career
Nothing jumpstarts your career as an accountant quite like getting your CPA certification. But to do so, you need to start by passing the CPA exam. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical suggestions on how you can set yourself up for success.