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Want to Be a CPA? Here’s Your To-Do List

| Staff Report |

Who wants to be a CPA? That fictional invitation is one that gets plenty of “hands” these days because young people know full well that certified public accountants earn an excellent income, have the chance to travel as much as they want, and can set a career path directly for the CFO’s office. Alternately, licensed public accountants can still get into the business field but choose to work as independent practitioners in consulting, tax preparation, estate planning, and many other exciting areas.

Accounting is called the language of business because it plays a critical role in every major industry. What does it take to become a CPA? The short answer to that rather complex question is you need a college diploma, about one additional year of college-level coursework, two years of full-time job experience in the field, and a passing score on a notoriously difficult examination. Earing the certified credential is no walk in the park, but the rewards are worth the effort. Here are the pertinent details about what it takes to become a certified public accountant.

Get a College Degree

Having a four-year degree is one of the first steps on the road to certification in accountancy. The good news is that candidates can take out student loans to cover some or all of the expenses associated with attending school full or part-time. Ironically, your first assignment as an accountant-in-training is to figure out the most cost efficient way to pay for a college degree, and that’s to apply online for an education loan.

While many states require future CPAs to complete an additional year of schooling, some don’t. In any case, it’s possible to borrow enough to cover the entire course of study, regardless of whether it’s four or five full academic years. While in school, be sure to speak with an academic advisor so you can take the courses required to sit for the AICPA exam, which many candidates take during their senior year or after working for one or two years after graduation.

Prep for the AICPA Examination

The AICPA exam has a reputation for being tough, and it lives up to the hype. The two-day test covers theory, practice, auditing, and law. Just qualifying to sit for the test is a challenge. Candidates need the equivalent of a major in accounting as well as a few additional courses that vary depending on which state you’re taking it in. The single best way to prepare is to take one of the well-known prep courses. They’re pricey, meet a few times per week in the evenings, and last for several months. Many providers offer pass guarantees that allow you to take the course again if you don’t pass on the first try.

Meet the Experience Requirement

Every state has its own work requirements, but you’ll need to gain experience to advance your career and the most common requirement for this field is a two-year or 4,000 hours of paid work under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA. Candidates much turn in their experience verification documents every three months. At the end of the two years, you’ll receive a live certificate that proves you have met all the legal, educational, and work requirements needed to call yourself a certified public accountant.

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