How to Become a CPA or Accountant in Arizona

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What is Accounting?


In Arizona, 23,280 accountants are employed. This may include individuals in the accounting profession working in specialized roles, such as controllers, financial analysts cost accountants or internal auditors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also says the employment of accountants and accountants and auditors is going up all across the country, with an increase of 3.9%.

The number of employees and managers within business and financial operation occupations stands at 179,470 in Arizona. This overall field encompasses a diverse field of specializations that organizations benefit from—tax preparers, financial and investment analyst, financial examiners, CPAs, budget analysts, accounts payable and receivable, and bookkeepers.

Most colleges and universities respond to their state’s needs, noting employment forecasts for different occupations. Using this information, universities and colleges may adjust their focus on accounting programs to respond to new employment conditions. This means that, if you are planning to work in Arizona, it may be a good idea to attend a college within the state or at least the region. This way, you are sure to gain an education that will allow you to enter the field prepared for the jobs that are available in your area.

An accountant is a professional who works mostly with numbers. This may be in the form of their organization’s finances and ensuring that it is earning revenues and profits, the form of taxes and making sure that all laws have been followed, or in the form of tracking re-numeration to employees or vendors for their efforts on behalf of the company. There are many levels of employment under the “accountant” umbrella. After completing their accounting degree program, an accountant will often maintain and/or interpret an organization’s financial records, called bookkeeping, and may also be responsible for many more tasks related to finance such as payroll, tax preparation, accounts payable and receivable, etc.


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Accounting Education in Arizona


An accountant may be employed by an organization, an accounting firm, and they may also freelance by working for individual clients. Depending on a student’s career interests, they may choose to specialize in a specific area of accounting.

These areas include:

  • Public Accounting
  • Management Accounting
  • Internal audit Accounting
  • Government Accounting
  • Forensic Accountant
  • International Accountant
  • Comptroller
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Accountants should have skills in math, be attentive, have analytical skills, be organized, and know how to communicate well. They should also operate by the ethics of the accounting profession. Their responsibilities might include creating general ledger entries, creating financial reports, compiling financial information, managing payroll, or sending out invoices, depending on what position they hold within a company. Smaller companies may only have a couple of general accountants who perform all of these tasks, but larger companies have entire accounting departments, where each employee has a smaller set of tasks to perform in order to maintain the company as a whole.

Associate Degree in Accounting (AS)

Students earning their associate degree in accounting will benefit by obtaining a good foundation in business. They may take courses in financial accounting, business and tax law, managerial accounting, marketing, and macroeconomics, among others. The roles they may enter after earning an associate degree in accounting may only be entry-level, but they are still vital due to the support they provide to higher-level accountants in their organizations. If the student can’t go to school in person, online accounting programs are available because this type of degree lends itself well to virtual learning. An associate degree in accounting usually takes around 2 years to complete as students complete around 60 credit hours of courses in accounting and some general education.

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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting (BS)

At a higher level, a bachelor’s degree program expands on the material a student may have been taught in an associate degree program. For those students who did not first earn an associate degree, all of the necessary courses will be included in their baccalaureate. Liberal arts and general education courses will also help to prepare students for most professional settings. Students at the best accounting schools in Arizona may learn management science, advanced business and tax law, and accounting software solutions. By taking advantage of internship opportunities, students can increase their employability. A bachelor’s degree usually takes around four years as students complete 120 credit hours in general education and accounting-specific courses.

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Master's Degree in Accounting (MS or MC)

Students earning their master’s accounting degree in Arizona have usually worked for a few years before returning to school. In fact, many master’s programs ask for your resume when you apply, though they don’t usually require that you have work experience as an MBA program may do. This experience shows professionals that they can take their career into a new direction if they are willing to gain a bit more education. Accounting master’s graduates often expand their potential career opportunities. In graduate studies, accounting is a common degree.

For those who are looking to strengthen their careers with business knowledge and find their way into management of anything other than the accounting department, a master of business administration (MBA) will give you everything you need. Many MBA programs require that you have a resume and a certain amount of experience in the working world. The degree builds on this experience and prepares you to lead.

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PhD Degree in Doctorate (PhD)

A PhD degree in accounting marries the study of financial information with cognitive psychology, economics, decision theory, and finance. The courses cover two large research streams. The first looks at the role of accounting information in contracting and capital markets; the second uses judgment and decision making (behavioral decision theory research). This stream is based on psychology, with controlled experiments using human subjects. Doctoral degrees in accounting that blend these disciplines allow students to expand on their research.

Graduates from PhD programs may still work in business, but many of them find their way into teaching at the college level and even leading mathematics departments within universities.

Top College Programs in Arizona for Accounting

  • Arizona State University
  • University of Arizona
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Grand Canyon University

Become an Accountant in Arizona


As students work to earn their accounting degrees, they need to become familiar with the requirements of this field. As they learn the general accounting skills in their accounting classes, they should also study and learn the skills that each specialty requires, especially if they plan to focus on a particular area of accounting. The most important step to becoming any kind of accounting specialist is education. Not only can you gain an associate degree and get started in accounting right away or gain a bachelor’s and be ready for your first promotion within a few years, but you can also gain certifications from a variety of associations that exist to prove to employers that you can do the job you are most interested in. You can earn these through online or in-person courses and be ready the next time a position you truly want shows up.

Certified public accounting is one of the most popular and highest levels of accounting and it involves working at a public accounting firm, which may offer its services to a wide range of clients. The accounting practiced in this specialty involves financial statements, tax preparation, budget analysis, or providing financial guidance. Completing graduate studies in accounting will bring a student much closer to their career goal if they plan to become a CPA. Most states require that CPA candidates complete at least some master’s-level courses before they are eligible to sit for the CPA exam. Arizona requires that candidates complete 150 hours of college-level education with a certain number of hours covering business and accounting. Then, candidate must gain 2,000 hours of work experience under a licensed CPA, though this can be done after you pass the CPA exam.

Forensic accounting takes a deep dive into a company’s financial background and records. This is the specialty of accounting that determines whether financial crimes have taken place. The accountant’s technical skills have to be sharp in this specialty. This is one of the degrees in accounting with the potential to offer some excitement as the professional looks for criminal evidence in numbers. As for working as a forensic accountant in Arizona, you might need to consider where you will be employed since only CPAs can work independently in this job without worry. If you are not a CPA, you may need a Private Investigator’s license or need to be employed by an attorney in order to legally gather evidence of criminal activity and present it for a trial in Arizona.

Financial management refers to the financial manager who acts as a “jack-of-all-trades” professional. They manage and direct a company’s funds, act as a strategic planner, and focus on how the organizations resources will be used. To accomplish this, they may make use of financial statistics. There are no required licenses to work in this position in AZ, but many financial planners earn certifications to prove that they can do the job such as the Chartered Financial Analyst certification, CPA license, or even the Chartered Financial Manager certification.

Careers for Accounting Graduates


  • Financial Analyst:
    These professionals gather and organize financial information as well as reviewing internal databases and government reports. They’ll also examine financial statements, determining the organization’s value. They make recommendations on investments and may create a portfolio that stresses their recommendations to shareholders and company officials.
  • Benefits Specialist
    This trained professional works in the human resources office in an organization. They are responsible for creating benefits and compensation packages for the employees, management, and officers of the company. They may also carry out job analysis and classify job positions for the company as well as creating job announcements. These professionals may also work in other areas of HR, giving them opportunities for cross-training.
  • CPA:
    Certified Public Accountants work with businesses and individuals to help them reach their financial goals.
  • Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable Specialist:
    An accounts payable clerk may work in nearly any organization and industry, even for government agencies, from local to federal. Their role includes work with outgoing and incoming invoices for the company. These may be inventory invoices, utility payments, reimbursements, and employee expense accounts. In some organizations, this professional may also help with payroll.
  • Staff Accountant
    Accountants keep and interpret financial records, such as financial statements, ledgers, and expense reports. They can be responsible for a range of tasks related to finances either for individual clients or their company. Distinguishing this role from that of bookkeeper is that an accountant has usually earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting or gained a great deal of experience.
  • Budget Analyst
    Budget analysts help organizations, public and private, to plan their finances. They also prepare budget reports and oversee organizational spending. This professional keeps track of the accounting cycle and may also roll program and department budgets into a consolidated budget for the entire organization. They assist top managers in analyzing proposed plans; if the projected results aren’t satisfactory, they help find alternatives.
  • Accounting Manager/Controller
    Management accounting stresses both documentation and compliance. An accounting manager’s goal is to compile and summarize the operational performance indicators. These include inventory levels and costs and whatever else is necessary to keep the company running smoothly. Controllers oversee the company’s overall accounting operations. This includes budget creation and tracking, development of financial reports, tracking and overseeing accounting variables, and the creation/implementation of the operational controls related to accounting and their department’s best practices.

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