How to Become an Accountant or CPA in Georgia

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What is Accounting?


An accountant is a business professional who went to a college of business to earn their accounting degree. No matter their degree level, they should be able to find a position within the accounting industry.

Accountants and CPAs are needed in almost every industry. And, while you might be able to get into the accounting field with an associate or bachelor’s degree, accountants who plan to work as certified public auditors (CPAs) have to take their certification exam before they are officially members of this select group of accountants.

Completing an accounting major does not guarantee that you will be working in an accounting position, though you should at least be able to find one closely associated with the field. Even those who earn an associate degree should be familiar with acceptable accounting principles, which can help them move into the field once they have some experience in the business world.

For students to achieve their goal of becoming accountants, they are required to have a high school diploma or an equivalent GED. They may also begin their professional education at a community college, where they are able to earn their associate degree in accounting.

Many students choose to go farther and begin their professional education by earning a bachelor’s degree. Here is where opportunities really begin to open up. In 2020, the number of accounting jobs nationwide was 1,392,200. The employment outlook between 2020 and 2030 suggests that there will be a 7% increase in jobs during that time, which is somewhat faster than is expected for all occupations on average. This change in employment means that 96,000 new accountants will be needed in this field.

Luckily, a CPA position isn’t the only one that accounting students may aspire to. Graduates may choose to work in financial accounting, forensic accounting, cost accounting, payroll, and a number of other accounting-adjacent positions. It’s hard to specify what an “accountant” will be doing in any given position because it varies so much by company, title, and more. However, these workers will find themselves working with numbers and financial data, in command of much sensitive data for their company, customers, fellow employees, and more.

No matter what position you find, you are likely need a variety of soft and hard skills that can solidify your position. These include business knowledge, current technology expertise (because they may be using advanced accounting information systems), a good grasp of mathematics, understanding of finance and tax law, and more. Accountants also need leadership skills, good communication skills, commercial awareness, technical accounting skills, analytical skills, and the basic ability to create financial statements, journal financial transactions, and reconcile account balances. With these abilities and a degree under your belt, you will find yourself opening a world of opportunity in accounting and business.


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Accounting Education in Georgia


It’s no surprise that the agricultural sector in Georgia is one of the largest, with a long-lasting growing season and good weather for animal husbandry, as well. More than one in five workers in Georgia works in agriculture, where peanuts, pecans, cotton, peaches, and eggs are harvested. Cotton is both farmed and converted into textiles in some Georgia cities (Augusta, Macon, and Rome) and there are plenty of other opportunities within the agricultural sector.

Outside of agriculture, most Georgia residents are employed in the service industry, but that’s not the only option.

Beginning with # 10, here are the top Georgia industries:

  • Construction (#10, $34.8 billion)
  • Transportation and Warehousing (#9, $25.3 billion)
  • Retail Trade (#8, $32 billion)
  • Wholesale Trade (#7, $45 billion)
  • Educational Services, Healthcare, Social Assistance (#6, $45.3 billion)
  • Information (#5, $46.2 billion)
  • Finance and Insurance (#4, $14.8 billion)
  • Manufacturing (#3, $63.3 billion)
  • Professional and Business Services #2, $72.8 billion)
  • Real Estate, Rental, Leasing (#1, $74.1 billion)

Georgia is rich in universities and colleges offering accounting degree programs. By count, there are 59 educational institutions offering associated degree programs. Fourteen of these schools hold accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB MBA Programs Ranked). Four hold accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP MBA Programs Ranked). And one holds accreditation from the international Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).

Narrowing the employment and wages picture to the Atlanta, Sandy Springs, and Roswell area, in May of 2020, workers earned an average hourly wage of $27.30. Of course, how much you are able to earn will depend on your income, the location where you find yourself employed, the size of the company you work for, your previous experience, and more.

Associate Degree in Accounting (AA)

Even at the community college level, business and accounting are quite popular. By going to the best accounting schools, students can ensure that they have a good career ahead of them. Earning a business degree and focusing on accounting is another excellent option that can get you into accounting but also leave your options open.

Companies in every industry needs accountants, bookkeepers, and accounts payable and receivable clerks, among others. If you are looking to get into the field quickly, an associate degree in accounting may be a good start for you as you prepare to earn your undergraduate degree.

With an associate degree in accounting, professionals may become accountants by working as payroll clerks, administrative assistants, accounting clerks, accounting assistants, auditing clerks, bookkeepers, and more. Each one of these positions are good entry-level positions that give a solid introduction to the accounting profession.

Bachelor's Degree in Accounting (B.Acy.)

Earning an accounting degree in Georgia gives professionals an even better opportunity to work in this field. While an associate degree may help them get their foot in the door, they may not get as far in the field as they want without more education.

This is where earning an online accounting bachelor’s degree, the most commonly earned degree in the field, helps them to land one of those accounting positions they may have dreamed of. If you manage to get into an accounting internship, you’ll also already have some exposure and experience with accounting. This can make it more likely that you will be able to make your way into a managerial role.

Once they have earned their bachelor’s, these accounting careers may be open to graduates: auditor, controller or assistant controller, accountant, financial manager, budget analyst, accounting manager, management analyst, and financial or tax advisor.

Master's Degree in Accounting (M.Acy.)

Graduate students who earn their Master’s in Accountancy may find their career enhanced by the growth in automation, accounting technologies, artificial intelligence, and even cryptocurrency - all part of advanced accounting. Each of these technological developments may deeply impact how businesses conduct their operations, especially the accounting department.

Today’s graduate students may receive early introductions to new technology, allowing them to familiarize themselves with new software, techniques, and best practices in the cutting edge of accounting.

Holding a master’s in accounting may allow graduates to find positions as managers, treasurers, corporate controllers, tax accountants, internal auditors, or even chief financial officers. Graduates with MBA accounting degrees may work as management analysts, personal financial advisors, financial managers, business development managers, etc.

PhD Degree in Accounting (D.Acy.)

A PhD candidate majoring in accounting is most likely to be aiming for a job in academia. They may teach or plan to spend their career in academic research. While they are in school, they may have to earn their credit hours, teach introductory classes, and prepare their research agenda.

The educational requirements of PhD candidates prepares them for the intense research they’ll likely be doing after they graduate. Their early doctorate-level coursework may include advanced statistical analysis methods, which they will need to use as they work on research.

These may focus on the reporting and disclosure choices that auditors make or any other subject of interest to them. This can affect future audit reporting models and much more. The results of their research may then be published in professional accounting journals.

Along with research and writing for journal publications, a Doctor of Accounting may also present at conferences; the material they present may also be submitted to journals for publication.

CPA Exam Education Requirements in Georgia


To become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and to sit for the cpa exam, you need to obtain a bachelor's degree and complete 150 semester hours. After you complete your education, you will need to take and pass the CPA exam to become a certified public accountant cpa. When you pass your state boards exam in your state you will become a certified public accountant. Becoming a CPA is challenging but rewarding.

All CPAs must be licensed by the state of Georgia in order to practice legally. The educational requirements CPA candidates must meet to earn a license include minimum levels of education and expertise in particular accounting topics. This is also a requirement to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam, another important step towards licensure. One of the first steps you can take to become a CPA is to earn an associate degree in accounting by attending an accelerated program for accounting degrees. This will help you find and earn work experience before or while you move on to complete a bachelor's.

Here is some more info to answer any questions on the state's academic CPA requirements:

  • Select a college or university in Georgia that offers courses in accounting. The school must be accredited by a national or regional accrediting agency in order to be recognized by the Georgia State Board of Accountancy.

    Keep these other considerations in mind:

    • CPA review courses offered though accredited colleges and universities are acceptable as long as students receive college credit.
    • A CPA review course offered through commercial outlets are not acceptable.
    • Online and correspondence courses are acceptable as long as college credit is granted.
    • On site accounting internships are acceptable but may only constitute two courses on a college transcript.
    • Upper-level accounting courses offered though two-year or junior college are acceptable as long as credit for those courses is recognized by a four-year college or university.
    • College Level Examination Program (CLEP) courses are not recognized.
  • Prior to becoming a CPA, students must earn at least 150 credit hours and be awarded a degree by a four-year college or university.

    Some of that credit must apply to specific topics:

    • 30 credit hours in accounting above the introductory level. Examples of upper-level subjects include taxation, corporate accounting, government and non-profit accounting, business law, and accounting ethics among many others.
    • 24 credit hours in business-related subjects. Examples include marketing, management, ethics, international business, economics, computer science, and many others.
  • Students who earned an accounting degree from an international institution must contact the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to request an education evaluation. This determines whether foreign degrees/coursework meet the policy standards of training from accredited American institutions. If a degree is determined to be equivalent, the NASBA informs the CPA Examination Services that a candidate has met the education requirements in Georgia.

Taking the CPA Exam in Georgia


  • Becoming a CPA in Georgia requires candidates take and pass a test, offered in four parts, that is designed to demonstrate basic competence and mastery of core concepts. This exam is offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In order to be eligible for the exam, a candidate must have earned a bachelor's degree including at least 20 credit hours of upper-level accounting coursework.

    Once eligible, follow these steps:

  • In most states before you can take the cpa exam, you will need to fulfill an ethics exam. In Georgia according to the boards of accountancy, you are not required to take an ethics exam or course.

  • Download an official application form or register online with the CPA Examination Services (CPAES).

  • Collect the documents necessary to include with the official application:

    • An official college transcript – This may be submitted by the applicant rather than the college or university.
    • A foreign education evaluation from if applicable.
    • An ADA accommodation form, if applicable.
    • The application fees, payable by check, money order, or credit card to the CPAES.
  • Mail all relevant application documents to CPA Examination Services - GA, P.O. Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219.

  • Look for a Notice to Schedule (NTS) to arrive via mail, fax, or email from the NASBA. This simply informs candidate they have met the requirements for testing and are allowed to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam.

  • Sign up for a time, date, and test-taking center location on the Prometric website. Testing locations include:

    • Atlanta
    • Athens
    • Augusta
    • Columbus
    • Macon
    • Savannah
    • Smyrna
    • Valdosta
  • Prepare for the exam and arrive at the testing location before your testing time to get through security. The exam requires a significant personal and financial investment and it also essential for CPA licensure, which is why passing on the first time is a priority.
  • Wait to hear back about the exam results. Official results are sent through the mail, but scores are posted online 48 hours after the exam is administered.

Continuing Professional Education Requirements


Georgia does not renew a CPA license until a candidate has satisfied particular requirements for continuing professional education (CPE):

  • CPAs must complete 80 hours CPE every 2 years while meeting certain conditions:

    • 16 hours of CPE must be dedicated to accounting and auditing specifically.
    • CPE is not required if a CPA license is less than one year old. If a license is less than two but more than one year old the CPA is required to complete 40 hours of CPE with 20% focused on accounting and auditing.
    • CPAs must earn at least 20 hours of CPE each year. Up to 15 hours may be carried over to the next two-year period.
    • CPAs over the age of 70 are exempt from the CPE requirement.
  • CPE hours must also meet certain conditions:

    • Approved subjects include accounting, auditing, taxation, computer sciences, mathematics, ethics, business management and most accounting-adjacent topics.
    • CPE must be offered through approved providers. These include colleges and universities, professional organizations, and independent study programs. The state board does not pre-approve CPE providers, but professional accounting organizations throughout Georgia do maintain lists of acceptable sources of CPE.
  • CPAs must maintain detailed records of all CPE hours earned going back a minimum of five years. Records must include the following information:

    • The name of the sponsoring institution, firm, or program
    • The location of the program
    • The title of the program and a description of the content
    • An outline of the program
    • The dates attended
    • The number of CPE hours earned
    • Proof of program completion.

Become an Accountant in Georgia


Many fields in accounting may require professionals to receive and hold professional accounting certifications. Different certifications are intended for different roles in accounting, such as the CPA or the CMA. An accountant wanting to work as a public accountant may not be able to do so without the correct certification. The same is true for other certifications in this profession.

Some of these certifications may include the following.

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
    This is often considered one of the most prestigious certificates in accounting. Once accounting graduates have studied for and taken and passed the exam, their career options open up. Some CPAs may teach, practice law, work in IT security (cyber security), or work for the FBI.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
    Those accountants who want to work for a hedge fund should consider earning this certification. In China and Europe, this certification is highly sought after. Once they pass the exam, the CFA may focus their work more in investing and finance.
  • Enrolled Agent (EA)
    Once an agent has passed their EA exam, they can begin representing taxation clients in front of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Or they may more easily find work with the IRS. The EA certification also allows an accountant to carry out tax preparation for companies or for individual clients.
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
    This certification is for the public accountant who plans to transition into internal auditing. An internal auditor examines the books for publicly traded companies. They learn how to work with specific procedures, which may also be used by independent auditors.

Careers for Accounting Graduates


  • Senior Accountant

    A senior accountant may not have managerial responsibilities, but they are still required to handle a long list of duties. These include maintenance of the general ledger, creating financial reports, performing account reconciliations, and helping out with audit preparations. They may also handle other accounting duties as needed. This is one of the careers in accounting that places an accountant in a senior position without being a manager.

    To assume this role, an accountant is required to be familiar with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and all other accounting basics. Their manager may require a senior accountant to have excellent financial analysis and Excel skills.

  • Staff Accountant

    This accounting professional may be employed in the accounting department of either an accounting firm or a private company. They work to maintain the general ledger, write financial reports, review financial statements, help with audits and the budget process, and much more. They may also reconcile accounts.

    Employers hiring for staff accountants may expect this professional to help the accounting manager when needed and handle information requests by company management or for auditing purposes.

  • Financial Controller

    This position may also be called the financial comptroller or chief accounting officer, depending on the employing company. A financial controller may be responsible for managing daily accounting functions, forecasting and budgeting, bringing together finance operations, taking care of tax matters, working on financial reports, and making sure the organization is financially stable.

    They may also coordinate auditing processes and verify the accuracy of financial information. The financial controller should be skilled in strategic planning and have a strong proficiency with numbers.

  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

    A chief financial officer is one of the senior executives in an organization. They are responsible for overseeing the financial actions within the organization. They may track cash flow and financial planning by other managers. They may also analyze the financial strengths and weaknesses of the organization and offer corrective suggestions.

    Their position is like that of a controller or treasurer because, like these other roles, they help to manage the financial and accounting departments.

  • Financial Analyst

    A financial analyst handles financial planning, analysis, and projection for organizations and corporations. They may forecast or predict future revenues and expenditures, which makes it possible to determine cost structures and make decisions about capital and budgeting for projects.

    A senior-level financial analyst customarily works with executive-level team members and CFOs. In their joint work, they may determine the direction of investments for the entire company.

  • CPA

    This professional does work in support of their organization or for individuals. The focus of their work is on financial statement planning and tax planning. In their daily work, they may study financial records, prepare tax forms, and manage audits. They are required to have both an accounting degree and CPA certification to work in this role.

    A CPA must have a full knowledge of auditing, bookkeeping, and budgeting. They should also have excellent communication and organizational skills.

  • Accountant

    The accountant in an organization verifies that every financial statement and record has been prepared in compliance with regulations laws and GAAP. The statements and records may encompass the balance sheet, cash-flow statement, profit and loss statement, tax returns, and others.

    The accountant also may record business financial transactions as they occur, as a bookkeeper usually does, if they work with a smaller company. They collect necessary information needed to make entries to company accounts such as the general ledger.

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