How to Become an Accountant or CPA in Hawaii

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What is Accounting?


Number crunchers: that is how people often refer to accounting professionals. But there is much more to it than making sure all the decimals are in the right places. Accounting is a puzzle, and it requires a person to know exactly where each piece needs to go and, if there are missing pieces, they must know how to find them. A missing puzzle piece in accounting could be the death of a business, so it’s important that every business have a capable and competent accounting professional either on staff or nearby.

Every business uses an accounting professional at one point. Whether it is to help file the quarterly or annual taxes or with general daily operations, accountants and accounting professionals are an important part of a business. And they are needed in all industries, so there is always some level of job security. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state of Hawaii has 4,700 accounting professionals that make an average salary of $66,000. Also, according to the BLS, the need for more accountants is expected to increase by 6% between now and 2029. So, if a career in accounting sounds like something you might want to do, this is a good time to get the education and certifications need to succeed in this career.

And, if you think that since you aren’t good at math you can’t be an accountant, think again. Most accounting is less about math and more about knowing what each number stands for. If you can learn the rules of accounting and apply the principles, you can be a successful accounting professional regardless of your aptitude in math, not that an aptitude for math couldn’t help.

An accountant is a person who is in charge of the financials for a company. They keep the accounting records, such as the general ledger, current and complete the monthly financial reports such as the income statement and balance sheet. They also make sure a company’s taxes are filed on time. These tasks might be completed by the accountant, or there might be a team of accounting professionals that do most of the tasks and the accountant reviews and signs off on the work. Most staff accountants are those with an accounting degree and some might be certified public accountants, though smaller businesses might use an accountant without a CPA or a full-charge bookkeeper instead.


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Accounting Education in Hawaii


Accounting is a popular major, so getting a degree in accounting in Hawaii won’t be that difficult a process. As long as the selected school is accredited by a regional accreditation board recognized by the US Department of Education, getting a job after graduation should be a viable option. Below is a list of the common degrees available in accounting and a general overview of what will be studied at each educational level.

Associate Degree in Accounting (AA)

A two-year degree in accounting is a good start for a person who is interested in accounting but not sure what direction they want to take. With an associate degree, a person can attain an entry-level accounting position at a firm or a bookkeeper position for a small business. An associate degree generally takes two years to complete and is included as part of a business curriculum.

Some of the accounting classes included in the program are:

  • Accounting I
  • Accounting II
  • Computerized Accounting
  • Business Management
  • Business Law
  • Business Ethics

After a person has worked in an entry level position for a period of time or has decided that they want to pursue a career in accounting, the next step would be to continue their education. This will be required for anyone that wants to take on more accounting responsibilities.

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

A bachelor’s degree in accounting is the most common degree of working accountants. This degree provides the education and knowledge for a person to take on the responsibilities of a full accountant position, as well as sitting for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. As with the two-year degree, a four-year degree in accounting is intertwined with the business administration program.

Some of the courses that are covered in this program include:

  • Accounting I
  • Accounting II
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Cost Accounting
  • Computerized Accounting
  • Business Management
  • Marketing
  • Business Law
  • Business Ethics
  • Corporate Finance
  • Quantitative Business Analysis

Bachelor’s degrees take eight semesters to complete, which is usually around four years, but some complete their degrees earlier, while others need more time. Once the degree has been completed, a person can pursue a job as an accountant and prepare to take the CPA exam.

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

Many people who work in accounting pursue master’s degrees. Some choose a master’s in accounting if they want to specialize in an area of accounting, and others choose to get the more general, but still helpful, master’s in business administration (MBA). Both offer additional education in business, finance, and accounting but the master’s in accountancy provides additional education in taxation, auditing, and managerial accounting.

Courses include:

  • Federal Taxation
  • Financial Accounting Regulation
  • Business Process Integration
  • Data Analytics and Data Management
  • Audit Theory Review and Practice
  • Financial Accounting Theory Review and Practice

Upon completion of the two-year program, a graduate meets the requirement to sit for the CPA exam (without this degree, those who want to take the CPA exam has to complete several weeks of special CPA preparation courses). These programs are usually around 30-35 hours.

PhD Degree in Accounting (D.Acy.)

Most doctorate programs in accounting are part of a doctorate program in business administration. These programs vary from school to school and are customized by the student to create the programs that suits their needs and career goals.

There are courses that include:

  • Finance
  • Taxation
  • Auditing
  • Auditing
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Business Law
  • Ethics
  • Business Psychology
  • Advanced Statistics and Analysis

Doctorate programs require a dissertation to be completed. Upon completion of the dissertation as well as the successful defense of the dissertation, a student will be rewarded with a PhD designation which allows them to use the “Dr.” prefix. Most doctorate programs are required to be completed in seven years but can be finished in three.

Become an Accountant in Hawaii


To become an accounting professional in Hawaii, you must first get an education that will allow you to work in the accounting field. This education can be achieved through a traditional educational setting or through on the job training. A better approach would be a combination of the two so that a person not only has an education in the field, but they also have the chance to apply what they are learning. The amount of education needed depends on what the person wants to do in the field.

Once the person has attained the required education, they are ready to either progress in their current job or seek employment in the accounting field. Most businesses have some form of either a bookkeeping or accounting department, so seek out companies that interest you and review their open positions. As an entry-level accounting employee, you should focus on account receivable or account payable positions, or full-charge bookkeeping positions. And, if there is an accounting firm in your area, apply there since they often hire newly graduated accounting professionals. While you are job searching, you should be preparing to take the CPA exam. As an alternative, you could also offer your services as a freelance bookkeeper for small businesses. Some people have enough business to need help with their financials, but not enough to justify the cost of having a full-time bookkeeper or accountant. You should still get your bookkeeping certificate or CPA if possible because it will make you more attractive and seem more credible because you are certified.

Once you have your degree, CPA license, or other certification and have worked in the accounting field for a period of time, you might have narrowed down the area of accounting in which you are most interested. You can then consider attaining a graduate degree and certification in that area. For example, if tax accounting is your passion, then attaining a graduate degree in accounting with a specialization in taxes is a good step. You can also take the exam and become a certified tax accountant (CTA) or enrolled agent (EA). Getting additional certifications beyond a degree makes you more attractive to potential employers and help ensure you’ll be employed in the field you enjoy.

Careers for Accounting Graduates


There are many avenues that an accounting professional can take, depending on their experience and interests. Below are some of the more common and interesting positions an accounting professional can pursue in their career.

  • Senior Accountant
    Senior accountants have been working in the accounting field for several years, generally between five to ten years. They often have a group of accountants that report to them and they might work on those accounts with their team, or they might only work on larger accounts that require a certain level of expertise or certification. For example, generally only a senior accountant has the experience and certifications to work on accounts that have to file with the Security and Exchange Commission. They must also be a CPA to do so. Senior accountants usually work for larger firms, mainly corporations, but any company with a hierarchy of accountants can have a senior accountant that serves as the manager of the department.
  • Financial Controller
    A financial controller is the head of the accounting and finance department for a business. They are in charge of ensuring that all financial records are accurate and that all required financial reports are completed and properly filed. They are may also be referred to as a chief financial officers and are considered senior members of management. They can have a staff of hundreds of accountants, bookkeepers, and clerks under them and report to the chief executive officer. When there is a financial issue or a deal is being brokered, the financial controller is the one that lets the company know if it’s financially feasible.
  • Corporate Controller
    A corporate controller is the manager of the financial department for a corporation. They are tasked with completing reports and making sure they are filed on time. If there is a financial issue, the corporate controller is expected to alert other members of management of the issue and, if required, create a solution for the problem. Other accountants, bookkeepers, and accounting clerks report directly to the corporate controller, and the corporate controller reports to either the chief financial officer or the chief executive officer. This position generally requires a CPA as well as several years’ experience working as a CPA as well as former management experience.
  • Business Manager
    A business manager is well-versed in all aspects of a business. They have to understand accounting, general office duties, management, marketing, and even sales. They juggle all the aspects of a business and pass off the various needs to the appropriate departments, then ensures that each department completes its duties correctly and on time. Many business managers are CPAs or have MBAs. They report directly to the owner of the business and are expected to be up to date with everything that is going on in the business.
  • Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable Specialist
    Accounts payable or receivable specialists are exactly what they sound like; they specialize in either accounts payables or accounts receivable. They are in charge of making sure that things are paid on time, both by the company and by the company’s customers, and keeping track of account payable or account receivable clients. The accounts payable specialist makes sure that the company’s business accounts are paid to creditors on time, while the accounts receivable specialist makes sure the company’s clients with accounts are making timely payments.

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