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What is Accounting?
In recent years, tax law has been changing rapidly. Whether it’s President Trump’s tax overhaul or President Biden’s proposed tax law changes, accountants are increasingly important assets for businesses and individuals. This is no exception in Idaho, a state that has been growing rapidly over the last decade, which means new businesses and residents and more demand for specialists in this field. The last U.S. Census in 2020 revealed that Idaho’s total population had grown by 17.3% since 2010. This nets Idaho the title of the second-fastest growing state in the country, which means that many more people are seeing Idaho as an attractive place to grow families and build careers. This is particularly true in a post-pandemic era, when many families are reassessing priorities and looking for space. With growth comes more businesses that are looking to hire, and every finance department needs accounting talent, ensuring that job prospects in the field look positive. Additionally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of accounting jobs is projected to grow by 7% between 2020-2030, which is as fast as the average growth in the economy. This means that students who fulfill CPA requirements at an accredited institution will likely see sound employment prospects going forward.
Accountants are business professionals who hold the important role of helping an organization with managing, interpreting, and reconciling important financial records. In particular, accountants must be familiar with a variety of financial and tax laws, which may differ depending on the industry or state. Businesses must diligently follow the particular tax rules and regulations that pertain to the industry they operate in or else they may face fines and other penalties. This is even more important if a business decides to expand its scope into a new industry. As a result, accountants are highly important in every business’ financial department and must go through rigorous training before they can achieve their accounting degrees. The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) accreditation is a higher form of recognition within the accounting field. CPAs must undergo more rigorous accounting training in the United States, which means that all CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs.
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Online Accounting Education in Idaho
Leading business industries differ by state, and Idaho is no exception. However, accounting is an essential skill across all industries and sectors, making those with a degree in accounting exceptionally sought after. For Idaho specifically, those looking for accounting jobs may have great opportunities to work within real estate and rental and leasing, which is Idaho’s largest industry, bringing in around $10.7 billion in revenue annually.
Furthermore, those with financial accounting and business administration skills may also be interested to join Idaho’s manufacturing industry, which is the state’s second-largest industry at around $8.6 billion in revenue per year. Accountants are incredible resources to manufacturing companies, which need to work consistently to work with a variety of suppliers, wholesalers, and retailers that deliver raw materials and buy their manufactured products. Accountants play an important role in ensuring that the revenue and expenses are reconciled, and books are closed in time, or else manufacturing companies may run into issues with the law.
Students who graduate with degrees in accounting may be especially interested in the professional and business services sector, which is focused specifically on helping organizations achieve their growth and financial goals. In particular, Idaho’s professional and business services industry sees around $8 billion in revenue per year, so there are plenty of career options for students who have completed their CPA requirements. This is also a great area for students who have both a background in accounting and business administration to gain hands-on experience as the work that they do will closely be related to the day-to-day running of business operations. Overall, working toward an accounting degree in Idaho or relocating there for work can be very rewarding for those interesting in public accounting, financial accounting, and managerial accounting alike.
Online Associate Degree in Accounting (AS)
The accounting field has a vast need for those with a variety of skillsets, training, and work experience. Those who are studying for their associate degree in accounting can rest assured knowing that they will be eligible for the majority of entry-level accounting positions upon graduating. During their associate degree training, students majoring in accounting will study the core knowledge related to balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, and balancing the books. Upon graduating from their associate degree, students become eligible for positions like payroll clerk, accounting clerk, administrative assistant, accounting assistant, bookkeeper, and auditing clerk. Accounting is a field in which hands-on work skills are valued, so working within one specialty, like auditing, can be a bonus over time.
According to Payscale, students who graduated from an associate’s program in accounting can expect to make an average of $53,000 per year. Given that most associate degrees are 60-credit programs that take around two years, this presents a great return on educational investment.
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Online Bachelor's Degree in Accounting (BS)
The majority of graduates who major in accounting will look to complete their bachelor’s degree in accounting. This is because studying accounting at an accredited four-year institution can provide students with much more than the foundational math and business skills taught in an associate’s program. Bachelor’s programs will generally have more electives centered around advanced business and tax law, business administration and organizational management, accounting software solutions, and integrated business applications. Employers looking for candidates with a deeper set of theoretical knowledge in the accounting field, as well as more growth potential to work toward managerial positions in accounting over time, will generally prefer those who have completed their bachelor’s degree in the field.
Generally, students graduating with their bachelor’s degree in accounting can expect to begin in an entry-level role that is more complex, with more workplace responsibilities, than entry-level roles available to those who only completed their associate degrees. Popular job titles include staff accountant, internal auditor, management accountant, financial analyst, loan officer, and budget analyst. According to Payscale, students with a bachelor’s degree in accounting can expect to earn an annual salary of $65,000 per year in the United States. Throughout a lifetime, this increase in earnings is a significant step up from the associate degree in accounting.
Online Master's Degree in Accounting (MS)
Today, many students who choose to major in accounting will take the extra year to finish their master’s degree in accounting or choose to complete their MBA later on. This is because the amount of credit hours it takes for a student to complete a bachelor’s degree is generally not enough to meet the minimum amount necessary before a student sits for their CPA examination. Students who have achieved their CPA will see a larger number of job opportunities open up for them, particularly in public accounting and in larger accounting firms specifically providing these important services to business clientele.
Successful completion of a master’s degree in accounting can also set candidates up to be fast-tracked into more senior accounting roles throughout their careers. Other students who majored in accounting may choose to add an MBA degree to their resume or even focus on an MBA in Accounting. This is because the MBA degree offers a wider selection of courses and training in management areas like talent acquisition, operations management, and economics that can greatly benefit accountants who seek to contribute more to the businesses they work for. Those with a master’s degree in accounting will generally find employment as CPAs, forensic accountants, information technology accountants, corporate controllers, or even chief financial officers. According to Payscale, the average expected salary of a student who has graduated with their master’s degree in accounting is $73,000 per year in base salary, a step up from the bachelor’s degree.
Online PhD Degree in Accounting (PhD)
Most practicing accountants will not need to complete a PhD in accounting. The field is focused on several specialized accounting roles, like internal auditing and others, so it’s incredibly important for those with accounting degrees to obtain hands-on work experience to flesh out the theoretical knowledge that they learned in school. However, students who are looking to build long-term careers as accounting professors may need to complete a doctorate program to gain the specialized skills needed to do deep research and teach in the field. A PhD in accounting is rarely needed as a prerequisite to obtaining a job elsewhere in the field. Those who have finished their doctorate and do not wish to become professors can expect to obtain job titles like financial analyst, consultant, researcher, and account manager, using their expertise to help drive financial results for organizations. According to Payscale, the average person holding a PhD in accounting will earn around $109,000 per year in base salary.
CPA Exam Education Requirements in Idaho
Before cpa candidates can apply for a CPA license in the State of Idaho, there are specific educational requirements certified public accountant students must meet in terms of preparation; you must complete a minimum of 150 credit hours or 225 quarter-hours of accounting specific and general college study and receive at least a bachelor's degree with an accounting emphasis from an accredited institution. An easy first step is to obtain an associate degree in business or accounting from an accredited school. This will help you learn a little bit about what you're getting into, prepare you to continue into future learning, provide an overview of what becoming a CPA will look like, and answer any questions you may have about spending your full career. This may also put you in an excellent position to fulfill experience requirements in a local firm or office, even as you apply as a student to baccalaureate programs at top schools.
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Of the hours required, at least 24 credit hours or 36 quarter-hours must be in accounting.
Within the accounting courses, the following content must be included:
- Financial Accounting
- Management Accounting
Another 24 credit hours or 36 quarter-hours must be earned by completing business courses.
Listed below are several examples:
- Business Administration
- Business Ethics
- Business Law
- Business Management
- Computer Science
- Human Resource Management
- Information Systems
- Professional Communications
If you complete your college education without having earned the required credits, you can take graduate-level courses from any institution that is approved by the Idaho State Boards.
The Board recognizes the following institutions and programs as accredited:
- Colleges and universities that are accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, formerly known as the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
- Colleges and universities that have accreditation from other regional or national organizations, if the accreditation standards are equivalent to those of the above-mentioned commission. You should be able to find a full list of acceptable Idaho programs on the board of accountancy main website. Four of these are:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges: Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Private colleges in Idaho that issue bachelor's degrees and are certified by the Idaho State Department of Education to train teachers
- Business and accounting programs that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, also known as "AACSB"
- Business and accounting programs that are accredited by similar agencies with equivalent standards
The American Council on Education, also known as "ACE", has a contract with the Department of Defense to evaluate military courses, training and experience and provide recommendations for college credit. What credit actually transfers is left to the policy of each individual college or university.
If you have military experience, it is well worth the effort to find out what credits you can transfer. This could save both money and time as you pursue your goal of becoming a licensed CPA. Note that a copy of your military transcript is a requirement to get the process started.
Taking the Idaho CPA Exam
To become a certified public accountant CPA, you must take the state board and pass the CPA exam in your state. You can take the Uniform CPA Examination at a Prometric testing center, located on Idaho State University campuses in Meridian and Pocatello, Idaho. The computer-based test is made up of four sections and each section may be taken separately. You must pass all four sections within 18 months of passing the first one.
In order to take the CPA exam in Idaho, you must comply with the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Be either a current or former resident of Idaho or intend to become a resident immediately after passing the CPA exam.
- Hold a baccalaureate degree, or its equivalent, in studies that included at least 30 credit hours or 45 quarter-hours in business administration subjects. Of these hours, 20 credit hours or 30 quarter-hours must relate directly to accounting.
- Request that all transcripts be sent directly from the college, university, or other approved program to the Idaho State Board. Transcripts must be signed by an official representative of the institution where you studied. This usually is the registrar. A transcript without an official seal will be rejected, as will transcripts marked "issued to student" and ones sent with the application, even if the transcript envelope is sealed. This is done for security reasons. You can usually request transcript service and similar info by phone, email, or online form and it may or may not be free.
- Obtain, complete, and return the CPA examination application packet, which includes an "Idaho Department of Law Enforcement Criminal History Records Check" form that must be signed. Attach to the application a 2-inch by 2-inch photograph of yourself.
- Pay the initial CPA examination application fee to the Idaho State Board of Accountancy.
- Wait for the Board's decision regarding your application to test. When the Board rules that you meet the requirements to be a candidate for testing, it will submit the Authorization to Test (ATT) to the National Boards of Accountancy.
- The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) then will bill you for all sections of the test that you applied to take. Pay this non-refundable fee within three months of the date your ATT was issued.
After all fees are paid, NASBA will send you the Notice to Schedule (NTS). You then must contact Prometric to schedule the CPA exam at a testing center site. You will not be able to sit for the entire exam in one day because each section takes four hours.
Section titles are as follows:
- Auditing and Attestation
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
- Business Environment and Concepts
Continuing Professional Education Requirements
Once you are licensed in Idaho as a certified public accountant, pay close attention to the requirements for keeping your license current. Every year, all licenses that are not renewed expire on June 30, no matter when the license was issued. The deadline for annual renewal is July 1.
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To be eligible to renew, you must earn 80 hours of continuing professional education, also known as "CPE," in the accounting field every two years. Of those 80 hours, at least four hours must be in Idaho ethics. One credit hour of college credit equals 15 CPE hours.
CPE must be reported by January 31 each year. It is your responsibility to file the report, and no reminder will be given. A minimum of 30 hours and a maximum of 50 can be reported for each calendar year.
Fees for late filing begin in February. These fees start at $100 and increase another $50 for every month the report is late, through the month of June. Late filings are audited, which means that you will be required to submit documentation for every course included in the report. Also, if you fail to file your annual CPE report by the end of June, you will be unable to renew your license until you meet all requirements for reinstatement.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or "AICPA," which was founded in 1887, established baseline CPE requirements that are recognized by the accountancy boards in every state. Many states have set additional requirements, some of them quite stringent.
Become an Accountant in Idaho
Becoming an accounting professional in Idaho is not much different from the path that is to be taken in other states. Indeed, accounting is quite a transferable skill, and the majority of people will continue to pursue long-term careers in accounting even after moving across state borders in the United States.
First, students interested in the field should obtain the specialized accounting skills needed to succeed in the field by studying accounting or business administration with a focus on accounting at the associate or bachelor’s degree level. While in school, students are highly encouraged to obtain work experience through internships and other employment opportunities. This is because accounting is a field that places high value on applying theory to practice, as experience accountants can quickly resolve inconsistencies in bookkeeping and troubleshoot any issues they come across. Students pursuing associate programs may consider applying for distance learning programs, which can offer more flexibility. This may allow associate students to either study part-time or work during the day while still attending school at night, which can greatly jumpstart their careers upon graduation.
Although all accounting students must gain the same set of basic mathematical and accounting skills to be able to successfully manage the complex relationships between the balance sheet, income statement, and statement of cash flows, students in bachelor’s programs can choose to take further electives in specific divisions of accounting that might interest them more. This may include public accounting courses or auditing courses for students with those particular interests and may even include high-level business tax courses for students interested in focusing on becoming tax preparers in the future.
Employers looking to hire accountants in Idaho will generally not be picky about the US state in which a candidate obtained their degree from an accredited institution. This means that, while studying accounting at a college or university in Idaho can be especially helpful for networking with local companies, students who have obtained their accounting degrees out-of-state are equally attractive to employers given the high need for their skills. For entry-level roles, certifications are generally not needed. However, given the sensitive nature of the data that many accountants work with, as well as the complexity of tax laws and financial regulations in the United States, accountants who have completed their CPA are more highly sought after.
Careers for Accounting Graduates
- Staff Accountant
A staff accountant is an entry- or mid-level accounting professional who helps maintain the financial records at an organization. This position is incredibly important as their job responsibilities include balancing the ledgers for financial reporting, reconciling bank statements, and confirming compliance with IRS tax rules.
- Corporate Controller
Corporate controllers help to supervise all the accounting and financial functions within a company by implementing and updating financial policies, preparing annual budgets and forecasts, and conducting financial risk assessments.
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
The CFO is the senior executive officer that is the heart of every business’s financial operations. This person is in charge of managing the overall financial strategy of the company. Responsibilities include tracking cash flow, financial planning for long-term growth goals, assessing the company’s overall financial strengths and weaknesses, and adjusting a company’s financial goals and trajectories depending on external factors that occur in the larger business environment.
- Claims Adjuster
A claims adjuster’s responsibility is to investigate insurance claims to help an insurance company figure out its total liability and ensure that customers are paid out correctly according to the damage to their property, structures, or persons.
- Budget Analyst
Budget analysts play an important role in an organization’s finance department because they help prepare budget reports and track whether spending is on track to stay within bounds. This helps organizations, particularly those that reimburse lots of corporate expenses, stay on track financially and plan for the future.