How to Become an Accountant or CPA in Kansas

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What is Accounting?

An accountant is a business professional who works with the lifeblood of every enterprise, its finances. While many of us only think of accountants when tax time rolls around, accountants can work in many other areas of business and government. Yet, they all essentially work with ledgers that record every expense and revenue generating transaction. Accountants are thus very detail oriented, and many have migrated to the IT world where they are called to audit network traffic, database activity, and more. Accountants also work under a wide range of licenses and certifications which steer their careers in meaningful ways.

In fact, one of the most respected professional license is that of certified public accountant. CPAs are licensed by their state to sign tax filing documents. To earn this status, CPAs have passed the most difficult professional exam available. Other accountants can earn certificates to work in other areas of business such as risk management, forensic accounting, management accounting, and non-profit accounting.

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Accounting Education in Kansas

Kansas is a state for business. Those that drive its highways and byways may be impressed by the endless rows of corn or sunflowers, but there is far more afoot. After all, all of those agricultural products must be processed by way of the state's top industrial sector – manufacturing. Then, those manufacturing plants need to be audited for efficiency and financial worthiness by a team of accountants.

In fact, there's hardly any business in existence that doesn't rely on accountancy for its lifeblood. On top of this, Kansas boasts professional and business services as its #3 industry and finance and insurance comes in at #7 among the state's top 10 economic sectors. Thus, there is always a demand for accounting professionals in Kansas. Even its #10 industry, construction, needs budget analysts and other accounting professionals to ensure that projects are viable and profitable and have a reasonable budget.

To ensure that Kansas maintains positive economic growth, it needs a steady supply of highly qualified accounting professionals. From bookkeepers to CPAs, the state needs its businesses to maintain healthy accounting practices. Thus, Kansas' colleges and universities all work hard to provide future bookkeepers and accountants with the very best education possible.

Nearly every community has some access to a community college where students can study business and accounting from highly qualified instructors. These community college classes typically have small class sizes, and the schools frequently offer courses and even whole degrees online. Kansas' four-year colleges and universities also offer full bachelor's accounting degrees that are designed to prepare students for their CPA examination. There are also programs for a master of accountancy or a master of business administration.

Kansas' innovative post-secondary institutions also offer their accounting students the opportunity to enhance their degrees with other subject areas. For instance, many accounting students broaden their education with courses in computer science, information technology, or business administration. These special concentration areas help Kansas' accounting professionals become the cutting-edge businesspeople that the world needs to address the new challenges posed by technology and an increasingly global economy.

Associate Degree in Accounting (AA)

One terrific way to start a career in business and accounting is to earn an associate accounting degree. A two-year degree provides students with the fundamental skills they need to start working as a bookkeeper. Their two-year associate degree can also help them earn certain certifications which distinguish them in the marketplace.

It can be very beneficial to start a career with an associate accounting degree. For one thing, associate degrees include the core college curriculum required for a bachelor's degree. Students who decide to complete a bachelor's accounting degree later are thus primed to dive into their upper-level accounting courses. Those who take a few years to work in business or bookkeeping may even be able to pay off a good portion of their student loans. After all, community college credits tend to be more affordable than those from a four-year institution.

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

A four-year bachelor's accounting degree is a very strong foundation for any accounting student. Over the course of a full undergraduate accounting degree, students are able to gain exposure to many special topics in accounting. Undergraduate students can also round out their accounting education with courses from other fields. Some accounting students earn a minor concentration in areas such as information technology, computer science, and business management, to name a few options. These minor fields may even help steer their career after graduation.

A bachelor's accounting degree is also immensely helpful for those who desire a CPA license. Most state boards of accountancy require a bachelor's accounting degree for those who wish to sit for the AICPA examination. CPA candidates should investigate their state's requirements. Kansas' CPA requirements include 150 credit hours, including of a bachelor's degree. Thus, students typically need to complete their undergraduate degree and then add around 30 more credits to their transcripts. This may be a terrific opportunity to start an MS in Accounting or even an MBA.

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

Since Kansas' board of accountancy requires that candidates for the CPA examination have a minimum of 150 credit hours, it's a wise idea to enter a graduate degree program for accounting or an MBA. Either degree will provide the credits necessary to sit for the CPA exam. However, before doing so, it's important for students to decide where they want to take their careers. Those who are interested more in applying their accounting skills in a general way may want to complete an MBA with a concentration in accounting and/or finance. Students who are dedicated to accounting should apply to MS programs for accountancy. Yet a third option is a dual MBA where students can concentrate on some other topic in their second MBA year while finishing an MS in Accountancy in the same three-year period.

Not only will these graduate courses help students qualify to sit for the CPA exam in Kansas, but they will also find that their job prospects brighten when they graduate. With an MBA, students will broaden their knowledge of business in the first year and then concentrate on a special topic, such as finance or accounting, in their second. An MS, on the other hand, offers students the opportunity to dive deep into their chosen field.

PhD Degree in Accounting (D.Acy.)

While the business community doesn't emphasize the need for a PhD, the degree can always be of use. In fact, a student who doggedly pursues a doctorate after completing their undergraduate accounting degree might find that they have an edge. After all, since master’s accounting degrees are increasingly common, one way to stand out from the pack is by completing a doctorate in accounting. It's also true that the business community increasingly values specialization among its workers and a PhD allows students to become as specialized as they possibly can be.

Over the course of the PhD work, students will be able to explore special topics in accountancy with microscopic accuracy and detail. Given the rise of technology, those who aim their careers towards auditing networks and databases may especially benefit from a doctorate curriculum. Others might choose more traditional topics to study, such as taxation and regulation. Once their dissertation is accepted and they graduate, all doctorate accounting students will have the chance to thrive in the business, governmental, non-profit, or academic realm.

Become an Accountant in Kansas

Since the accounting field is broad and diverse, the road to landing an accounting career can be as short or as long as a student likes. It's possible, after all, to begin a career as a bookkeeper with only a few courses. Bookkeepers who complete an associate accounting degree can go on and earn a variety of certificates that qualify them for certain job types. For instance, a two-year community college accounting degree can qualify a student to become an Enrolled Agent and represent taxpayers.

When considering accounting as a career choice, it's vital to assess one's natural desires and talents. This can involve assessing one's childhood, where the seeds of accountancy may have taken root. These days, a growing number of high schools are offering curriculum tracks that focus on STEM subjects. For those who are interested in accounting, focusing on mathematics and computer science can be enormously beneficial. There may even be high schools that offer entry-level business courses that cover accounting, management, and other general business topics. These courses will look terrific on a transcript when it comes time for college.

When students seek out an accounting program for their college years, they need to focus on each program's faculty, curriculum, and accreditation. In fact, accreditation may be one of the most important features to consider. Students should look for an accounting program that holds program specific credentials from either the AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE. Even community colleges can hold these nationally recognized accreditations.

Those who choose a full bachelor's accounting degree will have the option of completing an additional 30 credit hours to satisfy the Kansas board's requirements to sit for the CPA examination. Once students pass all four parts of the CPA exam, they can earn a Kansas CPA license and work for an accounting firm. Even those who don't pass all four parts find that passing even one quarter can add to their resume and result in very good things indeed.

Careers for Accounting Graduates

  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO):
    After many years working as an accountant or finance expert it may be possible for a professional to become a CFO. The requirements for this job will likely include an MBA as well as a CPA, either a license or simply a certificate.
  • Forensic Accountant:
    While most accountants work for corporations or government agencies, some work for law enforcement. In fact, forensic accountants have been responsible for taking some of the most nefarious criminals off the street. Al Capone, for instance, might never have been jailed had forensic accountants not nabbed him on tax evasion. These days, forensic accountants also consult with attorneys to determine if civil litigants are providing an honest account of their financial dealings.
  • Claims Adjuster:
    While our first thought regarding claims adjusters is often of those who assess damages after a car accident or fire, the field can be broader than that. Claims adjusters are needed to determine damages for professional liability insurance policies or to investigate instances of corporate malfeasance.
  • Financial Analyst:
    These business professionals work to analyze businesses and industries on behalf of a client or their financial institution. Many accounting students take positions as financial analysts with investment banks. Corporate finance has a tradition of employing financial analysts for approximately two years before they leave for a master’s degree, often an MBA.
  • Benefits Specialist:
    These business professionals work in human resources departments or HR consultancies. Their job is to assess an organization's workers in terms of their spending power and need for benefits. They then attempt to find the best benefits packages for the organization as a whole. A knowledge of accounting and management will be very important for this position. While a degree in human resources will be nearly mandatory, a foundation in accountancy will be enormously helpful.
  • CPA:
    A certified public accountant is one of the most esteemed people in the business community. They are licensed to sign off on tax documents, and their granular knowledge of business is indispensable. Thus, a CPA might work as a tax expert but also as a business consultant. CPAs also work as auditors and fraud examiners for law enforcement.
  • Bookkeeper:
    A person can become a bookkeeper with as little as an associate degree in accounting. These financial professionals can work for companies where they input and track specific sorts of transactions. Bookkeepers also work as independent business professionals who help small businesses track their revenues and expenses. A bookkeeper's year-end spreadsheets often are handed over to a CPA for the final tax assessment.
  • Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable Specialist:
    Every organization needs bookkeepers who work in either accounts payable or accounts receivable. A keen knowledge of how to account for various transactions is needed for these positions, as is laser-like accuracy when it comes time to enter figures into the books. For those who have lofty CPA ambitions, this is a great first job.
  • Budget Analyst:
    Every organization needs an accountant to assess their budgets and to make sure that enough funds remain so that projects don't exceed budgetary constraints. Budget analysts also help determine how much money should be allocated for projects.

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