Accountants are essential to business owners, individuals, and organizations. They help them meet their annual budget, tell them when there is a deficit or a surplus, and keep things moving in the right direction for a business. Most accountants make an excellent salary, provided they work with a company or individual who pays them appropriately for their time and expertise.
Accountants are a highly respected career because it involves a specialty that requires advanced training and professional skill. That is why people are willing to pay so much for the services of a well-trained accountant. If you’ve ever thought about getting an accounting degree or CPA (certified public accountant), we’ve rounded up some vital information for you that will help you start your journey.
Resources for Before and After College
Benefits of Obtaining an Accounting/CPA Degree
Below are some of the benefits of obtaining an Accounting Degree and CPA:
- Potentially lucrative career with long-term rewards
- It is a field few go into so the need is high
- Opportunity to work independently or with a company
- Great background for the MBA if you continue your education
Day in the Life
The typical day in the life of a CPA might include balancing the books of a client or business, analyzing incoming invoices, billing clients of the company, and dealing with tax issues. The more you can learn about the tax system, the more valuable you will be considered by your clients. Tax help is the main reason people seek out the services of an accountant on a regular basis.
What does it take to become a CPA?
You can get an accounting degree that may land you a job with a company or individual. But to really advance in the world of accounting, you need the CPA. This is the accredited licensing standard for accounting and means that you have met all of the requirements necessary to serve as an accountant in your state.
The CPA requires that you complete an accredited accounting degree in your state of residence and then go through the process of sitting for the CPA certification exam given nationwide by the NASBA (National Association Board of Accounting), using the standards the organization has set forth.
About the National CPA Exam
The primary areas of the exam that you should prepare for include the following:
- Audit and Attestation
This section of the test lasts for four hours and includes concepts such as how to audit, how to report your findings, and other issues relevant to the process of auditing.
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
This section tests qualified candidates on the day-to-day functions and responsibilities of a CPA and includes handling tax issues and financial ledgers and invoices.
This section tests the applicant to see if you understand the basic rules and regulations that are expected to be followed in the field of accounting including Federal, State, and Local regulations and mandates.
- Business Environment and Concepts
Corporate governance, strategic accounting, and application of basic principles of bookkeeping are covered in this section.
By studying the different sections of the CPA exam, you can start to see what the NASBA deems to be the most important aspects of the accounting process when preparing candidates for a career. You need to have a deep understanding of accounting principles; the federal, state, and local regulations of accounting; and a good sense of how to apply these in any environment you may work within. Keeping these things in mind as you look for the best accounting school is a great idea so that you’ll be sure to be prepared for the test as well as your role as an accounting professional once you complete the requirements.
Coursework for the Accounting Degree
If you desire to complete an accounting degree, you can expect to study the following:
- Internal Auditing
- Forensic Accounting
- Managerial Accounting
- Information Technology
- Environmental Accounting
- Tax Laws and Applications
All of these areas are important and the school or college that you choose to attend will guide you through all of them in a timely and organized manner. The key is to find a school that specializes in training that is acceptable for an accredited degree as well as coursework that will adequately prepare you for the CPA Exam, help you receive your CPA license, and teach you the skills needed to work in the real world. You can find more information on becoming a CPA, requirements and certifications here.
Independent Contractor vs. Employee
Once you complete your degree in accounting and get your CPA (highly recommended), you will want to think about the type of job or environment that you wish to work in. If you choose to work as an employee of a company, chances are you will be able to land a good-paying job that you can depend on throughout the year. However, you may not have as many choices in your hours or workload since you will be focusing on the needs of that one company.
If you choose, instead, to work instead as an independent contractor, you will have the option of setting your own hours, taking on as much work as you choose, and charging whatever your clients are willing to pay for your time and services. However, you will always have to be looking for clients until you get enough work to support your income goals. Either way, having the CPA will put you above the rest when pursuing a job or career.
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the accounting career pays around $69,000 on average if you have a CPA license, and the field is expected to continue to grow in the near future. It was growing at a rate of 10% in 2016, the last time this data was updated.
If you seek to become an accountant, make sure and search for a school that prepares you well for the CPA exam and then plan out your coursework accordingly. You will reap the benefits and rewards of this lucrative profession if you work hard.