Will I Need to Go to Graduate School to Be a CPA?

We often hear the terms accountants and CPAs interchangeably as though they’re the same occupation. Only those that are part of this career truly understand the difference and the education requirements for CPAs. If you’re considering going to graduate school to become a CPA, read this informative article first.

What is a CPA?

A CPA is an accountant who has earned the prestigious credential of certified public accountant by obtaining licensure through a state board of accountancy. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) states that earning the CPA license is demonstrating the highest standard of competency for an accountant. In addition to completing education and experience requirements, aspiring CPAs must pass the Uniform CPA exam and meet licensing requirements in the state where they wish to work. CPAs perform a wide range of accounting duties, including auditing, accounting, taxes and consulting. They may own their own firms or work for other corporations. Accountants who plan to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission must be CPAs.

Career Outlook for CPAs

All accountants are not CPAs, but all CPAs are accountants. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that accountants and auditors earned a mean annual wage of $71,040 as of May 2012. They also predicted that these professionals would see a faster-than-average employment growth between 2010 and 2020. While there are many career opportunities for an accountant, the best way to maximize his or her career is by earning and maintaining a CPA license, according to the NASBA.

What Education Do I Need to Be a CPA?

Most states require CPAs complete at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, although many schools offer both bachelor’s and master’s degree accounting programs. Many states also require at least two years experience in public accounting, according to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). Additionally, they must complete 150 semester hours of education in many states; of those hours, 30 are beyond what’s earned with the bachelor’s degree. Aspiring CPAs may not need to attend a graduate school but may need to take graduate courses in addition to earning the bachelor’s degree. The AICPA states that while there are various ways to meet the educational requirements, students obtaining a graduate education increase their chances of passing the CPA exam. The states with the 150-hour requirement do not require that CPAs have master’s degrees.

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What About Licensure?

To work as a CPA, candidates must obtain a certificate and licensure in the state in which they plan to work. This is done by passing the 4-part CPA exam through the AICPA. All four parts do not need to be passed at once, but applicants are typically required to pass all four within 18 months of passing the first part. The CPA license is the same in all states but education and work experience requirements may be different from state to state so the aspiring CPA should check with his or her state board of accountancy to learn of the state’s requirements.

If the idea of working with numbers and having a rewarding career doing so, you may want to check into becoming a CPA. This career offers various career options and the ability to showcase your talents and credentials.