Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) could be an ideal career path if you are drawn to numbers, processes, and finances. Accountants play a crucial role in business, utilizing their skills to manage and interpret financial data, helping organizations make informed decisions and maintain financial health.
What is accountancy?
Accountancy is the study of accounting, a system of analyzing, recording, summarizing, and reporting the results of a business’s financial activities. Accounting is known as ‘the language of business,’ it is the method by which financial information is shared with internal and external users where decisions are made.
Internal users use information to decide how to run the business. In contrast, external users can use data to determine whether to invest in or lend funds to the company.
Why are CPAs important?
Accountants are essential because many people rely on financial information. We need competent accountants to ensure that financial information is reliable and truthful. Without a system for recording and reporting the activities of the business (accounting) or without competent accountants, we make decisions based on unreliable data. Here are some examples of stakeholders that rely on accounting information:
- Managers: use the information to manage business operations.
- Production managers might use accounting information to determine how to produce their products at a lower cost.
- Human resource managers might use accounting information to develop compensation strategies.
- Marketing managers might use accounting information to set prices in order to achieve sales targets.
- Directors: use the information to provide general oversight and direction about using business resources.
- Creditors: use the information to determine if the company can repay funds.
- Investors: use information to determine the business’s worth and the investment’s value.
- Government Agencies: use the information to determine if the company follows applicable laws and regulations.
What are some pros and cons of becoming a CPA?
Becoming a CPA is a significant step in an accountant’s career, and it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Here are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of being a CPA:
- Stability: Accounting is not a profession going away anytime soon. Every business needs accountants. CPAs will be needed as long as companies continue to exist.
- Diverse Career Paths: CPAs can choose from various career paths within the accounting field, including public accounting, corporate finance, government accounting, forensic accounting, and more.
- High Wages: CPAs typically earn higher salaries than non-CPA accountants because of their specialized knowledge and the trust associated with the certification.
- Rigorous Certification Process: Earning a CPA license is challenging and time-consuming. It typically involves meeting educational requirements, passing exams, and gaining relevant work experience, which can be demanding.
- Work-Life Balance: The demands of maintaining a CPA license, especially in public accounting firms during busy seasons, can make it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. CPAs should expect long hours and tight deadlines.
- Liability and Legal Obligations: CPAs are legally and financially responsible for errors or misconduct in their work. This potential liability adds a layer of stress and responsibility to the job.
In summary, becoming a CPA can lead to higher earning potential and increased career opportunities, but it comes with a demanding certification process and ethical responsibilities. Whether becoming a CPA is worth it depends on your career goals and personal preferences. It’s a significant commitment that can offer substantial benefits in the long run.
All About CPAs
CPAs have earned a highly respected accounting certification and are licensed to provide various accounting, financial, and tax-related services. They play a crucial role in the financial world and have a diverse set of responsibilities, including but not limited to the following:
- Financial Reporting: CPAs can be responsible for preparing, analyzing, and auditing financial statements. They provide reasonable assurance that these statements are materially accurate, in compliance with accounting standards, and faithfully represent an organization’s financial position.
- Taxation: CPAs are often involved in tax planning and compliance. They help individuals and businesses minimize their tax liabilities while ensuring they comply with tax laws. CPAs can also represent clients in tax audits and disputes.
- Audit and Assurance: CPAs conduct audits of financial statements to assure stakeholders, including investors and regulators, that the financial information is reliable and free from material misstatements.
- Financial Advisory: Many CPAs work in advisory roles, offering financial consulting services to individuals and organizations. They guide investment decisions, financial planning, and wealth management.
CPAs are bound by a strict code of ethics and are expected to maintain the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. They may work in various sectors, including public accounting firms, corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and as independent consultants. Their roles and responsibilities may vary based on their area of specialization and the industry in which they work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for an accountant is $78,000. Salary does depend on experience, location, and specialization.
How to become a CPA
Becoming a CPA involves a well-defined process that includes education, passing the Uniform CPA Examination, obtaining relevant work experience, and meeting specific state licensing requirements. Here are the general steps to becoming a CPA:
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree: You must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. While most states require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, some accept degrees in other disciplines.
- Confirm Your State’s Requirements: Each state has its own CPA licensing requirements. You must meet your state’s specific education and other eligibility criteria.
- Prepare for and pass the CPA exam: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) administers the exam. You can register and schedule your exams through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).
- Gain experience: Most states require candidates to complete a specific amount of professional work experience, typically under the supervision of a licensed CPA.
- Apply for a CPA license: Once you’ve met your state’s examination, education, and experience requirements, you can apply for your CPA license through your state’s Board of Accountancy.
Because CPAs are licensed by their state, each state has slightly different rules for licensure. Make sure to check the requirements in their state. The AICPA also has good resources for those just learning about the requirements.
Are CPAs in high demand? Why?
Yes! CPAs are typically in high demand due to their specialized skills and expertise in accounting and finance. The need for CPAs can vary depending on several factors, including geographic location, the state of the economy, and industry trends.
One significant reason for the consistently high demand for CPAs is regulatory requirements. Many businesses are mandated by law to have their financial statements and records audited by CPAs. This legal requirement ensures that companies adhere to accounting and financial reporting standards, contributing to the need for CPAs.
Recruiters at Robert Half International report that:
- Many public accounting firms are short-staffed, so employees’ workloads have significantly ramped up, putting them at risk of burnout and firms at risk of turnover.
- Public accounting is experiencing a severe staffing crunch. To help address it, many firms are recruiting accounting students early in their college careers and even upping the starting salary.
- Firms are frequently offering sign-on bonuses to attract more experienced candidates.
Lastly, as experienced CPAs retire, there is a need for new professionals to fill their roles, making succession planning a critical factor in the demand for CPAs. This creates demand for entry-level and experienced CPAs, ensuring the profession remains in high demand.
What makes Concordia’s Master’s in Accountancy program unique?
Concordia’s Master’s in Accountancy program offers the opportunity to earn a graduate degree in accounting and sit for the CPA exam. While geared towards students wishing to pursue CPA licensure, it provides an appropriate mix of practice and theory needed for any career in accounting.
Our program is aligned with the AICPA CPA evolution (new CPA exam standards). Also, we incorporate the CPA exam reviews into the courses. Students will also select a concentration area that will align with their chosen elective portion of the CPA exam. Within these concentrations, students will deepen their expertise in the area that best aligns with their professional interests. The concentrations include:
- Business Analysis and Reporting
- Information Systems & Controls
- Tax Compliance & Planning
Additionally, the program is flexible and geared toward preparing our students to be successful in the profession. The curriculum incorporates top skills employers seek, including a focus on ethics, advanced Excel, data analytics, and a strong foundation in accounting knowledge. Most importantly, we are here for our students every step of the way to help them achieve their goals.
How is Concordia University unique?
Concordia is a Lutheran Christian school that integrates those Christian values with our programs. In this model, students acquire knowledge and skills in liberal arts disciplines that prepare them to serve Christ in the Church and the world. We bring a holistic approach to every class we offer our students.
We challenge our students academically and allow them to grow spiritually with us in ways they may not find at other universities. Concordia is a community whose calling is to ensure student success and well-being.
How long does it typically take to complete the degree?
The average time to complete the program is 18 to 24 months. Although, it can be done in as little as 12 months if taking two courses simultaneously.
What format is offered? How long are the classes?
Our Master’s in Accountancy program is offered entirely online in a collaborative format. Classes are six to eight weeks each. The online structure is very flexible but requires discipline and organization to set up a schedule to complete coursework on time.
Who are the faculty in the program? Will students have regular communication with them?
The primary faculty in this program are Dr. Amber Gray and Dr. Julie Dilling. Both are CPAs and started their careers in public accounting. Additionally, they both have corporate accounting experience. They love interacting with their students, advising them on career paths, and guiding them toward success.
How much does the program cost?
This program is $650 per credit hour and consists of 30 credits.
Are there scholarships available?
Yes! We have Uncommon Scholarships available for many qualified students. Our available scholarships include the following:
- Business Community Scholarship: If you are an employee of one of our corporate partners, you may qualify for this scholarship.
- Academic Community Scholarship: If you are an employee of one of our Preferred Education Partner schools or districts, you may qualify for this scholarship.
- Christian Community Scholarship: If you are an employee of any qualifying Christian church or Christian K-12 school, you may qualify for this scholarship.
- Alumni Scholarship: If you graduate from one of Concordia University System school programs, you may qualify for this scholarship.
- Veterans and Dependents Scholarship: If you are a veteran, the spouse of a veteran, or a child of a veteran(age 17-26), you may qualify for this veteran scholarship when federal veteran education benefits are exhausted or unavailable to you.
When funding your education, talk with your employer to see if they will be willing to pay a portion of your tuition. There may be funds, scholarships, or benefits their companies may offer.
- Bachelor’s degree in accounting or a business-related field
- Students who do not wish to pursue the CPA exam or don’t meet the entrance requirements for the MSA may wish to pursue the MBA with a concentration in accounting.
- Cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher
- Apply Online
- One-page essay
- Describe your reason for obtaining a graduate degree.
- Resume of your education and employment experience
- Two signed letters of recommendation
- All official transcripts leading to your bachelor’s degree
Ready to jump in?
Whether you are ready or have more questions about becoming an accountant, we’re here to help.