Becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) is a great career to pursue and is well-praised in the world of finance. There are many benefits for accountants who become licensed CPA’s. Let’s get the easy one out of the way, yes, you will make more money as a licensed CPA. But don’t discount the numerous opportunities offered to CPAs along with the increased job security of a respected position. The list continues with improved benefits, incentives, and job flexibility.
Now, you want to know the steps involved in pursuing this promising career path.
Since every state has its own set of rules to become a CPA, make sure to check your states requirements. If you plan on getting your CPA in Wisconsin, take a look below at the steps you will need to take.
Get your education
Your first requirement is to have 150 semester hours of college credit and at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree. Most bachelor’s degrees in accounting consist of 120 credit hours. Therefore, many people earn a master’s degree or a post-baccalaureate certificate to gain the additional required 30 credits. However, business law and income taxation courses from an accredited bachelor program are required. Having knowledge in both those topics is helpful as a CPA.
According to the Wisconsin State Department of Regulation and Licensing, they will approve all accounting degrees that were earned through colleges and universities located anywhere in the country that have accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Take the CPA exam
After completing only 120 of the 150 required credit hours, applying for the CPA exam is the next step. Applying as soon as you have the courses completed will be important. It will pay off in the long run so that you don’t waste time taking the exam later. The benefit of becoming a CPA in WI is that students can take the exam 30 days before graduating. This saves you time and gives you the freedom to not worry about the exam after graduation.
You can apply through the National Association of State Boards of Accounting and send in all of the required documents. After a few weeks of processing, you then will be able to register for a date to take the exam. This exam comes at a cost, so a tip when registering is not to register for all four sections at the same time. It will end up costing less in the long run. If you end up needing to re-register for a new date to take the exam it will cost you less if you are only registered for one section rather than all four.
Most importantly, make sure you are prepared for the exam. Start by taking a practice exam to see where you would score. Based on that initial score create a study plan and don’t push it off.
Gain the necessary experience
Congratulations, you’re a certified CPA! But you’re not satisfied yet, you want that full license don’t you? Well, after becoming CPA certified, Wisconsin requires 1-year or 2,000 hours of paid public accounting experience. You will not be able to receive a license until you have the required experience. Before searching for your experience make sure to look at the boards’ qualified experience criteria. Also pay attention to the equivalents and jobs that are not viable for accounting. It would be devastating to find out after a few months that your hard work doesn’t qualify.
Some common experiences that people do take are accounting positions in industry and government. Any positions titled accounting, auditing, or financial analyst are common. But a bank teller, restaurant manager, or cash register clerk are not equivalent experiences to public accounting.
Get your CPA license
You’re in the final stretch. To get your CPA license, you must mail all required documentation to the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing. It will take 4-6 weeks for your documentation to be processed and approved. Then you will complete a 50-question, untimed ethics exam. This exam is taken online and there is a textbook available for preparation. The ethics exam will test your ethical principles and knowledge that are needed for a professional career. After this exam, all of your hard work has paid off. You are not a certified public accountant!
Yes, there is more school in your future. This is not a requirement by the state of Wisconsin, but many CPAs will elect to join the Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants (WICPA) to keep their license intact.
It’s important to stay up to date on information and continuing education because you will need to renew your CPA license once every other year. Be sure to always continue your education and further your accounting knowledge to continue renewing your license. Concordia offers an MBA program for accounting which is a great option to continue your education and increase your level of influence and expertise at your company.
Accounting programs at Concordia
It can be overwhelming when searching for an accounting program, but Concordia makes it easy by having it all in one place. Each of these programs meets the requirements of the state of Wisconsin to take the CPA exam.
- Traditional bachelor’s degree in accounting
- Accelerated online bachelor’s degree in accounting
- MBA in Accounting
- Master of Science in Accountancy
Whether you are looking to get your bachelor’s, or master, or continue your education in accounting, at Concordia you can do it all. Our new Master of Science in Accountancy program offers a CPA exam review in the curriculum which further prepares students for their future as an accountant.