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CPA Certification, will it get me a great job?

I currently hold a BS in Accounting and Finance (Dual Program) and I’m considering taking a few more accounting courses in order to meet the 150 hour CPA exam sitting requirement. However, I have no work experience as an accountant. Instead, my work experience consists of almost four years of data entry, update, analysis and reconciliation to provide compliance reports related to municipal bond issues and also Collateralized Debt Obligations. So I’m worried about investing the time and money necessary to obtain my CPA certification and then not getting hired because lack of accounting work experience. Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Answers

Gerard Benner
Title: Part TIme CFO
Company: Joyful Journey Inc
(Part TIme CFO , Joyful Journey Inc) |

Lack of experience is a common concern. There isn't anyway around it, except through it. By getting your CPA distinction, this shows a potential employer that you are disciplined and dedicated enough to persevere. Assuming the employer is proficient enough to comprehend exactly how high of an achievement passing the CPA exam truly is (otherwise you wouldn't want to work for them anyway), I believe it is worth your effort. It is a credential that depicts knowledge at one particular point in time. Then, your eventual experience will hone you in on the specific application of this knowledge as you decide the area yo want to practice. I say, "go for it".

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

A CPA credential rarely gets you a job. Rather, it gets you past any requirement that a CPA is necessary to do the job from a company's perspective.

I think your decision to invest the dollars in a CPA comes down to ... what's your long-term career goal? Would having a CPA enhance your ability to reach that goal or not?

Robert Ewalt
Title: Exam Development Manager
Company: Institute of Certified Management Accoun..
(Exam Development Manager, Institute of Certified Management Accountants) |

Let me echo Cindy's comment. Compare your academic and work experience with your mid- and long-term goals. Do you have the academic course work required for sitting for CPA (a four year accounting degree, plus some more credits. Check with your state's CPA for details)? If so, many companies will hire such people right of college, and you have related experience.

Do you like your current company, and do they like you? If so, as your boss or HR what is a career path for, and what credentials, if any, would they like you to work toward? If they don't want you to advance, then it is time to use your current skills to move someplace that will help you advance.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

Have you researched the requirements for obtaining the CPA credential in your state? Here in Oregon, it requires not only passing the exam, but meeting certain competencies, which are obtained through work experience. Most likely, you'll gain valuable work experience during the process of getting certified. As mentioned above, consider your goals, and then also the experience you'll be able to get in the next few years as you become certified, and determine if it's the right path for you.

Jim Schwartz
Title: Corporate financial advisor
Company: Wabash Financial Strategies
(Corporate financial advisor, Wabash Financial Strategies) |

I did not have an accounting degree but, a few years after completing an MBA in finance, took several additional courses and passed the CPA exam. That was years ago. I have never held an accounting job and, under the rules, cannot hold myself out as a CPA.

Passing the exam is the first step. Becoming certified to practice as a CPA often requires working in an accounting/tax/audit capacity. Many/most states also have ongoing continuing professional education requirements to maintain your license.

Are there interesting roles at your current company that require a CPA? Is your company willing to pay some/all of the costs you will incur to pursue the certificate? The CPA might help you get hired now if you apply at an accounting firm or if someone is impressed the industriousness you demonstrated to get the credential. Otherwise, it may be hard to see an immediate benefit. Job specifications for more senior roles, such as a CFO, sometimes have a CPA requirement. Although one might argue about the necessity of that requirement, having your CPA eliminates the issue as a potential hiring hurdle.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

Getting your CPA is a lot like getting an MBA, except more narrow. There are very few doors that a CPA will not open with in the Accounting and Finance world (very few it will open outside of that area); however, just as getting an MBA it does not guarantee you any job, much less a "great" one. It just makes it more likely that your resume does not get "round filed" before they talk to you.

Sounds like you are fairly early on in your career. If you are really considering accounting as a long-term career path I highly recommend spending 3-4 years+ in public accounting with a top 10 firm (Big 4 is best). Time in public accounting will help fast-track your career and improve your pay and open even more doors. Plus most firms will pay for your review programs and the 4 exams (usually only the first time you take each one).

Most states today require 1000+ hours of accounting experience reporting to a CPA that certifies your experience. Also, they usually require education almost equivalent to a masters degree (might as well get the full degree while you are taking the classes). Unless you plan to be pure accounting I recommend you pursue course work that will lead to a MBA (much more versatile in the future); even most accountants think people who pick up their MSA are a bit odd. The requirements to sit for the CPA exam is just a BA, and it is best to get the exam out of the way as quickly as possible (once you pass it you don't have to retake it). But it is a serious investment of time and money. Very few people pass the CPA exam without completing a review program and likely the best one out there is Becker, but the cost is in the $3-4K range; time wise, expect to study for 120 to 160 hours per exam. Each test costs a couple hundred dollars to take, each time you take it, and most people have to retake at least 2-3 of the 4 exams at least once (total about $4-6K and 700-1000 hours of study time, or more if you fail more). All 4 exams must be successfully completed within 18 months of each other.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

And passing these extremely difficult tests does not prove you are able to apply the information in a public accounting setting and needless to say that it doesn't mean that you are immediately qualified for either a Controller-ship/Treasurer or a CFO position.

You will still need to "prove" that you have done and can do the job.

Anonymous
(Analytics Specialist - CDO) |

You are correct, I am very early in my career and trying to figure out a career path. That's a lot of great career advise you've given me (also others will benefit here) and information that I did not know and will use to make my decision. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question

Anonymous
(Controller) |

Most people with CPAs still take 5+ years to become a Controller and 5+ years from Controller to CFO. The CPA designation just means you have some drive and basic understanding of accounting principles. Until you are in industry you will not have proven yourself as an accountant. While time in a public practice is valued experience (and often highly desirable at senior levels) it is a far cry from industry experience and proof of your ability.

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