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CPA License Experience - Corporate Accounting/Finance

I am currently working as a staff accountant for a publically traded corporation. I would like to stay in corporate accounting/ finance and eventually work my way up. I have taken a look job descriptions for finance managers, controllers, etc. just out of curiosity (not yet qualified.) Most of them say CPA preferred. I have been thinking about going back to school to get my CPA, MBA or both. How does the experience requirement work for those who do not work in public accounting? Is it worth it to get your CPA if you want to work in industry and never practice as a CPA? I live in Illinois. I need a few more classes worth of credit hours. My plan would be to start a masters degree program, take 2 classes, then put the MBA on hold and start working towards the CPA. Then, slowly work towards the MBA after the CPA. I just don't know if its feasible to get my CPA while working 50 hours a week. It may be more realistic for me to just start a Saturday MBA program. Any advice would be appreciated.


Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

Both are considered a "floor" for most finance positions, at least for roles that have upward mobility. Start with the CPA and during this time, take the GMAT and explore MBA schools. Pick a school that is highly respected and get your company to pay for it.

Topic Expert
Karoline Mello
Title: Director, FP&A
Company: Apollo Group
(Director, FP&A, Apollo Group) |

Whoa! Your MBA may benefit your CPA studies more than you think. The rules are state specific, some states take your MBA in lieu of public accounting hours. Also – if you target an MBA in accounting, or an MS in Finance, you will be preparing to sit for the exam at the same time you complete a degree. You did not mention if you have an undergrad in accounting or finance, both things to consider in order to complete the education requirements.

First look up your state specific requirements here:
Click on your state. For example, Colorado is one of the states that will use your graduate education towards meeting the requirements.

Second, see if there is a local AICPA chapter in your area, or a meetup group. Talk to your local CPAs. Get a mentor.

Lastly, I think you should aspire to both. Be sure you compare lots of options for your MBA education. Accreditation, cost, and reputation are far more important for the school on your resume, than the convenience.

My employee completed his MBA, took a review course at Becker in order to prepare to sit for the CPA exam, and just passed the exam! Total time was 5 years. I am very proud of him. When he was discouraged, or not sure he would ever be a CPA, I would tell him once you get your masters degree - no one can ever take that away from you. And once you acheive your CPA, as long as you meet the ongoing CPE and ethics requirements, you will have acheived something rare and amazing that will benefit you for a life time.

You are just beginning this road. Best of luck!


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