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Why become a CPA?


"Do you need to be a CPA or other certification to be a Financial Leader?"

This question was asked at a recent webinar, now available on-demand:

"What is Financial Leadership?"

Please add your thoughts about it below. Thanks!


C.S. Bud Kulesza, ‘The Man of Many Hats’, Kulesza & Associates responded:

"NO!  However don’t be misled by my answer. Letters after your name don’t make you who you are. They attest to a core knowledge that you possess however it remains up to you to be able to apply that knowledge effectively.   From personal experience, studying for a certification actually increases you knowledge long before you pass the exam and gain the credential.  An effective Financial Leader possesses the knowledge and more importantly applies it effectively.  Again it is NOT the letters after the name it is the knowledge applied. That said, certification remains one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from your peers. I highly recommend it!"


Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

When I hire, I do look for the CPA title (even though I don't have one). Other certs as well are valuable. To be a leader, you need to get into a leadership position, and so it helps significantly.

Beyond that, these are all helpful because of the programmatic nature of the Certs. It is not unlike going to college. You learn stuff; rules, process, team management.... It is good training, and the life-learning approach means that you keep up to date. So yes, beyond the letters on the resume, it has real value.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I respectfully disagree. Letters after your name means that you are a good test taker. Yes, you may have studied long and hard and yes one can appreciate the time and effort it took to take some of those tests.

Leadership is NOT about letters. Leadership is about having a vision, communicating that vision, getting buy-in to that vision and having that vision executed. Even a vision that is fraught with errors and fails may be led by a real Leader.

But letters after your name; that's all it means. As C.S. Bud Kuleza stated "... it remains up to you to be able to apply that knowledge effectively."

Book knowledge is just that, book knowledge. Apply that knowledge, show me what you've done with your education (and every year we're out of the education zone it becomes less current and we remember less).

Here's a perfect example. I can read from now to doomsday how to ride a bicycle. I can understand the physics, the physical agility needed to ride that bicycle. But until I have applied that knowledge in a real life scenario, I am clue less that my mind doesn't work my body automatically. It takes time and effort doing, not studying and applying those new skills in a real life event, not a simulator (no matter how good they are).

Now let the years pass and get on a bicycle. You may be rusty for the first 30 minutes, but you're back in the saddle confidently after that. Can't say that with book knowledge.

The other aspect is that every association now has certification programs. Many areas have multiple associations and different certification programs. These programs are there for one reason and one reason only, revenue streams.

Some are honest attempts, others are dishonest in either execution, knowledge base or chicanery (I remember taking the Novell test and could not believe the questions - had nothing to do with the certification. The test was built for you to flunk a few times until you wised up.

Do I look at letters after one's name. Sure, Why?. Too many letters and I get worried. The wrong letters and I question why are you here? No letters, I just skip to the real issue, WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE! And I want to see it without buzz words (like I'd like to see a political debate without the obtuse answers).

For those of you that have worked with real leaders, be they be in business, or the military; did you really care about the letters after their name?

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

"I didn't want to go back to college to get a job description, I went back into business." - Paul Hawkin, Growing a Business

(Tax/Business Consultant) |

I concur with @Wayne Spivak and also respectfully disagree!

What are "titles" after one's name? Titles, that's all!
What does having a "title" TRULY mean?
That are Lots of people who are good test takers or who excel in educational studies.

How is having a "title" even related to being a "leader"? It doesn't!
How is having a "title" related to "Competency"? It doesn't!
Define "leader"!

You can earn lots of "titles" like "Masters of..." or "PhD of..." or "MBA", etc...
but just because you have lots of "titles" really does NOT mean much.

The MOST important factor is this... it's not how many titles or education one has, but how one USES it!

Look at the financial crisis... many of it were caused by business people with backgrounds in finance, had MBAs and... CPAs!
You'd think people like that would "know better" due to their "titles" and "education" but you'd be wrong!

Unfortunately, the world in general., especially the business world, Mistakenly places a Huge emphasis on "titles"...
"Oh, wow! You have a MBA! You're a CPA!"

Here's a FACT:
Being a CPA means 1 thing ONLY... PASSING the CPA exam!
Don't listen to any CPA that says otherwise as that's their EGO talking!

An "accountant" can "adopt" all the other things like the ethical standards and professional standards that all the state CPA and national CPA society has posted for its members Without being a CPA.

Is anyone aware that... the CPA societies and fellow CPAs DISCRIMINATE against their own members/accountants who have NOT passed the CPA exam... "
"Oh, you've been an accountant for "X" years and not a CPA?!" .. Tsk, tsk!

Here's a scenario based on many true life instances:
You are hiring someone for a tax role...
a. A kid fresh out of school with ~2 years of limited working tax experience and passed the CPA exam
b. An experienced accountant of ~15+yrs working in the tax field

Who do you think will get hired?
Hint: Look at the person's "years" and the "title"
Another Hint: "TITLE"

Sad thing is... age discrimination Is also present!

Side notes:
CPAs DO make fun of Enrolled Agents, many of whom ARE accountants.

If you do NOT do financial statements or (financial) audits, why does one "need" to be a CPA, esp. if you do taxes? Being an EA is fine, but don't tell that to CPAs!

If one has Lots of "titles", you really have to think or ask... why do you have so many titles? Have you Not been working but studying for most of your life?

When I work with business people, I do NOT Care about "titles".
Rather, I CARE about their Experience, their COMPETENCY!

Unfortunately, the general population and business community do not think that way!

There's lots of people with titles but not enough people with competency and humbleness!

Ross Anderson, CPA, MBA
Title: Controller
Company: TFS Capital
(Controller, TFS Capital) |

I respectfully disagree. The CPA exam is intense and typically takes a year of hard studying, it takes one or two years of experience under a CPA, and it takes an extra 30 hours beyond the 120 for a bachelors of education, typically in accounting topics. Getting certified is a testament towards persistence, ambition and competence. I do know people that have done well without it, but having it helps set you apart.

Brenda Miller
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: MSK Enterprises Inc
(Accounting Manager, MSK Enterprises Inc) |

Interesting what you are stating here - have you all looked at the Accounting level positions? You state a CPA Title is not required, yet most of you look for it. I am almost complete with my Bachelors in Accounting and have 15+ years of experience, and when I look at jobs to apply for, often a CPA is a requirement. So if it's mostly about experience, how do you get a foot in the door without the "CPA" behind your name?

Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Coach K has famously said (if I can remember it word for word)......

"I'd rather have 2 star recruits with 5 star work ethics than 5 star recruits with 2 star work ethics".

Same thing with work personnel.

David Rau
Title: CFO
Company: Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW
(CFO, Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW) |

Do you NEED a CPA, no. Is it highly preferable, yes. That is all that NEEDS to be said.

(Independent Consultant) |

Last time I went to a doctor, I made sure they had a MD behind their name (and actually feel better when they are a specialist in what I am seeing them for and they have more letters behind their name!). The last time I had a trust set-up for my family, I made sure the lawyer had a JD behind his name. When I go to buy beef, at the grocery store, I check to make sure it has lettters behind its name (USDA inspected).

Do all of these letters GUARANTEE I will get good medical, legal, or BBQ treatment? Of course not. But not having them, is not a guarantee either. Most of my work experience has been at $1B+ companies and almost none of the CFOs were CPAs; however, there is only one big-boss and there are many more VP, Director, and Manager folks reporting to that CFO and for some of the specialties a CPA or other certification is a desirable and value-added thing (just think of it this way - businesses don't want to pay for things they don't have to - but the market has basically said that having a CPA license is worth more than not having one). If there was no value, the market would correct for this (unless you don't believe in the efficiency of markets).

Also, remember the first letters we all get behind our name is that of B.S., or B.A., A.A., etc - don't throw the baby out with the bath water and say that getting a CPA just means you are good at taking tests. If you apply the same rationale, then there is no real value to 4 years of business school. If you are so committed to this line-of-thinking, then hire your next finance leader out of H.S. because he is a good public speaker, leader, and perhaps even visionary.

I agree that experience trumps education and credentials - but it is a false choice. Get both. When you go to a doctor for a serious medical issue, do you want the MD who graduated 40 years ago and still accepts pies and pigs as payment from patients, or do you maybe want the recently minted Stanford medical specialist/doctor who is up on all the latest treatment options. I had a friend recently in this situation, and I can tell you none of the doctors involved in her care were over 40 years of age.

See you at the BBQ. If the meat isn't good, see you at the witchdoctor. If that doesn't work out, I know a guy who watches a lot of legal shows on TV and he can help you sue.

(Tax/Business Consultant) |

"... but the market has basically said that having a CPA license is worth more than not having one). If there was no value, the market would correct for this (unless you don't believe in the efficiency of markets)."

Not necessarily true!

That's like saying that the market says that All businesses should Only hire people with a MBA.
Anyone who's worked with an MBA will know that it really depends... on the person!
The initials after one's name... just that... Initials!

Does the "market" TRULY know what "initials" are worth? HECK NO!
Look at what happened during the financial crisis and before!
Many of them were caused by people in finance and many had MBAs!

Having a "title" does NOT "guarantee" that the person is COMPETENT!

If you ONLY think that the "Market" or people think that "having" a title is what "makes" a person, then Heaven help us all!

David Buley
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Association of Independent Schools of NS..
(Chief Financial Officer, Association of Independent Schools of NSW) |

As someone who has done my fair share of continuing professional development in an industry that changes so much and so often, where its essential to keep sharpening the saw, I'm a little disappointed that my colleagues think so little of anyone that undertakes any form of additional study to improve their knowledge. Implying that all it means is a person is 'good at taking tests...thats all' while obviously disparaging, ignores the fact someone has applied themselves for hundreds of hours to a task they consider worth sticking at, for a goal that they think is worthwhile. I acknowledge that leadership comes in many forms but surely someone who displays vision, and a tenacity to see that vision through is the essence of leadership and worthy of more consideration than a throwaway line like 'meh, so what...ya passed a test, I'd rather hire this unqualified guy over here'. For every job all you can do is hire the best person you can find, at the time you're looking. If two people are otherwise identical in acumen, leadershop potential, and 'fit', but one has a specialty denoted by post-nominals - I bet most people would choose the person who has demonstrated passion for their chosen vocation. I think its sad when people tell me they finished their university degree at 22 and they 'are done studying for life'. What a waste of a brain! I encourage all my staff to continue learning and we celebrate their educational achievements. On the plus side, I get a company that is always learning, staff that are willing to discuss new ideas and experiment with innovative solutions, apply technology disruptively across industries, and approach problem solving from multiple perspectives. Our clients respect the fact that we employ people that know what they are talking about...we walk the talk. Albert Einstein famously said “Once you stop learning, you start dying”.

The suggestion made earlier that just because someone has been studying (for which they were awarded accreditation) implying they haven't been working or getting real experience is just ridiculous. The sneering use of the words 'titles' and 'letters' to denigrate anyone who has undertaken structured study is just petty and small minded.

(Independent Consultant) |

Very well said.

I learned early on in my career (and I've actually been a corporate trainer), that the only thing worse than training your people and having them leave your organization (which could be an argument for not incurring the expense to train them) is not training them and have them stay.

All reputable studies show a direct correlation exists between those organizations that value learning (in all forms, OJT, even credentials!) and their profitability (improved processes, products, employee retention, etc).

I too was disappointed by the disparaging comments - given the letters after my name (I have an active CPA and an MBA) you may need to discount my input though per the general sentiment on this discussion board. I have to get back to my CPE in addition to my regular work - I'm taking a class on the new revenue standard. I'm sure that will just manage itself for most organizations (insert sarcasm here), but where I consult, people are very interested in it.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Why does studying and learning need to be tied to some official agenda. I find that thinking rigid and unbending.

Learning isn't about getting certificates and titles and letters, its about learning. Learning doesn't stop and start in a classroom (either virtual or real). It's about reading, talking, experiencing differing points of view, different real-live experiences, it is in essence Proformative; especially this forum. It's not about test taking.

Are we so small that we need to parade around like a peacock strutting our newly minted certificates to show everyone how smart or learned we are?

Are we so monomorphic that we can not see the forest through the trees or the trees through the forest.

I think not and I certainly for one know what I know and what I don't.

I met with the Global CFO of a London based company with subsidiaries and real offices in Europe, ANZPAC and the US. Funny how she didn't even have an accounting degree. She was no pushover either.

If we become an industry of clones we become the stereotype of the typical accountant portrayed so well by Gene Wilder in the Producers.

I can't believe that we are all clones, stagnant in our approach and myopic in view.

We are as diverse as we let ourselves be; and we're better for it.

(Tax/Business Consultant) |

"I'm a little disappointed that my colleagues think so little of anyone that undertakes any form of additional study to improve their knowledge."

Maybe there's some confusion in the comments.

The issue is whether or not having a title, CPA, means more than Not having one.

MANY people, especially the CPA world and business world, "prefer" someone with a "title" like CPA or MBA because it means that those people either earned a title, MBA, or passed some difficult exam, CPA.

The Problem is the ATTITUDE and sheer IGNORANCE of people to ASS-UME that those people with a "title" is Better than those without one.

Maybe in this modern era that "titles" mean something more.

Businesses have been built and run by people WITHOUT such titles or even much education. Those businesses owners are smart enough to built their business and to hire those that Are knowledgeable to help their businesses grow.

Are you a CPA?
If so, have you ever, truly "noticed" how CPAs treat [NON-Certified] accountants as "lower" than them? DO pay attention!
Many accountants in private industries do let their CPA go because... it's really NOT NEEDED in private industry!
The problem is that CPAs and the AICPA and state societies have drummed it into the general public that ALL Competent accountants ARE CPAs and SHOULD be CPAs!

Enrolled Agents.. who the Heck are they? Nobodies!
Accountants... too lazy or too stupid to PASS the exam!

FYI... Being a CPA means 1 thing... passing the CPA exam!

If you DON'T understand it now, then that's your issue!

MBA... how many times have people [You know who you are!] have to CORRECT things that MBAs have done! You'd think that MBAs would be Competent!

Can someone explain how:
MBA = Competency?
ONLY being a CPA = competent?

Do you know that NOT all CPAs are the same?
NOT ALL CPAs study the SAME career paths?
Would you trust a Payroll person to audit?
Would you trust an Auditor to do your taxes?
There are specialties in the accounting world!

People DO learn... continuing education or advanced degrees like a Masters or PhD.
Does it make one BETTER than those WITHOUT one? HECK NO!

Have I seen CPAs disparage NON-Certified accountants or Enrolled Agents [some of whom are accountants]? HECK YES!!

Sheer arrogance to say that having a CPA means one is Better than those without it! Same can be said about those having a MBA is Better than those without one!

All sorts of people learn and learn differently.

It does Not mean they NEED "initials" after their names to show that they are BETTER than those without it as that's is sheer Arrogance and your EGO talking!

It may help those with "initials" after their names and, Quite Unfortunately, THAT is how the world IS! Those without much "certifications" are looked down upon, regardless of how much "work experience" one has.

It's NO wonder that many businesses like accounting firms are having difficulty finding good, not just competent, workers!

Instead of focusing finding the "ideal" job candidate esp. one with a "title", try focusing on finding a "competent" candidate!


(Independent Consultant) |

I agree. Everyone should just take my word for it. I know what I know. Trust me.

It's funny how when we discuss other industries or skills, we would never consider going to an unlicensed shop. Getting your house remodeled - do you really go to unlicensed and unregulated contractors? Getting a surgery for your spouse, a good referral is good enough for me - the surgeon doesn't have to be licensed or even have passed all those pesky tests? I take the van that my kids ride in to a guy down the street to do the brakes - he's been doing it for years - what could go wrong?

This is the most ridiculous anti-intellectual argument that I've ever heard. I am not saying everyone needs or would even benefit from a CPA for many positions in industry, but the opposite is also not true - not having one is in now way a certification that you know any more than someone else.

Just because someone has worked in many companies, over many years, and had many experiences doesn't attest to anything at the end of the day. My car spends every night in the garage of my house. If I were to sleep in the garage, it wouldn't make me a car, as much as being in business doesn't make someone an expert in business.

I wish there was some non-abstract, quantitative method or measure that we could use to figure out what people know - hmmm? maybe that is actually a college degree? Maybe that is a certificate or license? I much prefer the just trust me, I know what I know approach - but I'm still saving for my children's college and graduate schools studies as I think education will still pay off down the road.

As to parading out our credentials and strutting like a peacock, the college I went to 30 years ago accepts 1 applicant out of 100 into its business program, and is ranked in the Top 10 in the US. Should I not put that I went to this school on my resume' because it might make other people who didn't go to this school feel bad? Am I just bragging on my resume? I put that I have an MBA and a CPA also. Is that bragging - or just a statement of the facts. I have gotten hired for every job I have based on how the interview goes - either they like what I have done and what I can do for them, or they don't. A license might help me get my foot in the door for an interview, but it doesn't guarantee a job - only I can do that through my answers to interview questions. I'm also in agreement with you that education takes many forms and diversity is needed - I don't think there is any risk of all finance people looking the same.

I also find it humorous that on your LinkedIn profile you list 12 credentials - physician heal thyself.

Sorry for being so myopic; I went to a guy down the street who does eye exams in his garage - he had a shiny machine and knew lots of big eye words.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Assuming that credentials and proper answers to interview questions are the end all, be all of job offers is short sighted. There are many other factors involved. Many that we don't like to discuss in polite company.

Forgive me if I'm cynical but, look at where I work. And before that, I worked in private industry and dealt with the same realities but on a less Orwellian scale.

I've been hired many times myself. And passed over many more. I've hired others on many occasions. And passed on hundreds of applicants for each hire I made. I've had to fire a few times as well. But never in government. Or in private industry for that matter if the employee was in a protected class.

It's those items we don't like to discuss, the PC programs, the connections (don't we encourage "networking" right here on this forum? - which is just shorthand for it's "Who you know and who you blow") the politically correct hiring programs, the innate but not often acknowledged biases that we all carry, that weigh as much on hiring and promotion decisions as any other "qualifications". Maybe if we had more open discussions about those, we would be driving for a broader, more open and less definitive hiring process.

David Buley
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Association of Independent Schools of NS..
(Chief Financial Officer, Association of Independent Schools of NSW) |

To: Anonymous (Tax/Business Consultant)

Must be hard to walk with that giant chip on your shoulder....

(Tax/Business Consultant) |

"Must be hard to walk with that giant chip on your shoulder...."

Must be hard to be insufferable and egotistic and narrow minded.
Careful, but your arrogance and EGO is showing!

Known many business owners who don't have a business degree and they've done well compared to people with business 'titles'.

It's people like you who makes work and life difficult, always Judging others by their titles instead of their Competency. Maybe the ones with a 'chip on their shoulder' have it because of dealing with close minded people like yourself!

Dan Kardatzke
Title: CFO
Company: Solstice Mobile
(CFO, Solstice Mobile) |

I clicked on the link for this thread due to sheer curiosity on how the comments would flow and I have to say it doesn't surprise me, nor should it even be a thread as most of you have supported with your comments.

The simple answer is No, it's not necessary and you can point to many successful Financial Leaders that do not have a CPA or MBA. It is truly all about your experiences along the way. Do I agree they help, probably, but I don't have either one and I don't compare myself to other colleagues who have them, just to the path I've taken along the way to be successful based on my unique experiences which is really what you should focus on to continue learning in the real world every day.

(Tax/Business Consultant) |


If only there were More people who appears to be open minded in the world esp. the business world.

All the education in the world doesn't mean anything except what you do with it and it doesn't help one with a negative attitude/personality.

Kate West
Title: President
Company: The C Corps, LLC
(President, The C Corps, LLC) |

I am not a CPA, nor do I have an MBA. I do have just over 20 years of experience working my way from entry-level up through the ranks. Fourteen years ago, I sat for the CMA exam and failed. With all the years of experience from then until now [plus over 120 hours of dedicated study time], I recently passed the CMA exam. I took on this goal for two reasons: first, to prove to myself that I could do it; and second, to prove to others that I really do have the knowledge, skills, expertise, etc. that I indicate on my resume.

Hearing an accounting recruiter tell me a couple of years ago that without a certification I'd never make CFO level was painful: I felt like I had earned. With the newly earned CMA letters behind my name, maybe others will think I've earned it now?

(Chief Executive Officer) |

I also need to know

(Tax/Business Consultant) |


Even see how CPAs act/behave towards non-certified accountants? It's NOT pretty!

If you want to stay in public accounting and do financials/audit, then a CPA is a must. Otherwise, it's Not "necessary".

Ever meet any accountants in private industry that don't have a CPA or gave it up as it's NOT 'necesssary' to have a CPA outside of public accounting, hence certified 'public accountant'? It's actually quite COMMON!

Having a CPA "title" does open up More opportunities for CPAs.

Those with BETTER business and common sense should or would Not discriminate against those accountants without a CPA 'title'.
The same can also be applied to businesses or people that discriminate against others who don't have any other titles like a 'MBA' after their name.

Look at the financial crisis... some of the crooks were CPA's!!

Lastly, look at many of the financial leaders or business owners.
Many of whom do NOT even have a business degree! They may be the exception but that's still the point... it's NOT necessary to have a 'title' after one's name.

Sadly, society 'demands' that one have some 'title' after one's name because of the perception that it means that they 'earned' it or something.

Ross Anderson, CPA, MBA
Title: Controller
Company: TFS Capital
(Controller, TFS Capital) |

Hi Anonymous,

I have seen people without it get selected for the CFO job and I have also seen someone without it beat out two JD/CPAs (yes they have both) for a director role. I do know CPAs that are so-so workers and non-CPAs, some of whom attempted the test and did not pass), whom are great workers. And I get it, I get annoyed when I see postings that specify "Big 4 experience required" (the Big 4 are bad enough at selecting candidates especially when you don't fit the mold, and now what they selected are the field for certain jobs for other corporations). The CPA, as does Big 4 experience, doesn't necessarily mean you can do the job, but you can't just discount the experience that each gives you. It's rough to get through, and having survive it says a lot about you that stands out in a one page presentation of yourself that you use to make a first impression to a recruiter (ie, your resume!). As does a JD stands out, or master's degree. The CPA also signifies competence and creates a sense of confidence with financial statements to investors. My current role required the CPA because of that.

Most of the CPAs I have met for the most part are nice, but there are some jerks out there, as there are jerks in any field. I have heard of many tensions with auditors especially.

(Bookkeeping Consultant/Tax Prep) |

I believe that if you are going to have a title behind your name to represent yourself with, you should at the very least prove that you have the working knowledge that goes with it. Otherwise, you tarnish that title for others that have indeed earned it by proving themselves worthy.

I do not, however believe that a person should be judged by a title alone. Knowledge is power. Remember this people.

(Director, Budget and Finance) |

I do believe that I have been passed over for positions, for which I'm highly qualified, simply because I'm not a CPA. In no way does having a those letters behind your name automatically make you qualified, just like not having them doesn't automatically make you unqualified. Employers need to look beyond the credentials in their search for a suitable employee.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

I don't have CPA/CGA title yet but I do have a BBA in accounting. I get to my current position through hard work, years of experience, ability, proven track records of performance, and no doubt a lot of blessing.

I'm very grateful for past and current employers who were willing to give me a chance to prove myself. I have had recruiters tell me "no," "you can't" because of lack of certification. I do realize the importance of certification as there are pay grids based on it. Although I tend to disagree on compensation based on things other than performance, capability, I can't help but accept the fact this seems to be the norm out there.

So, I will pick up where I left off to get my certification in order to get paid for what I'm truly worth.

Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

One thing that is NOT mentioned here is the fact that information is now available everywhere (well, not everywhere but you get my point). Accounting and Finance knowledge is no longer monopolized by a CPA. SFAS is available online, IRS regulations are online, discussion boards/forums like this, etc.

The argument about doctors, contractors, engineers etc, is fallacious. There is ONE defining difference. -----> LAWS! Other than audit/attestation, there is NO law barring people from being a CFO without a CPA.

And to answer the question.... "Do you need to be a CPA or other certification to be a Financial Leader?" ----> NO! A CPA and other certifications does NOT equate to financial leadership.

There is a only a small (some say poor) correlation between titles, degrees/certifications, university pedigree, GPA and job performance. Ask Google, ask Facebook, ask E&Y to name a few who have downgraded the above (i should point out NOT entirely eliminated) in it's importance in hiring potential talent.

Kelly Gibson
Title: Consultant
Company: NOW CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(Consultant, NOW CFO) |

I've been an accountant for 16 years and never considered getting my CPA until recently. My accounting degree was my 2nd degree and I went to school at night and on weekends while working in AP to get it. I wasn't interested in anything else that resembled school when I finished. I also knew I didn't want to go into auditing or be in a position where I'd have to sign off on financials of a public company. So I didn't see the need for it.

However, there is definitely a level of respect given to CPA's that non-CPA's don't get. I'm working as a consultant now, for small businesses and start-ups, and the first question anyone asks is if I'm a CPA. They don't even necessarily know what it means or what it entails, but they "know" or have been told that's what they're looking for. Having those little letters after my name would open more doors for me in that regard.

Also, if you're working in a corporate setting, there is definitely a salary increase for becoming a CPA. This may not happen at the company a person is currently working for, like getting a $20K increase just for passing all sections of the exam. Typically once you're in a large company, you're stuck in the performance evaluation system they have in place and will only receive 1 - 5% increase each year over what you're currently making, regardless of what changes in your qualifications. BUT when you leave that company and go elsewhere, you'll be able to apply for positions that require a CPA and those pay much higher. I have a friend who left one company for another, basically the same job both places, but because he earned his CPA while at the first company, he was hired in $25K higher at the second job.

So, does a student fresh out of college (with the required hours for the CPA), who doesn't have 16 years experience but does have a CPA know more than me about accounting? No. But more doors will open for them, professionally and financially. Now I think it's probably better to have it and not ever need it than to need it and not have it.

(Accounting Manager) |

Wow, I am disappointed in all of you. It takes a well rounded individual to do a job well. Leaders, are developed by their skill, but most of all by wisdom and their ability to lead others in the right direction. They are not always the "BOSS". You are discounting the CPA and MBA titles, but yet you seem to focus on if your title is CFO vs, Accounting Manager or Accountant. Everyone cannot be the boss. But those who are constantly learning and staying up-to-speed on the latest information for running a business effectively should be commended. Those who learn the ropes on the job - kudos to you as well - many of you started by getting an education. Don't ditch anyone who has a designation - Resume's show the facts, and the interview to get the job, shows you know how to wow the interviewer with your knowledge and experience. Once you land the job - you have to prove you know your "stuff". I did not go to a large university or sit for the CPA to put it on my resume - I did it to learn, grow and accomplish something. I am not a "test taker" and I had to study for months to pass the exam. And in the process, I met a tax attorney (who by the way has designations on his resume and business card) that also took the CPA exam to become an expert in Tax Law, stated "wow, that was harder than the BAR exam....." Let's agree that it takes all kinds and being diversified in our backgrounds allows us to complement each other. For some positions, I still feel strongly that the CPA designation is important. Please don't discount those who have worked hard to earn it. Most of us do not throw that in other's faces to be coy or say we are better. I certainly do not - so don't put me in a box where you think those of us who have one belong.


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