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Published On: Fri, Feb 1st, 2019

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA

Certified Public Accountants advise clients in fiscal and financial matters. They also conduct internal and external audits to ensure that companies comply with financial reporting guidelines. There is a process to becoming a CPA. First, individuals must work as accountants, and they must have an educational background in degree in finance or accounting.

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The requirements for becoming a CPA vary state by state; however, generally, prospective CPA’s complete 150 semester hours of postsecondary study, which consists of some graduate courses. Upon meeting the education requirements, public accountants can apply for an NTS to take the certification exams. You must take and pass the four tests before over an 18-month period. After passing the exams, CPAs can maintain their certificates through continuing education courses.

Let us look at the steps required to become a certified public accountant.

Get a degree in Accounting.

Most states require prospective CPA’s to complete at least 150 course hours in order to be eligible to obtain a license. Bachelors programs generally fulfill 120 credit hours, and so for the addition 30 hours needed, some schools offer the option of a bachelor’s and master’s program for five years in accounting, or, students can take post-graduate classes. Courses generally begin with the essential topics in accounting theory and progress to cover more complex topics, such as cost accounting.

Consider a graduate degree.

Another option to consider is completing a graduate program in accounting. Typically, a graduate degree is not required to become a certified public accountant, but for students who have only completed a traditional 4-year bachelor’s degree program, a graduate degree can help them meet the credit hour requirements for becoming a certified public accountant. Additionally, the knowledge you gain from a graduate in accounting will be of utmost importance as you progress into your career. Alternatives include a Master of Arts in Accounting, a Master of Science in Accounting, or a Master in Business Administration where you can specialize in Accounting. Although the courses vary according to the chosen program, most courses cover advanced topics from tax planning to financial controls.

 Work in the field.

Before becoming a CPA, you must obtain experience in the field. State boards generally require accountants to complete at least two years of work experience. Prospective CPA’s can choose to work within public and private accounting firms or in an accounting department of any kind. Duties can range from the verification of financial documents to the preparation of tax returns and may include the implementation of economic measures to reduce mismanagement of products and services.

Take CPA Exams

Once the requirements of education and work experience are met, the fourth step is to take the four CPA exams. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has developed four exams that must be completed and passed to obtain the CPA certificate.

After passing the first section, you are required to complete your CPA prep and finish the remaining 3 sections before the end of the 18-month period. Students that pass all tests within the allocated time are licensed and become legal accountants.

Continuing education

Your last step is to participate in continuing education. For you to comply with laws and practices, most states require CPA mandates to renew their licenses. In order to do so, CPA’s must take continuing education courses. Some states require CPA’s to take courses on ethics as well.

Author: Eliza Morrison

 

 

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- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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