The accounting and finance industry offers many career opportunities to qualified individuals. Finance is a major part of business, an area that reflects the financial transactions and functionality of a firm. Almost every organization needs financial specialists to handle financial operations.
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In recent decades, the role of accounting has changed. Now federal and private firms are using fiscal measures and strategies to drive the direction of their business functions by lowering costs and acquire optimum output. This has stressed the demand for highly skilled experts who are certified.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The certified public accountant (CPA) is a title awarded to accountants in the US who have cleared the uniform CPA examination. A CPA is basically an accountant certified by the state. This prestigious designation can help in boosting career opportunities in the finance sector (private and federal). A CPA certification or license is required in a number of highly specialized areas such as auditing and preparing tax returns.
To become a CPA, one must take the CPA exam conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).However, the eligibility criteria to appear in the exam will vary from state to state. Each state has its own set of requirements that are designed by the state boards of accountancy.
Individuals interested in sitting for the CPA examination must complete the educational requirements in their state. Most states have adopted the “150 hour rule”. This rule defines the minimum number of educational hours that must be completed. Students not necessarily have to opt for a masters degree, but must have a bachelor degree. Here are a few recommended academic tracks for completing the 150 hour requirement:
Acquire an undergraduate degree and then a masters degree in accounting
Acquire an undergraduate degree in any academic discipline and then pursue a masters degree with specialization in accounting
Opt for an integrated five-year professional accounting program or course
How to Prepare
To prepare for the exam, students can enroll in test prep courses being offered by a number of accredited schools. These courses are designed to help students build skills and acquire knowledge needed to pass the CPA exam. Accredited CPA certification online programs are also offered by various online colleges. As these programs are self-paced, students can study according to their own schedules.
Students in these programs cover courses related to mathematics, business studies and legal issues. They are also able to improve their communication and problems-solving skills. The coursework usually includes instruction in tax treatment, auditing services and financial accounting. The advanced programs may entail courses in advanced auditing, IRS practice and financial reporting.Some of the courses have been mentioned below along with their descriptions:
Working Capital and Fixed Assets
In this course, students will learn about the processes used for calculating fixed and working capital of businesses. The course will cover the definition, working, and practices used by modern-day organizations.
This course will allow students to learn how to conduct audits. Students will learn how to using different techniques, sampling tools, and statistical methods.
In this course, students learn about the main federal and state taxation laws. The course will highlight major areas of taxation, tax preparation, and methods used for deducting taxes.
Most states require candidates to have at least two years of work experience to qualify for a CPA certification exam. Although it is recommended that you acquire public accounting work experience, some states also accept non-public accounting experience. It is important that you seek information about the required work experience for the CPA exam in your state by contacting the relevant board.
You can take the exam offered by The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to qualify for the title of a CPA. This test gauges the candidate’s abilities on various accounting aspects such as the following:
Auditing and Attestation
Financial Accounting and Reporting
Business environment and Concepts
Each section is assigned a certain percentage range. Candidates must acquire the minimum number of percentage and demonstrate understanding of concepts, sound written communication skills, and appropriate application of the body of knowledge.
The exam comprises of the following main components:
Multiple choice questions
Tasked based simulations (case studies)
How to Register for the CPA Exam
To register for the CPA examination, you must have a valid Notice to Schedule (NTS) and schedule a test appointment at the nearest testing center. You may be required to submit a few documents and identification papers for the exam. The test must be scheduled at least 6 days in advance.
With a CPA certification, you can choose from a variety of career-paths. CPA’s can be found working is all kinds of accounting firms, international firms, non-profit organizations, and federal agencies. Listed below are a few of the areas that you can launch a career in:
Fraud prevention and investigation
Persona financial planning
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants and auditors made a median annual income of $63,550 in the year 2012. The income level is determined by factors such as state, organization, and skills.
There are several continuing education programs that are offered for CPAs. These trainings help stay updated with laws and practices in accounting. CPAs may also need to continue education for license renewal.