How to Become a CPA ? : Step by Step Guide

There are many fascinating career options in the finance industry, and becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is one of the most desired distinctions. CPAs are essential to companies of all kinds, from small startups to global corporations, and there is always a demand for their knowledge and expertise.

Starting this worthwhile journey, however, calls for extensive preparation and a significant time commitment. In contrast to some other professional designations, obtaining a CPA requires completing particular coursework and proving that you have relevant work experience in the accounting field.

If a rewarding career as a CPA is something you’re interested in, this extensive guide will show you the steps to become one!

The Step-by-Step Guide to Become a CPA

Obtaining the highly sought-after CPA designation is a testament to one’s accounting expertise. For companies of all sizes, CPAs guarantee the transparency and precision of financial records. This section will walk you through the steps you need to take to pursue a career as a CPA.

1. Meet the Educational Requirements

Getting your bachelor’s degree is the first thing you have to do. Yet, the majority of states are moving toward a 150 credit hour requirement, which is more than the typical bachelor’s program’s 120 credit hours. In order to make up the gap, prospective CPAs will therefore need to enroll in additional courses.

A smart move would be to pursue a Master of Accounting (MAcc) in order to close the credit hour gap. These courses prepare you for senior-level positions by delving deeper into company operations and financial concepts. A lot of universities provide MAcc programs made especially for those who want to become CPAs.

It is still possible to obtain a CPA license even if your bachelor’s degree is not in accounting. To be eligible for a Master’s in Accounting program, you will probably need to complete additional accounting coursework. Continuing education is required by most states, after all, to make sure CPAs stay current with industry developments.

2. Gain On-the-Job Experience

It is possible to jump immediately from college to postgraduate study, but gaining work experience prior to applying for a CPA license is also great. Working in an accounting role will equip you with practical accounting knowledge that will be the foundation of your career.

It is possible to advance from an entry-level job. Opportunities can be found in many locations, such as government offices, non-profit organizations, and both large and small public accounting firms. These encounters allow you to learn about various accounting topics.

3. Pass the CPA Exam

AICPA is the one administering the CPA Exam. Four domains, which include Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation, are all evaluated by this assessment. Every section has a variety of question formats and is delivered through a computer.

The exam measures your proficiency in financial data analysis and effective communication using both multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations that mimic real-world scenarios. This thorough approach guarantees that CPAs have the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to succeed in the field.

The CPA exam is tough, but it can be broken down into manageable chunks, giving applicants scheduling flexibility. All sections, though, need to be finished in the provided 18 months. It doesn’t matter if you acquire experience prior to or following your exams—all you need to join the test is a bachelor’s degree.

4. Gain Additional Licenses and Credentials

Credentials offered by the AICPA include the ABV for evaluating business worth, the CFF for looking into financial crimes, and the PFS for personal financial management. These specializations come with valuable positions in AICPA, which provide access to opportunities for professional development. 

Furthermore, the CITP credential serves CPAs who wish to demonstrate their expertise in information governance, cybersecurity, and data analysis in order to close the gap between accounting and technology. CPAs can gain access to specialized career paths by obtaining these sought-after credentials.

Important Skills CPAs Need to Master

Beyond the technical accounting foundation, a CPA’s success is based on a wider array of competencies. This section delves into the fundamental abilities that will enable you to manage intricate financial duties and effectively navigate the complexities of the business realm.

Updated Tax Knowledge

Because the tax industry is constantly changing, it is imperative for CPAs to remain up to date. The United States tax code is constantly changing due to changes made by Congress and interpretations made by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in contrast to stagnant systems.

It is your duty as a CPA to stay up to date on these constantly changing regulations. Thankfully, the IRS itself works as an excellent resource. They provide comprehensive information on related subjects as well as concise summaries of changes to tax regulations.

It should be noted that other organizations also have an impact on taxation. State governments can also change their tax laws, which will affect companies of any sort. CPAs ought to regularly go to their state’s Tax and Accounting board to stay up to date.

Auditing Skill

Being an auditor requires more than just knowing accounting standards; it also requires having a keen eye for detail and a detective mentality. A competent auditor should be skeptical of financial statements at all times, challenging presumptions and looking for discrepancies.

Additionally, as CPAs don’t work alone when conducting audits, you must be able to convey your findings to stakeholders. This entails communicating both orally and in writing, precisely stating recognized risks, possible mistakes, and suggested corrections.

While formal education offers a solid foundation, practical auditing experience sharpens these abilities. A lot of CPAs discover that extra auditing-specific training, like going to conferences, enhances their knowledge even more.

Technical Computer Skills

The days of keeping books manually are long gone. Proficiency with accounting software programs is now a requirement rather than a luxury for CPAs looking to progress in their careers, especially in the direction of executive roles in today’s technological landscape.

It becomes essential to learn your company’s unique computer systems in order to maximize workflows. Although basic software applications such as QuickBooks and Excel are essential, it’s also critical to comprehend enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. 

These substantial platforms oversee all of a business’s primary operations, including finance, human resources, and supply chain management. When they are familiar with ERP systems, CPAs are better able to integrate financial data and make data-driven decisions.

Management and Leadership

CPAs are often expected to take on multiple roles, which vary from team leader and manager to individual contributor. This might include managing entire divisions, coaching and guiding less experienced accountants, and assigning work wisely.

You can hone your leadership abilities even before you receive your CPA license by stepping up and asking to be involved in projects that need you to be the leader. Many courses can also give you the skills and techniques you need to succeed in this field.

Learning to set priorities is one of the most important leadership skills for an accounting team. You may cancel or postpone less urgent tasks. Another crucial component is effective delegation. CPAs ought to assign work according to each team member’s skill set.

The Takeaway

One of the most prestigious titles an accountant can obtain is the CPA title. Even though becoming one requires a lot of work, the advantages are obvious. It opens up a world of opportunities, resulting in greater pay, greater respect from clients and peers, and more options for career paths.


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