If you want enjoy a career as an accountant, you will need to obtain Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure in your state. Before you can do this, you will need to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or a similar business field.
Successful accountants have an above-average understanding of mathematics, so individuals who choose to pursue this career path should start taking advanced math courses in high school. College prep math courses on topics like algebra, trigonometry, and calculus not only look good on your resume, but also give you a leg-up when it comes to earning your Bachelor’s degree.
While a degree is not necessary to become an accountant in all states, it can certainly help you earn a higher salary and enjoy more job opportunities. Some of the most popular degrees in this field include a standard Bachelor’s in accounting, a Bachelor’s in business studies with a focus on accounting, a Bachelor’s in accounting with a focus on forensics and fraud, and a Bachelor’s in business administration. Some of the courses you may take while earning your degree include business law, capital management, business strategy and international business; these are in addition to core courses such as financial accounting, financial reporting and managerial accounting.
In order to get a job as an accountant, you will need work experience. On the same note, many states require CPA examination candidates to have a certain amount of work experience before they can sit for the exam. Applying for a summer work program or internship can provide this experience as well as invaluable information about the field. The best places to find these internships include public accounting or business firms.
In 2012, 46 states as well as the District of Columbia required individuals sitting for the CPA exam to have completed 150 hours of college coursework—four hours more than is required to earn the average Bachelor’s degree. There are some colleges offering a five-year combination Bachelor’s and Master’s program to fulfill this requirement, but a Master’s degree is not necessary to work as an accountant. The four-part CPA exam is given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Examinees do not have to pass all four parts at once, but they are required to pass all four within a period of 18 months. Continuing education credits must be earned in order to maintain this licensure.
Certification is not necessary to work as an accountant, but it can provide an advantage in the job market since it proves your competency within the field. Some of the certifications available to you include Certified Management Accountant from the Institute of Management Accountants, the Certified Internal Auditor from the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Certified Administration Systems Auditor from the ISACA, or Information Systems Audit and Control Association, Inc. If you already have a CPA license, you can get the Accredited in Business Valuation, Certified Information Technology Professional or Personal Financial Specialist certifications from the American Institute of CPAs.
You will be required to obtain a CPA license in almost every state in the Union, but whether or not you pursue certification is your choice. Keep in mind that such certification will make you a better asset to your employers and boost your annual salary.