What Is a CPA and How to Become One

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a skilled professional who has earned state licensure. Not all accounting avenues require you to earn your CPA, but having a state certificate does set you apart in your field. In fact, many employers hire only CPAs.

Obtaining your CPA certification further benefits you by:

  • Increasing your earning potential.
  • Raising your authority or job ceiling.
  • Providing national recognition. 
  • Offering better job security.

CPAs may also perform a broader range of duties than uncertified accountants. For example, in addition to bookkeeping and financial advising, CPAs may engage in the following:

  • Representing clients to the IRS.
  • Performing audits.
  • Preparing taxes.

Becoming a CPA is a smart career choice because every business needs CPA services. Consequently, CPAs have an extremely bright job outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for CPAs should increase by 7% over the next seven years.

What Are the Steps to Becoming a CPA?

Specifics vary from state to state, so you must know and understand your local requirements. However, the general steps to CPA licensure are the same.

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

CPA certification requires obtaining a four-year college degree. Most states require 150 credits, 30 more than the average bachelor’s program. Those 30 extra credits represent additional academic requirements for this rigorous course of study. While CPA certification does not require a graduate degree, obtaining your master’s may prove helpful. These classes may give you a leg up on your CPA exam or garner some credits toward your required total. Some universities offer five-year dual-degree programs for this purpose.

Apply to Take the CPA Exam

Once you meet state qualifications, you must apply to take the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) examination and ethics exam. Since the application fee is non-refundable, ensure you’ve completed all prerequisites before you apply.

Pass the Uniform CPA Exam

Once your local jurisdiction reviews and accepts your application, you may take the uniform CPA exam. The exam comprises four parts:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD).
    • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC).
    • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR).
    • Regulation (REG).

After passing the first section of the exam, you have 18 months to finish the other three. Each portion takes approximately two hours and requires a minimum score of 75. Since each section is rigorous and thorough, thoughtful preparation is vital.

Obtain the License

Obtaining a license is the next step. To qualify for a license, you must first gain experience by working under a current CPA for two years. After you fulfill experiential requirements, you may apply for your license. Your local jurisdiction will assess your experience, exam scores, and other state requirements before issuing your license.

To maintain your license, you must take continuing education courses each year.

Required Skills for CPAs

In addition to obtaining your certification, various soft skills remain integral to your success. While you earn your CPA license, take time to refine these skills.

  • Technical skills.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Analytical thinking.
  • Organizational skills.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Communication skills.
  • Business insight.

If you want to join a team of accounting professionals, The Robert Joseph Group can help. We match high-quality talent to the right opportunity with exceptional service that fits your needs. Call us today!