How Do I Become A Certified Accountant?

Certified AccountantMost students who consider themselves good with numbers and adept at business management seek to become a certified accountant as they begin a professional career in one of these fields. Increasingly, this is a requirement in order to advance beyond entry-level positions and take on more senior roles in corporate accounting, finance, economics, trade, and budgeting. The reason for this is actually pretty clear: With more stringent requirements, certification in this field ensures that any accountant is a verified expert at what they do. This examination also enforces a strong understanding of legal and ethical accounting principles that can steer businesses away from questionable financial reporting. With that said, one major question remains: How does one actually become eligible for this certification?

It All Starts with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

Generally, the Certified Public Accountant examination requires students to have completed a given number of credit hours in business and accounting coursework. This almost always requires students to declare a major in accounting at the undergraduate level. As part of that program, students will study basic financial reporting, advance managerial accounting, cost accounting, and tax policy. These are all crucial areas of competency for the certified accountant, whether they’re working on behalf of the public or simply putting their knowledge to work for a corporate employer.

Many States Enforce a Graduate Degree Requirement As Well

Though some states will allow students to sit for the CPA exam immediately after they graduate from an undergraduate program, the vast majority of states have requirements that exist above and beyond a four-year degree. In a large number of states across the country, the credit hours undertaken at the undergraduate level simply don’t satisfy the examination’s eligibility requirements. For this reason, CPA aspirants must enroll in a graduate program that focuses strongly on accounting. Known as MAcc programs or M.S. in Accounting programs, students will use their time while enrolled to learn even more advanced accounting principles, routines, and guidelines, that will serve them well as a CPA.

Work Experience is Required by Some State Certification Boards

Finally, those accountants aspiring to fully certified CPA will often have to complete a mandatory number of years in the field in order to qualify for the exam, according to CPA Review. In most states, this work experience requirement ranges between one and five years. There is no universal rule, however, so accountants will want to check with their state regulatory board to make sure that they’re employed in an eligible position and have been in that position long enough to take the exam and earn the resulting credential. If not, the added work experience time allows students to gain added context relating to their field and to study even harder for the upcoming test.

Finally, a Passing Score Must Be Achieved Prior to Certification

In their quest for full licensure as a Certified Public Accountant, half the battle for today’s professionals is merely becoming eligible to sit for the test and take on the many, high-level questions contained within. The other half of the battle is actually achieving a passing score that will permit full licensure and certification after the examination is over.

Related Resource: Specialize a Finance Degree

Generally, those who sit for the exam must score a minimum of 75 points in order to pass. A lower score will require accountants to take the test again as they seek to meet this threshold, while a higher score will only give them a comfortable “margin of error” after the test. This requirement explains why those who wish to become a certified accountant spend so much time in the classroom, in the library, and at work, brushing up on key principles long in advance of the test date.