Ever wonder what it takes to be a CPA? A preference for summer golf over winter skiing? Not really. Besides a proclivity for numbers, persistence may be a CPA’s best attribute.
Before setting out to advise clients on taxation, financial reporting, valuations and business consulting issues, your CPA laid a strong foundation in accounting standards, tax law, auditing, business law and general business. All tolled, CPA candidates today must complete 150 semester hours at the college level or higher just to sit for the CPA exam. The 150 required hours must include at least 30 hours of specific accounting coursework and 24 hours of non-accounting business coursework. Although not required, many CPAs have acquired their 150 hours by obtaining an advanced degree, such as an MBA.
Once qualified to sit for the CPA exam, your CPA had to devote months to studying and exam prep, most often structured around a CPA exam prep course taken after work hours and on the weekends. CPA candidates typically focus on each of the exam’s four parts sequentially. These exam sections are administered by the American Institute of CPAs and take 14 hours to take in total. The pass rate for each section ranges from 42 to 59%, so it’s not unusual for a candidate to have to take an exam section more than once. The successful exam-taker then moves on to taking the ethics portion of the exam and completing certain work requirements before being licensed.
Time for a breather? Well, not yet. Maintaining a CPA license requires annual continuing education – 40 hours per year. And it doesn’t always stop there. To meet the needs of a challenging tax practice, many tax CPAs opt to obtain Masters degrees in Taxation (MT). Those focusing on financial reporting or managerial accounting may choose to work towards a Masters of Accountancy (MA).
Other CPAs deepen their knowledge and qualifications by obtaining additional certifications- CVA (Certified Valuators and Analysts), ABV (Accredited in Business Valuation) and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) are merely a few examples that reflect additional study, testing and expertise.
Complementary to a CPA practice are other professional designations. For example, an EA (Enrolled Agent) is a federally-authorized tax practitioner who has passed a three-part exam and is sanctioned to represent clients with the IRS. Many EAs work in private practice alongside CPAs.
Persistence in obtaining qualifications segues into persistence in providing exceptional client service.