Working in the financial world as a public accountant can be a highly rewarding and lucrative career. If you are good with numbers, detail oriented, and able to remember a great deal of knowledge about tax and business laws, you may be the right person for the job. The US Department of Labor and Statistics – Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition for public accountants looks promising, with the average earnings of $61,000 USD annually, and growth of 16 percent projected to the year 2020.
The good news is that launching yourself in a public accounting career can be achieved within 2-3 years. To get you on the right path, here are some tips for building your public accounting career.
Educational Requirements for CPAs
In order to learn the things you need to know to be successful as a public accountant, you will need a minimum of a 4-year college degree in accounting or a related field. Some experts recommend getting a Master’s degree in accounting, as it’s often required by employers, or the equivalent of education and experience. Working as a junior accountant or an internship in a public accountant’s office can often meet these requirements. According to the Department of Labor, “As of 2012, 46 states and the District of Columbia required CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree.”
Certification for Public Accountants
For public accountants who wish to become certified, a requirement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), passing a 4-part exam from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants happens during an 18-month period. Accounting professionals generally take a class to prepare them for the certification exam, around their work schedules. Continuing credits are required to maintain the credential. Some employers require this upon hire, so you’ll want to have a plan for taking this, particularly if you will be involved in the tax market, corporate finances, and audits.
Work Experience and Skills for Future CPAs
To get into the line of public accounting, you’ll want to focus on developing the skills that help top CPAs achieve more out of this career. Take temporary assignments during the busy tax season to learn how to manage work and people. Work as a junior accountant while in school. Learn accounting software, and become comfortable with its use. Read up on the laws surrounding accounting and finance. Be part of a community of CPAs by networking and being part of industry associations.
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