When most people think of accountants, a CPA (certified public accountant) is what comes to mind. While most individuals only use a CPA’s services for their yearly tax return, the services or a CPA are invaluable to a business owner. A CPA needs to possess a certain level of qualifications to be successful. He must have strong mathematical and analytical skills, as well as possess a detailed mind and good memory recall. He needs to be highly advanced in communication and interpersonal skills as well. While a CPA salary might be the deciding factor in choosing this career, accurate skills and expertise in the field will determine the success or failure achieved.
If you are considering this diverse profession as your career choice there are some basic guidelines to follow. Most States require a Bachelor’s degree in Business or Accounting as a minimum educational requirement. You can call the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (www.NASBA.org) to check the requirements of your State. If you meet the educational requirement, then you will want to know the process for taking the test for certification. Each State has a website that will give you step-by-step instruction on the procedural process for taking this test. States may differ in educational requirements, but they all require you to test before you are considered Certified.
If you have not met the requirements, you will want to find a college or university that is offering a business or accounting degree. As mentioned, a CPA is the most common of accountants but accountancy is an extremely versatile field. There are four other areas in the field that one could enter. They are as follows:
- Consultant – an advisor for accountants in areas of business design, data processing procedures and the basic how-to of protecting client assets.
- Forensic – investigates complex transactions, bankruptcies and deep audits of corporation books.
- Management – typically the analytical expert behind financial and asset management
- Public Sector – Generally works with the public sector of government, examining the books of other governmental agencies or businesses whose practices and activities allow for government scrutiny.
The top five universities known for their outstanding academic business or accountancy programs are as follows:
- University of Texas (Austin)
- University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
- University of IL (Urbana)
- University of Chicago (Booth )
- University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
Three of the top universities offering well-recognized on-line degrees are as follows:
- Strayer University
- DeVry University
- Argosy University
Here are the CPA salary stats according to PayScale:
The great news for someone considering this career is the fact that starting CPA salaries will increase more than 22% within the next decade. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, these increases will take place over a ten-year period, from 2008 through 2018. In other words, the CPA is number one in job market demand. This is within an industry that is frequently the leader in increased salary expectations and projections.
There are many reasons attributable to this salary growth. The basic reason however, is that accounting and auditing regulations have become much stricter and more difficult to comprehend. All of this requires more time and continuing education for the CPA in order to for him to render an accurate analysis of his client or employer’s tax or business issues. Also, with global business expansion, the CPA will not only have to stay on top of the ever-changing taxation laws in the US, but will have to maintain knowledge of the very complex tax laws of foreign countries. A CPA’s client, doing business in a foreign country, would expect nothing less from their accountant. Therefore, employers expect to pay higher CPA salaries in relation to the added responsibility and accountability expected to meet industry standards.
The job opportunities available to CPA’s are phenomenal. This would range in choice of hanging up your own shingle to corporate level positions. Robert Half International’s Salary Guide (published every year since 1950) shows the impact on some of these starting ranges in 2011. Some of the top-level management roles (whose starting salaries are expected to increase substantially in 2011) are compiled in this short list as an example only. A Senior Business Analyst will be up from $66,500 to $85,000, for an increase of 5%. The Financial Analyst Managers for mid-sized companies (whose salary typically starts at $60,000) will be up to $78,000, for a jump of 4.7%. Senior Compliance Analysts are increasing from $58,750 to $75,250 (up by 4.1%) and Senior Auditors will see an increase from $62,000 to $81,250.
In essence, regardless of your title, your job skills are in high demand and CPA starting salaries are projected to increase (anywhere on the ladder) to 3% to 4.4%. These projections are based on the starting wages of experienced accountants and are comparing the increase from 2011 (as opposed to 2010). However, the newly graduated, newly certified job candidate can now look forward to an increase in starting salary as well. Experts say that an increase of 1% to 3% (across the board) is expected industry-wide.
Perhaps you are choosing to become a CPA because you want to open your own office, solicit for your own clients and be your own boss. Maybe you want to work with your father in his office or you have decided that you want to climb the corporate ladder? The reasoning behind your decision does not matter. The initial step to attain your goal is the same for everyone. You must meet basic educational requirements by obtaining a Degree in Business or Accounting. Your State may have requirements that are more lenient, so make sure you check their website before deciding which school you will attend. Whatever goals you have in mind will probably determine which college you will attend. For instance, if you want to work for Pop, your local junior college might be an ideal starting point. However, if you want to work your way up the corporate ladder, then you might want to consider only the top universities. This is due to the fact that getting that corporate job will oftentimes require more substance on your resume and a more recognized degree.
If you have very strong analytical and mathematical abilities you have won half the battle. If you are extremely detailed and possess excellent communication skills as well, then becoming a CPA is an excellent career for you. Business, communication, taxation and money; whichever way you slice it, you will need to pay a CPA salary if you want the division to be proportionate. However, most people would have to admit that without this crucial diverse personality and skill set, most of us would have trouble filing our tax returns or reconciling our bank accounts.