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How to Become a CPA

Oct. 26, 2021

Woman CPA working on accounting for client

As job seekers all over the country take control of their careers, stable occupations are more appealing than ever. When deciding on a line of work, becoming a CPA is one of the most solid choices you can make.

CPAs are often considered some of the most vital employees in a business or organization. For this reason, these professionals tend to have a low rate of unemployment. Even now, as companies go through uncharted territories, many leaders look to CPAs to guide them in their finances.

What is a CPA?

CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant. CPAs generally analyze, prepare, and report on financial documents for a business. However, they also have many other duties, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Establishing, updating, or maintaining a company’s accounting policies, procedures, and reports
  • Creating and consulting on the creation of budgets
  • Supervising internal reporting audits
  • Preparing reports for IRS audits or tax purposes
  • Presenting financial statements to a company’s leadership team
  • Consulting with businesses on compensation, benefits, assets, company spending, and financial planning
  • Managing Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable
  • Staying current on changes in the finance industry and government regulations and overseeing the appropriate updates to policies or procedures

Why should I become a CPA?

Reasons for becoming a CPA will vary from person to person. Still, there are a few key points that make a career as a certified public accountant attractive.

— You will be an expert in your field.

Certified Public Accountants represent the highest professional level in the accounting field. This elite title often comes with an elevated level of trust and respect. CPAs are considered ethical, well-educated, and equipped with advanced skills. Because of this, businesses highly regard their ideas and judgment. Any accounting professional looking to achieve career mobility should definitely consider becoming a CPA.

— CPAs earn higher pay.

The additional capabilities that come with being a certified public accountant mean that CPAs typically have more job duties. As a result, they earn a higher salary than accountants without a certification.

— Create a stable career for yourself.

In the past, demand for CPAs has generally been high. But in today’s world, they are nearly a necessity. As businesses all around the world make crucial financial decisions in response to the constantly changing landscape, they are turning to CPAs to help them. Even after the world moves to a new normal, CPAs will have the skills to remain critical to any business. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field to have a steady growth of 7% by 2030.

— Job satisfaction and career flexibility.

A CPA’s main job is to help businesses flourish. Being a key factor in a business’s success can lead to higher job satisfaction. Additionally, CPAs typically have a wide range of duties, which can keep day-to-day work life interesting. CPAs may also have specializations based on their interests, and they can even change or add specializations over time. This helps give CPAs more career flexibility than other accounting positions.

How do I become a licensed CPA in my state?

To become a certified public accountant, you will have to meet the requirements set by your state’s board of accountancy. There are multiple steps to this process. While the demands are similar in every state, they do differ in some aspects. Licensure in most states typically requires a passing score on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s (AICPA) Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam.

Louisiana CPA Exam & License Requirements

In Louisiana, the State Board of Certified Public Accountants requires all applicants to be considered residents of the state. They must also be U.S. citizens with a Social Security number. The requirement may be waived if you attended college out of state. However, you also need to fulfill the Board’s requirements for earned semester hours, experience, and exam scores.

To learn more about Louisiana’s exam and licensing requirements, visit http://cpaboard.state.la.us/becoming-a-cpa/.

What degree do you need to be an accountant?

As indicated in the name, all CPAs are accountants. So, to become a CPA, you first need to become an accountant!

The most straightforward path involves earning a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. Many accounting students also specialize in one or more areas. The two most common specializations are public accounting and corporate or business accounting. Others include forensic accounting, environmental accounting, internal auditing, managerial accounting, and taxes.

If an accounting degree doesn’t meet your needs, other degrees may help you begin your accounting career. A program that has a significant focus on accounting principles could produce similar career results. Alternative degrees may include:

LSU Online & Continuing Education also offers several certificate programs that allow students to increase their accounting knowledge without committing to a full degree program.

Do I need more than an accounting degree to be a CPA?

Again, an accounting degree is the most common and easiest path to becoming an accountant. It is also one of the best degrees to earn if you want to earn CPA certification. However, recall that becoming licensed generally requires a CPA candidate to have 150 college credit hours.

Since a typical undergraduate degree program consists of 120 credit hours, additional schooling is necessary to earn the CPA license.

You can choose to earn the extra hours through graduate school or certificate programs. LSU Online, for example, has multiple programs that would satisfy this requirement. Here are several programs you could enroll in to become a CPA:

How can I prepare to take the CPA exam, and how long does it take to officially become a CPA?

Experienced CPAs advise you to treat passing the CPA exam as a marathon. Prepare to take months to earn the credential. Since there are four separate exams to complete, most CPAs even dedicate a year to get through the entire process. While each person’s study time will differ based on their needs, the AICPA recommends at least 8 to 12 weeks of study for each test.

Create a timeline for yourself, and consider how much time you will need to study before each test date. You also need to take into account any administrative steps when choosing a test date.

When you’re ready to take the exam, you can study by reviewing any of your relevant course materials, taking additional online classes, reading books, or listening to podcasts. There are also many study material providers, both free and paid, that you can take advantage of.

After the test, you should receive your score within a maximum of eight weeks.

Overall, the length of time needed to become a certified public accountant depends on your personal situation. Your education and your state’s requirements also determine how long the process of becoming a CPA takes. For example, some states require one or two years of work experience before candidates can sit for the exam.

Including time spent earning any degrees and accounting experience, it can take an average of six years to become a CPA. This length of time could be less if you already hold a relevant degree.

Begin your career as a CPA with LSU Online

As previously mentioned, LSU Online provides many degrees and certificate programs to help you in your journey. Count on us to help you earn a relevant bachelor’s degree or provide the additional qualifying hours for certification. We offer cost-effective solutions for students nationwide.

Get started by contacting our dedicated advisors today, or learn more about our accounting program now.

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Charlotte Bencaz
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cbencaz@lsu.edu

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