The CPA exams, available nationally, are assessments for men and women who want to enter the rewarding and rapidly growing field of accounting. In order to sit for the exam, candidates must have graduated from an accredited undergraduate accounting program.
The most common CPA exam consists of four sections completed over two days: auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business environment and concepts. The latter section, business environment and concepts, consists entirely of multiple-choice questions, but the other sections of the exam combine multiple-choice questions with simulations.
The content of the auditing and attestation section breaks down into five categories: planning the engagement and entering an agreement (22 to 28 percent of the section); evaluating the internal controls (12 to 18 percent); obtaining and documenting evidence (32 to 38 percent); reviewing the engagement to provide a reasonable assurance that the objectives are achieved and evaluating the information obtained to reach and to document the engagement conclusions (8 to 12 percent); and preparing the communications (i.e., reports and letters) to satisfy the engagement objectives (12 to 18 percent).
The financial accounting and reporting section covers the following five topics: concepts and standards of financial statements (17 to 23 percent of the section); typical items in financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles (27 to 33 percent); specific types of transactions and events in financial statements (27 to 33 percent); governmental entities (8 to 12 percent); and nongovernmental not-for-profit organizations (8 to 12 percent).
The regulation section covers ethics, professional, and legal responsibilities (15 to 20 percent of the section); business law (20 to 25 percent); federal tax procedures (8 to 12 percent); federal taxation of property transactions (8 to 12 percent); federal taxation of individuals (12 to 18 percent); and federal taxation of entities (22 to 28 percent).
The business environment section addresses business structure (17 to 23 percent of the section); economics (8 to 12 percent); financial management (17 to 23 percent); information technology (22 to 28 percent); and planning and management (22 to 28 percent).
The scoring policy for CPA exams varies by jurisdiction. Although the content of the tests is mainly consistent across jurisdictions, there are some subtle differences.
The field of accounting has many jobs, like bookkeeper or accounting clerk. Bookkeeper and accounting clerk are typically entry-level jobs, though extremely valuable and critical in every company. The bookkeeper balances the ledgers and records all financial business transactions. The accounting clerk performs similar duties; however, he or she may be more involved in preparing financial reports and reporting to management. One of the great things about this job is that there are many career paths a person can pursue. Senior-level positions like that of an accounting director, controller, or chief financial officer (CFO) are mainly responsible for overseeing the activities of a financial department or unit. The accounting director may oversee payroll and cost accounting functions, and direct reports will include clerks, bookkeepers, and lower-level accountants. The controller, on the other hand, usually reports to the CFO and oversees the company's internal accounting controls and financial policies and procedures. Finally, the CFO is the top-level financial official who is responsible for the financial health of a company and its future financial direction. The CFO usually reports to the chief executive officer (CEO) and may be part of the board of directors. They analyze financial data from all business units to determine financial risks within a business or firm. So, this is a good career option for those with strong skills in math, business, and analytics.
Not all accounting programs are the same, so it is important to check the curriculum of each school. Think of what you what to do with your life and then find a program that is right for you. Many schools offer an associate of arts (AAS) degree in accounting, which is a two-year program at most colleges and universities. The AAS degree is a good way to get an entry-level job in a company. Most of the curriculum is based on basic accounting principles, software applications, and problem solving. A bachelor's in accounting (BSc) takes four years to complete and teaches students relevant topics in any company's financial activity. The focus is usually on internal controls, budgeting, analysis, and management accounting. Many people with BScs in accounting begin their careers at the entry level; however, they have greater opportunities for advancement. The master's in business and finance is becoming a very common degree for accountants as it provides a broader perspective on financial topics. Courses in taxation, banking, and the treasury are topics that assist students during their careers.
Do your research and interview graduates and school representatives. Computer skills and knowledge of financial and accounting software and word processing programs are essential skills. To be successful in this field, a person needs to be trustworthy and have an attention to detail and an aptitude for numbers. Communication skills are a must. A bachelor's degree is required of most jobs, and experience is necessary to move up within the ranks. For those individuals wanting to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), they will have to complete at least 150 hours of college credits and pass a four-part, two-day exam. A CPA can find a job in many industries and can specialize in taxation, auditing, financial advising, or accounting.
Another popular designation is the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). It takes about two years to train for this position, and you learn how to analyze a company's financial data, reports, and statements. The benefit of having CIAs is that they can protect a company from financial risk and external audits. Their role is to ensure that a company is reporting accurate financial data. A more strategic role is the Certified Management Accountant (CMA). This individual is usually found in high-level positions in a firm or acts as a consultant. They work with senior management on the future strategic direction of a company by looking at financial operations and analyzing business performance, management accounting, and reporting.
Accountant jobs are very stable careers as long as a person works hard. The accountant salary is good with very generous benefits.
Last Updated: 04/12/2013