If you ask any man on the street in Mesa, Glendale or Tempe, he will recite the old adage from memory: “There are only two things you can count on in life: death and taxes.” While it may not be an encouraging message, it says a lot about the American people as a whole: Not many in this country enjoy working with numbers. For those who do, whose minds calculate and compute, accounting can be a calling, saving the rest of us from pulling our hair out not just during tax season, but throughout the year.
A CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, is an accountant who serves many different clients, from individuals to businesses to the government. Those services include, but are not limited to, accounting, auditing, and tax return preparation. Chartered accountants also consult with their clients or employers, guiding them through accounting processes that very few lay people understand.
People who become CPAs are usually those who enjoy communicating and helping others. They enjoy a constantly changing workday, never knowing what to expect or who they will work with on a day-to-day basis. CPAs have the goal of helping the individuals, businesses, and organizations they work with to be financially successful in a world of dogs eat dogs. They are analytical people who enjoy challenges in the field of mathematical application and theory.
To be a CPA, one must follow the “three Es”: education, exam, and experience. In Arizona, as in many other states, CPAs must meet 150 credit hours, which those in the field call the “150 Hour Rule.” This will result in a bachelor’s degree, the minimum requirement for a CPA in most states. A master’s degree is not required, but most people who work in the field find that having one helps steer them in the right direction to the specialized areas they would like to work in. After completing the 150 credit hours, the CPA trainee must take and pass with a 90% the Uniform CPA Exam as well as an ethics exam. Lastly, experience in a position such as working for a public accounting firm, a licensed CPA’s office, or in education, is necessary to complete the trinity necessary for success.
The career opportunities for a licensed CPA are vast. It could work for individuals, small businesses, or corporations conducting equity and debt issues, initial public offerings, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Opportunities are also available to work with celebrities, on Wall Street, and in government. In fact, some CPAs continue to work for such prestigious agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which tend to hire many attorneys and accountants as a general rule.
CPAs may also specialize more, such as in assurance or consulting services. There are also accounting and auditing opportunities in the information technology field, as well as environmental and international accounting. Forensic accounting may seem archaic, but it involves financial fraud prevention, detection, and investigation techniques. Lastly, you can’t go wrong with tax and financial planning, something most Americans find frustrating and just want to leave in the capable hands of someone educated and trained in the field of accounting and tax preparation.
The salary for a CPA in Arizona or any other US state is competitive at the entry level. As with many jobs, the numbers themselves depend a lot on the “three E’s” mentioned above: education, exams, and experience. The size of your potential employer should also be considered. But there is long-term growth potential in the field, and with so many different specialization opportunities, no lover of numbers could say that testing the odds is not tempting!
The need for certified public accountants is expected to increase by 10-20% in the next few years, and rightly so. The economy, so worrisome to us over the last decade, appears to be improving. For those with a mind for numbers and a vocation to help the rest of us, training as a CPA is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor that could provide a lifetime opportunity for mental stimulation, a steady salary, and a feeling of accomplishment that can It will not pair!