What is a CPA license and how do you get it?

what is a CPA license

A Certified Public Accountant license isn’t necessary to become an accountant, but it says many things about the expertise attributable to an individual, as well as how much trust can be put in that person to do the job right every time. Certification is not easy, but if you’re interested in accounting jobs, or any of the finance positions related to accounting, this license could put you on the fast track.

What can an individual with a CPA license do?
CPAs work with individuals, nonprofits, companies and government agencies on a variety of financial tasks, such as ensuring records are accurate, preparing taxes and filing required documents. These individuals are very knowledgeable and have the licensure to prove it. Though you will have to work hard to be certified in this elite group of accountants, a license opens up plenty of opportunities, and gives most hiring managers the impression that you are a trustworthy individual when it comes to complex finance matters. Thomson Reuters’ CPA Review listed some careers CPA license holders can look into:

  • Forensic auditing – These individuals search for evidence of crimes such as money laundering, embezzlement and tax evasion.
  • Internal auditing – This job requires specialists to ensure entities are effective and efficient by looking for mismanagement and fraud, ensuring the accuracy of financial data and reviewing internal controls.
  • Environmental accounting – These accounting jobs are geared toward green and sustainable organizations and initiatives. Responsibilities include ensuring compliance, managing disputes and overseeing green campaigns.
  • Managerial accounting – Work with a company’s management team to prepare financial documents and make the right finance decisions for the organization going forward. Other responsibilities include putting together budgets and developing strategies.
  • Tax accounting – These positions, as implied by the name, focus mostly on tax issues. They help develop tax strategies in ways that eliminate unnecessary costs. It also involves keeping up with consistently changing and complicated tax regulations.
  • IT accounting – These are accounting jobs with a twist – they’re as much about IT as about accounting work. CPAs with an interest in technology may want to look into this sort of position. IT accounting involves testing out system security and accuracy and ensuring regulatory compliance.

These are just a few of the many positions that CPAs may find themselves working. These jobs can lead to promotions to CFO or even CEO in the future. Essentially, a CPA will lift the limits on what you can do in finance.

“A CPA can lead to promotions to CFO or even CEO in the future.”

How to get your CPA license
If any of those accounting jobs seem interesting to you, you’ll want to look into how to get your CPA license. Qualification for this comes only after completing a difficult exam that will require a certain amount of college credits, work experience and studying. After meeting this criteria you will have to complete the CPA exam, which is actually four separate tests:

  • Audit and Attestation.
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting.
  • Regulation.
  • Business Environment and Concepts.
A CPA will require a thorough education, work experience and many, many hours of studying, but it will be worth it. A CPA will require a thorough education, work experience and many, many hours of studying, but it will be worth it.

If you are interested in a CPA license you will have to develop a certain level of expertise in each of those subject areas. Before even considering taking the exam though, you will need a least a bachelor’s degree, and likely have to attend graduate school to meet the credit requirement. After that, you still won’t be ready to take the test. Most CPA exams also require at least two years of work experience. However, this depends on which state you are taking the exam in.

Once you have the educational and experiential requirements covered, it is time to start studying, and then studying more and probably some more after that. This is a difficult exam that covers numerous subject areas. If you don’t study it will be exponentially more difficult than if you do – and even then, it won’t be easy. But it will almost certainly be worth it once you pass.

Luckily, you won’t have to take all four exams at once. After completing the first one you will have 18 months to finish the rest.

If you pass the exam, all the opportunities that come with a CPA license will open up to you, which will be nice, because there are plenty of them.