How to Become an Accountant

Four Parts:High School EducationCollege EducationWork ExperienceCPA/CMA Licensing

Accountants are highly trained financial professionals who specialize in preparing financial documents like taxes. The most common accounting career pathway is to become a certified public accountant (CPA). Accountant graduates may also choose to be auditors, government accountants and management accountants. Find out how to become an accountant and start your schooling today.

Part 1
High School Education

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    Foster a proficiency for mathematics and computers. Take finance classes in high school, if they are offered on your campus.
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    Take college entrance exams. ACT and SAT scores can be used to apply for bachelor's degree programs.
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    Research state licensing requirements. Although they can change every few years, some states have several tracks to becoming a licensed CPA, including associate or bachelor's degrees.

Part 2
College Education

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    Apply for a degree program in accountancy. Depending upon your state accountancy requirements, you can do 1 of the following:
    • Earn a 2-year associate's degree in accounting. You should look for programs that have placement into entry-level positions and aid in passing the uniform accounting exams. You may be required to have 2 years of work experience before becoming a licensed CPA, rather than 1.
    • Earn a 4-year degree. This is a better path if you are unsure of the state where you will want to practice. With more educational hours, you may only need 1 year of work experience before you apply for your license.
    • Consider a Masters Program. If you have been in the business world and decide a CPA may help you advance your career, consider Masters degrees focused on CPA preparation.
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    Work an internship during college or during your summer vacations. Depending upon the work you do, an internship can be used as your work experience required for licensing and/or job placement upon graduation.

Part 3
Work Experience

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    Apply for an entry-level position at the end of your college degree program. Find a position where you can work under a licensed accountant, so that you can work toward earning your license.
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    Work for 1 to 2 years for a licensed accountant.

Part 4
CPA/CMA Licensing

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    Take exam prep courses. The uniform accountancy examinations are extremely difficult and require preparation and review over the course of several months to several years.
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    Take your 4-part uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam. Once you have passed an initial section of the test, you have 18 months to pass the remaining 3 sections.
    • You may also be required to show proof of your degree program, classroom hours and the successful completion of an ethics course.
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    Consider obtaining your master's degree. You may need a master's degree to follow some state CPA tracks; however, you can also go back to school for your master's of business administration or accounting in order to set yourself on a management track or to qualify for work for larger financial institutions.
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    Take continuing education credits to remain licensed in your state.

Things You'll Need

  • High school diploma
  • Math proficiency
  • College entrance exams
  • Associate's/bachelor's degree
  • Internship
  • Work experience
  • CPA/CMA test prep courses
  • 4-part CMA/CPA test
  • Master's degree
  • Continuing education courses

Article Info

Categories: Accounting and Regulations