How to Become a CPA

CPA Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $72,200
Avg. Pay / hour $34.71
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 10%

The person that decides to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) is someone who has organizational skills, can interpret large amounts of data and who wants to play a very important role in business.

For those already in accounting, this is the next logical step towards a life-long career, but don’t be discouraged if you are not already in the accounting profession, there is always room for another CPA in many organizations.

Becoming a CPA means taking on responsibilities, being dedicated to the profession and becoming an expert in your field.

With any job where there are big responsibilities, there are also big rewards.

The outlook for the career will continue to change as we become a more global marketplace.

In terms of job security; everyplace there is money, there is a CPA close at hand to oversee it.

Education Requirements to Become a CPA

The designation of a CPA is endowed at the level of the State Board of Accountancy.

The requirements will vary from state to state, but most will require a Bachelors degree in order to take the exam.

The most common college majors for a CPA are in accounting and business.

Most States require the candidates to complete 150 hours of college coursework which includes an additional 30 hours over the standard four year degree.

There is also a Masters degree option for those who want to become a CPA.

Some schools offer a combined Bachelors and Masters degree which would be earned after completion of the program.

Students can typically earn both of these degrees in about five years from the start of enrollment.

Although a Masters is not required, it can open more opportunities in terms of employment.

A national certifying exam is given through the American Institute of CPAs.

This is a very competitive examination in which only about 50% will pass all the parts of the exam on the first try.

All parts of the exam must be completed within 18 months to be valid.

It is highly recommended that any candidates thoroughly look over any practice tests to prepare for the exam.

For more information about the CPA exam visit American Institute of CPAs.

CPA Job Description

To become a CPA is to become an expert in the matters of finances and taxes.

The specific duties of a CPA will differ slightly depending on their personal expertise.

Some may concentrate on consulting businesses, for example, in regards to how their business decisions will affect their tax situation.

Others may work on safeguarding assets, employee compensation and benefits.

The type of work will also differ depending on the sector a CPA goes in to.

For example, a government-based job will focus more on auditing and holding businesses accountable more than working for a large company.

Here are some common services a CPA can provide:

  • Auditing of financial records
  • Preparing and analyzing financial data
  • Propose budgets for companies
  • Offer advice on taxes
  • Develop new technologies to progress the profession

CPA Salary and Career Path

The average annual salary for a CPA is around $80,000 a year with some earning up to $100,000 a year.

As more companies are becoming more global, more travel will be required from a CPA.

How many other jobs can you think of will pay for you to travel to a far off location? Fit in an extra day or two “off the clock” and you have a mini vacation.

Standard health benefits and paid time off are also received by those in the profession.

Employment opportunities are in nearly every field of the public and private sector.

Some CPAs go into business for themselves and open a firm; they can also join an existing firm as well.

In this way, they can pick which services they would like to provide and which niche markets they will operate.

There will be an estimated job growth of 22% through the year 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Having a credential of CPA opens many more doors within the accounting world.

You may start out in working for a medium-sized company and work up to a senior level accountant in a larger company.

One advantage of the profession is that every industry is a potential job.

There will always be space for a qualified CPA to hold the ethics of the profession and be a respected member of a larger organization.

If you are unsure about the accounting profession, try to get an internship with an accountant or ask a CPA if they wouldn’t mind answering a few questions.

Once you know a little bit more about what a CPA does, you’re going to want to join the ranks as soon as possible.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$110,240
New Hampshire$78,770
New Jersey$97,950
New Mexico$71,650
New York$105,790
North Carolina$84,960
North Dakota$67,880
Rhode Island$88,350
South Carolina$71,400
South Dakota$70,190
West Virginia$70,130
Puerto Rico$39,450
Virgin Islands$62,730

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $110,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $110,240
New York - $105,790
New Jersey - $97,950
California - $92,840
Massachusetts - $92,310
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Accountants and Auditors, OCC Code 13-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a CPA do?

The main responsibility of an accountant is to monitor and record the flow of money through an organization or business.

The major difference between a regular accountant and a Certified Public Accountant is that the latter enjoy greater privileges and get paid more (however, they also do have higher responsibilities).

CPAs can work for large corporations, small businesses or private individuals.

These specialists might have a short contract with a company to do the tax returns and books or work for a single person to help him or her with various money-related issues.

The accountant has to make sure that all money transactions of the business are accurate, legal and follow certain guidelines.

CPAs should have impeccable knowledge in law, finance, accounting, and math.

They provide the necessary information to help the owners of the business estimate whether everything is going in the right direction.

Some of the responsibilities of a CPA include preparing profit and loss statements; interacting with auditors; giving professional financial advice to the company’s head; analyzing revenue and expenditure trends; preparing and reviewing budgets, expenses, invoices, etc.

How much do CPAs make?

On average, a Certified Public Accountant earns a little more than $63.000 in the United States annually.

You can expect to make anywhere between $45.0000 and around $100.000 and more.

The salary would certainly depend on the experience of the accountant, his education, and on the organization (or individual) and sector that he or she decides to work for.

A certified accountant career is one of the most well-paid jobs in the country (professionals with a license and a lot of experience can make up to $124.000).

How much does it cost to become a CPA?

Before becoming a CPA, you would first need to qualify as a regular accountant.

In case you want to follow this career path, you would certainly need a degree.

Bear in mind that accountants with a higher level of education typically get paid more.

An average annual cost for a bachelor’s degree can range anywhere between $10.000 and $25.500.

If you decide to complete a master’s degree program, you would have to pay around $8.500 per year.

A doctorate degree program will cost a little over $10.000 annually.

The Uniform CPA Examination is used by all states and will cost you a little less than $200 per exam section.

What is the demand for CPAs?

Between 2016 and 2026, the accountant job market is expected to grow by 10%.

The field provides great employment opportunities in the near future.

The accountants that have a professional CPA certification and/or a postgraduate degree will be in high demand.

This type of job market depends on the overall state of the economy – the better things are going, the more businesses that need accountants will emerge.

How long does it take to become a CPA?

An associate’s degree will take you 1 or 2 years to acquire, while a bachelor’s degree can be obtained in 4 years.

In case you decide to take the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam, you would need to complete a certain number of credit hours or have at least 2 years of experience in the field (under the supervision of a licensed CPA).

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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