Commonly asked questions about accounting:
I am thinking about completing the BS in Accounting degree. Is this a major with solid job prospects?
An accounting major offers you opportunity, versatility, and portability. Having a degree in accounting opens the doors to myriad opportunities both within the accounting profession and in the field of business. Accountants can choose employment in large or small businesses, non-profit organizations, the government, education, or public accounting. Since accounting is frequently referred to as the “language of business,” it is commonplace for accounting majors to progress within a company and use their knowledge as a springboard to explore many different areas of business. Accountants epitomize versatility and can specialize in the areas of financial accounting, tax, managerial accounting, auditing and consulting, just to name a few. While some individuals with accounting degrees have climbed to the top to become CEO’s, CFO’s and Controllers, others have opened their own CPA firms. An accounting degree is also portable. It would be difficult to find a city or business that doesn’t need an accountant, at least on a consulting basis. What is even more attractive is the demand for accountants tends to remain stable or even increase in both times of economic prosperity and during downturns. Listed below are links to job forecasts and salary expectations.
- U.S. News and World Report Best Business Jobs.
- Robert Half, a worldwide recruiter of accounting and finance professionals, offers free salary guides for the U.S. and the world. Guides are available for free through their website..
I have attended several universities over a period of years and am having a difficult time determining if I have the right number of accounting and business administration credits. Is there a form that will help me keep track of this?
The Washington State Board of Accountancy website has created a worksheet that will help you informally list your accounting and business credits. It is available in PDF format at the following website listed under “CPA Exam.” This worksheet can be found at Education Evaluation Worksheet. You can also create an Excel spreadsheet for tracking courses. In addition, the Washington State Board does offer a credit evaluation service for a fee. You can find out more on their website.
What are the educational requirements to sit for the CPA exam in Washington State?
The basic requirements to sit for the CPA exam in Washington State are as follows:
- Students have to complete at least 150 semester hours (225 quarter hours) of college level credits.
- Have a baccalaureate or graduate degree from an accredited US college or university. Degrees from universities outside of the US must be evaluated by a foreign transcript evaluator and approved by the Washington State Board of Accountancy before submitting your exam application. Details can be found at CPA International Education Evaluation.
- Complete a concentration in accounting which includes at least 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) in accounting and 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) in business subjects.
- A more detailed explanation of these requirements is available through the Uniform CPA Exam Candidate Bulletin at The Candidate Bulletin
Does the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) give any recommendations as to the best approach for this extra year of credits that are now required?
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recommends that the additional credits be obtained at the graduate level.
“In most cases, the additional academic work needed to acquire the technical competence and develop the skills required by today’s CPA is best obtained at the graduate level. Graduate-level programs are an excellent way to more fully develop skills such as communication, presentation and interpersonal relations, and to integrate them with the technical knowledge being acquired. In addition, it has been shown that students who get a graduate education have a substantially higher rate of success on the Uniform CPA Examination. Further, master’s degree holders receive starting salaries that are approximately 10 to 20 percent higher than the starting salaries of those with only bachelor’s degrees. Finally, there is evidence that promotions to manager and partner and to corporate managerial positions are increasingly going to individuals with master’s degrees”. (AICPA, “Becoming”).
The requirements for the CPA exam differ from State to State. How do I know which state requirements to look at when I am determining how to meet the requirements for the CPA exam?
The requirements for sitting for the CPA exam do differ, sometimes drastically, from state to state. Look at the information for the state where you plan on sitting for the exam. If you are not sure which state you will be taking the exam in, but know that it will be a choice between one or two states, look at the requirements for both states. Most states have “reciprocity agreements” that allow a CPA to transfer a license in from another state. If the basic state requirements differ, a person having a license from a state with regulations that are not as strict as the state they are transferring to may have to meet additional requirements before their license can be transferred. The contact information for all 55 jurisdictions for the CPA exam can be found on the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy website.
I have a degree from a university outside of the United States. How does that translate for the purpose of sitting for the CPA exams?
Students must have transcripts from non-U.S. colleges and universities evaluated by an approved foreign transcript evaluator before they can complete the CPA exam application. Please consult the Washington State Board of Accountancy website for approved evaluators. This can be a lengthy process taking from two to four months, so you will want to get this done as soon as possible.
When can I take the CPA exam and how do I sign up?
- Q1: January 1 – March 10
- Q2: April 1 – June 10
- Q3: July 1 – September 10
- Q4: October 1 – December 10
You must first decide on the jurisdiction to which you will apply. If you are uncertain about the jurisdiction, you may find it helpful to review the requirements of several Boards of Accountancy (access to board websites is available at NASBA ). After selecting the jurisdiction, you can obtain application materials and submit your completed applications as directed.
I have heard that the CPA exam is quite difficult. Is that true?
Yes, the CPA exam has, traditionally, been a difficult exam. National passage percentages for all candidates (both first time and repeat candidates) by section 2006-2017 as published on the AICPA website as of 01/16/2018.
I am interested in becoming a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). Where can I find more information about this exam?
The CMA exam is sponsored by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). This exam underwent a transformation from a four-part exam to a two part-exam in the spring of 2010. The requirements for the CMA examination are detailed on the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)
I am interested in becoming a Certified Global Management Accountant (CGMA). Where can I find more information about the required qualifications and the exam framework?
Discover the path at the CGMA
It seems like the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification is becoming important for those wanting a career in auditing. What are some of the advantages of this certificate? Where can I find more information?
The CIA is the only globally accepted certification for internal auditors. The computer based exam is given throughout the US and at many international locations and in many different languages. You can find out more information at the Institute of Internal Auditors website.
What can I do to prepare myself to get a good job once I graduate?
It is important that you think about the kind of job opportunity you would like to have after you graduate. Are you interested in public accounting? If so, are you more interested in tax, financial accounting, audit, or business consulting? Have you always wanted to work for a not-for-profit? Do you think you would like to work your way up and become a controller? Is cost and management accounting a natural fit for your skills and abilities? Do you want to work for a small, medium or large company? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself as you work on your education.
Develop a network of professional acquaintances that know you personally and professionally. They will be eventual sources for job leads and write recommendations for job applications. Many jobs placements are based on prior relationships or recommendations rather than hiring an unknown person. Keeping this in mind, you will need to ask yourself how you can get to know a wide variety of accounting professionals. Professional organizations are a great way to network. In the Seattle area, there are multiple active chapters of the IMA, AFA and CIA in addition to student membership in the WSCPA and AICPA. Examine local organizations, their goals and principles and look for alignment with your interests. Begin joining organizations and get to know the participants. Jump at volunteer opportunities that will put you in contact with other accountants. Volunteer for free tax preparation. Look at the WSCPA website for volunteer opportunities and student events. Use theses opportunities to get know others and show them your strengths. Sign up for virtual networking through Linked In and Facebook. Find an activity you love – biking, running, knitting, building – join a club and volunteer to help with the annual audit or treasury functions. If you are currently working, develop a professional network that can provide mentorship and future job references. Always remember that everything you do or say can be used to enhance or detract from future career opportunities.
Apply for scholarships. Not only do you receive money to help defray the cost of your education but you hone writing skills and reflect on your strengths and weaknesses in your applications. This provides the opportunity to open your eyes to opportunities for improvement. Scholarship awards look great on your resume, too.
Professional Organizations & Recommended Websites:
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- Washington State Society of Certified Public Accountants
- Washington State Board of Accountancy
- Institute of Management Accountants
- The Uniform CPA Examination
- National Association of State Boards of Accountancy
- Washington State Society of Certified Public Accountants Student Website
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Student Website
- Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
- American College of Forensic Examiners
- Information Systems Audit and Control Association, Inc.
- The Institute of Internal Auditors
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)