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Your Next Step in Becoming a CPA

The title of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is given to accounting professionals who have passed the rigorous CPA exam. CPA certification demonstrates mastery in the fields of auditing, reporting and regulation, among others. The certification is often one requirement for promotion to upper management positions such as chief financial officer, tax consultant or financial advisor.

Requirements for CPA Certification

Most states require that students obtain a minimum of 150 semester hours and a bachelor’s degree before taking the Uniform CPA Examination, which consists of four tests. Once started, the CPA exams must be completed and passed with a minimum score of 75 within 18 months. The four tests cover: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). The title of CPA is considered of the most challenging business certifications to obtain. In the first half of 2018, the average pass rate for the CPA exam was around 50 percent, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Career Options With a CPA

The average yearly salary for a Certified Public Accountant is $65,032, according to PayScale. Businesses employ CPAs for a wide range of tasks. Senior financial analysts earn $79,447 a year, according to PayScale, and they are tasked with spreadsheet maintenance, data gathering and financial modeling, among other tasks. Finance directors frequently lead a team that oversees accounting duties as well as projecting growth and identifying areas of risk. The average pay for this leadership position is $111,690, according to PayScale. Chief financial officers (CFOs) oversee accounting and finance departments to ensure they are running efficiently and within regulatory guidelines. The CFO position pays $131,194 per year, according to PayScale.

Benefits of an MBA for CPA Certification

Jeremy Spencer shared his story for a blog post by Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accounts. Spencer began his business career with a Master of Business Administration before pursuing a CPA.

“After getting my MBA, there certainly were opportunities for career advancement, but the CPA opened up many more,” Spencer said. “Almost immediately after adding my CPA credentials onto LinkedIn, I began getting emails from recruiters. Prior to that, I was the one reaching out to them. I would say that the CPA is a great complement to the MBA. There was a significant time and financial commitment to pursuing the CPA. It was tough to make the decision to be a career changer after investing what I had to become a chef, but I am very satisfied now that I’ve done it. Those sacrifices were definitely worth it.”

Given the rigorous nature of the CPA exam, earning an MBA is one way to study advanced topics like financial reporting and forensic accounting before taking the CPA exam. The online MBA with an emphasis in Accounting from the University of West Florida is designed to equip students with the skills required for leadership roles in accounting while preparing them to pass the CPA exam. Courses taught by UWF faculty cover topics ranging from financial accounting and regulatory policies to marketing and group problem-solving.

Learn more about the UWF online MBA program with an emphasis in Accounting.


AICPA: 150 Hour Requirement for Obtaining a CPA License

AICPA: CPA Exam Pass Rates

PICPA: MBA to CPA, a Recipe for Success

PayScale: Certified Public Accountant

PayScale: Senior Financial Analyst

PayScale: Finance Director

PayScale: Chief Financial Officer

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