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Should you become a CPA?

Worth the hard work

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By: Andrew Lee
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Why be a CPA?

Becoming a CPA is challenging. It’s difficult to meet the various state requirements, and passing the test is one of the most challenging obstacles you will encounter. Said my former co-worker: “It was the worst experience of my life.”

I’m not here to tell you that becoming a CPA is easy. Some people don’t have hundreds of hours to pour into studying because of family life, work, or other reasons. Others simply seem have intellectual strengths in other areas. It’s not for everyone.

But if becoming a CPA is in your future, you are in luck.

The financial benefits for a CPA are clear. CPAs often make more money for the same job than they would if they did not hold the license, and it routinely enables them to secure jobs they would not be able to get without it. According to the AICPA, CPAs earn 10-15% more than non-CPAs working in accounting-related jobs. Other studies have shown the gap as high as 41% between the certified and un-certified. “For younger job applicants in particular, meeting the requirements to become a CPA represents discipline and initiative to me,” says Doug Rebok, Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer of Adventist Health, a health-care provider with approximately 19,000 employees. “CPAs are often more apt to do a good job for what I’m hiring them for and a have a greater likelihood and ability to advance within the organization.”

Regardless of what area of accounting you go into, the CPA title will, above all other designations, separate you from the rest of the field. If you work in public accounting, you will absolutely get preferential treatment for being a CPA. Many titles and levels in your firm will be unattainable without it, and as a result your pay will have a much lower ceiling.

If you choose not to go into public accounting, the benefits of being a CPA could be even greater. Being a CPA instantly gives you credibility, arguably more so than its three-letter counterpart—the MBA. The CPA title speaks not only of your work ethic and professional experience, but of a certain level of mental aptitude. The vast majority of the population is capable of earning a business degree, but the same cannot be said for earning the Certified Public Accountant designation.

Whether you are applying for a role in finance, accounting, marketing, production, or administration, being a CPA is a sign of intelligence and expertise. For companies trying to determine the best applicant, it gives them an objective measurement of your capabilities where question marks exist for your competition. In addition, companies desperately want and need the counsel of CPAs for tax and legal advice, and the opportunity to employ one in-house can be very attractive. The result? Excellent job security, good pay, and plenty of respect from both co-workers and friends.

Becoming a CPA is not for everyone. But if better pay, a more desirable position, and job security are important to you, I recommend you grab a book and start studying.

Andrew Lee operates the website Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @CPAstudy.
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