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When is CPA mandatory?

Do I have to get a CPA certificate to work as an accountant? Are ACCA and CPA certificates interchangeable?

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Garrett’s Answer

Hey there! If you're thinking about taking the CPA exams, you'll usually need an accounting degree and fulfill a couple of other requirements before getting your license. The CPA exam is perfect for those who have their sights set on working at public accounting firms, where they can specialize in areas like personal tax/wealth, business tax, auditing, or consulting (IT and internal audit are super common).

Accountants are vital for businesses, helping them keep track of all their transactions through bookkeeping tasks that directly impact financial statements. As an accountant, you could go on to have an amazing career, becoming a corporate controller or even a CFO one day!

But wait, there's more! If you go for that CPA and work in public accounting, you could zoom into higher-level corporate positions with fewer years of experience under your belt (thanks to your exposure to more complex work and high-stakes situations). You could also choose to stick with public accounting, climbing the ranks until you become a partner at your firm. The sky's the limit!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Garrett! Armine
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Gus’s Answer

A CPA is not necessary to work as an accountant, however, if you work in accounting, a CPA offers many more opportunities. It can be an extensive process to obtain but it can be useful in finding jobs and extremely useful in the day-to-day job. If you were in accounting in the United States, you would typically need a CPA rather than ACCA, mostly because they are certifications from different jurisdictions.
Thank you comment icon Noted, thank you! Armine
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Elle’s Answer

Hey there, Armine! I'm part of the team over at PwC, working in the public accounting sector. Here, having your CPA (which means acing all 4 exams and getting your license in your working state) is a must if you're eyeing a manager position. Typically, it takes about 4-6 years to reach that stage.

But here's a tip: it's a great idea to start studying and taking your CPA exams early in your career. Quite a few of my PwC buddies started tackling their exams even before their first day on the job. This way, they had a couple of exams under their belt by the time they started. As for me, I managed to clear all 4 exams in my initial year and a half with the firm.

I'd definitely recommend all budding accounting professionals to try and clear these exams early on. As you climb the career ladder, you'll find your plate getting fuller with work responsibilities, leaving less time for studying. Plus, life outside work tends to get busier too.

Sure, the exams can be tough, but trust me, it's worth it. You'll feel a sense of relief and accomplishment once they're done and dusted. And once you've got your CPA, it's a breeze to keep it up-to-date with continuing education, rather than postponing it and struggling later in your career.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for sharing your perspective. Armine
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Suzanne’s Answer

You don't need a CPA license if you're working under another CPA. However, if accounting interests you, I strongly suggest obtaining your CPA license. This extra certification demonstrates your commitment and helps you stand out among others, particularly when job hunting. Numerous accounting firms will cover the costs of your study materials and exams to become a CPA. In fact, most firms even offer a bonus after you successfully pass all four parts of the CPA exam. While I can't speak for every firm, in big 4 companies, an active CPA license is required for promotion to Manager and higher positions. Pursuing your CPA certification is definitely worthwhile!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the advice. Armine
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Xiuting’s Answer

Hi Armine, a CPA is not required but it would certainly help to advance with your career to the next level, specially if you're in public accounting, where a managerial position could not be attained without a CPA designation. On a personal level, I found that studying for the CPA exams helped with honing my technical expertise and accounting knowledge, which in turn helped me with understanding some jargons in my day to day work. Long answer but definitely get your CPA if you can as having the designation can only help, but it's not the end of the world if you do not plan to get it. Let me know if you have other questions.
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Armine
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Donald’s Answer

It is a wonderful certification to obtain and being a CPA can open many doors in your career. In a public accounting firm, you typically would need to have your CPA to be promoted to a Manager level or higher. Another alternative could be the Enrolled Agent (EA) certification. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon This was super helpful, thank you! Armine
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Zachary’s Answer

Hello Armine,

You don't necessarily need a CPA license to work as an accountant, but it's highly suggested. In numerous accounting companies, having a CPA license is a must for advancing to a Manager position. So, by completing the four exams and securing your license, you're creating more opportunities for yourself. With a CPA license, you can aim for higher positions like becoming a partner or an executive in the industry. Keep going, and you'll unlock a world of possibilities!
Thank you comment icon Thank you for sharing your perspective. Armine
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Madisyn’s Answer

Hello Armine,

You definitely have the ability to work as an accountant even if you don't possess a CPA license. It's worth noting that numerous businesses encourage their accounting staff to take the CPA exam, and some of them generously cover the expenses for their employees.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for giving me advice. Armine
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Shreyasee’s Answer

Hi Armine, CPA is not mandatory, but if you can complete CPA credentials that would be a plus and will brighten your future prospects if you are planning for a career in accounting. Good luck and best wishes to you.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Armine
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Hunter’s Answer

A CPA license isn't necessary to work as an accountant. However, if you're interested in public accounting, particularly the audit track, not having a CPA license may limit your growth. I obtained my CPA license and have no regrets. While there are continuing education requirements, most public accounting jobs provide the necessary training.

When it comes to industry accounting (non-public accounting, like a staff accountant at Google), a CPA isn't usually required. However, in my experience, most accounting managers I've encountered have their CPA. Obtaining your CPA and gaining some public accounting experience early in your career can offer numerous advantages. For instance, CPAs at my level often receive job offers for accounting manager positions, where they can lead teams with members of various ages, including those older than themselves.

Both public accounting experience and a CPA license provide valuable opportunities that are worth considering. Many companies prefer to hire CPAs with public accounting experience for managerial roles, which might make it challenging to secure internal promotions without a CPA license or public accounting experience. I hope this information is helpful to you!
Thank you comment icon Thank you for sharing your perspective. Armine
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Kaylea’s Answer

Hi Armine,

Having a CPA is not necessarily required to work in accounting, but it depends which careers in accounting you are interested in. For example, to become a manager at a big four accounting firm, a CPA license is required. Some other positions may not require it, but it is strongly encouraged and can make you a more competitive candidate when applying for jobs. If you have the time and the interest, I would strongly recommend it. It will set you up for success within the accounting field and it is a well respected credential. Best of luck!
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the advice. Armine
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Armine!

When is CPA mandatory?

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation is mandatory in certain situations and jurisdictions. The requirements for becoming a CPA vary by country and state, so it is important to understand the specific regulations in your location.

In the United States, the CPA designation is regulated at the state level. Each state has its own Board of Accountancy that sets the requirements for obtaining a CPA license. Generally, to become a CPA in the U.S., you must meet the following criteria:

Education: You must have a minimum level of education, typically a bachelor’s degree or higher, with a major in accounting or a related field. Some states may require specific accounting courses or a certain number of credit hours in accounting.

Examination: You must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which is a comprehensive exam covering various areas of accounting and related subjects. The exam is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and is standardized across all states.

Experience: Most states require candidates to have relevant work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA. The specific experience requirements vary but typically range from one to two years of full-time employment in public accounting or a related field.

Ethics: Candidates must demonstrate good moral character and adhere to ethical standards set by their state board. This may involve completing an ethics course or passing an ethics exam.

It is important to note that not all accounting positions require a CPA license. In many cases, having a CPA designation can enhance your career prospects and open up opportunities for advancement, but it may not be mandatory for entry-level positions or certain specialized roles.

Do I have to get a CPA certificate to work as an accountant? Are ACCA and CPA certificates interchangeable?

The requirement for obtaining a CPA certificate to work as an accountant varies depending on the jurisdiction and the specific job role. In some cases, having a CPA designation is mandatory, while in others it may be preferred or not required at all.

In the United States, for example, many accounting positions do not require a CPA license. Non-CPA accountants can work in various roles such as bookkeeping, financial analysis, management accounting, and tax preparation. However, certain positions, especially those involving auditing or providing attestation services, may require a CPA license due to regulatory requirements.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a global professional accounting body based in the United Kingdom. The ACCA qualification is recognized internationally and provides a pathway to becoming a chartered accountant. While the ACCA and CPA qualifications share some similarities, they are not interchangeable.

The CPA designation is specific to the United States and is regulated by state boards of accountancy. On the other hand, the ACCA qualification is recognized in many countries around the world and is governed by the ACCA itself. The two qualifications have different educational requirements, examination formats, and areas of focus.

While having an ACCA qualification may enhance your career prospects globally, it does not automatically grant you a CPA license in the United States. Similarly, holding a CPA license does not automatically qualify you for the ACCA designation in other countries.

It is important to research and understand the specific requirements and regulations in your desired jurisdiction to determine whether a CPA certificate or an ACCA qualification is necessary or beneficial for your career goals.

Top 3 Authoritative Sources Used:

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA): The AICPA is a leading professional organization for CPAs in the United States. Their website provides information on the CPA exam, licensing requirements, and ethical standards.

State Boards of Accountancy: Each state has its own Board of Accountancy that regulates the CPA profession within its jurisdiction. These boards provide detailed information on state-specific requirements for obtaining a CPA license.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA): The ACCA is a global professional accounting body that offers the ACCA qualification. Their website provides information on the ACCA program, international recognition, and career opportunities.

These sources were used to gather accurate and up-to-date information on the requirements and regulations related to the CPA designation and ACCA qualification.

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Thank you comment icon Thanks for the advice. Armine
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Jess’s Answer

From a private equity perspective, if you’re part of fund administration, that many times is outsourced, you don’t need to necessarily get CPA.
Now, if you want to become employed with the private equity fund you would need CPA.
Thank you comment icon Got it, thank you! Armine
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samantha’s Answer

A CPA is not necessary to work in accounting. However, there are some career paths where a CPA is integral to growth.
In consulting, there are other qualifications that might be better suited, i.e. CMA, CFA, etc.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Armine
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Ching’s Answer

I don't think that you need CPA for many jobs. But it does help when you apply for jobs and you are showing that you are working towards CPA.
Thank you comment icon Ching, thank you! Armine
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