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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting vs. Certified CPA

by Maria Magher, studioD

Students who are a whiz with numbers and who like crunching data may be interested in a degree in accounting. There are many possible career outcomes with a bachelor's degree in accounting, from entry-level positions like bookkeeper to roles that require more advanced training like a certified public accountant. Those interested in becoming a CPA must complete additional education and take a certifying exam.

Possible Job Duties

Students who complete a bachelor's in accounting and those who go on to complete the requirements of a CPA have very different career prospects. The University of Maryland University College says that a bachelor's in accounting prepares students to analyze and report on a company's financial activities and to provide feedback on that information to company decision makers. Students may be able to work as bookkeepers, internal auditors, financial analysts and internal accountants. Certified Public Accountants perform more detailed and complex auditing and reporting duties. CPAs can manage a company's taxes, provide advice about legal obligations and perform in-depth audits.

The Bachelor's Degree

Many students who complete a bachelor's in accounting can stop right there and find work in a wide range of financial positions. However, for those who wish to become CPAs, the bachelor's degree is just an introductory education. A bachelor's in accounting provides training in the fundamentals of accounting, cost accounting, economic theories and issues, accounting information systems, business finance and more. CPAs build on this foundation by pursuing additional training, while others can use this education to get started in the professional world.

Additional Training for a CPA

To be eligible to take the CPA exam in most states, students must complete 150 hours of education, which is about 30 hours more than most bachelor's programs -- the number traditionally included in most master's programs. Therefore, many who are interested in becoming CPAs go on to complete a master's degree. Other options include taking additional courses as an undergraduate and some graduate courses that don't lead to a degree. The American Institute of CPAs says that it is best for aspiring CPAs to take graduate-level courses or to complete a master's degree to develop the skills and technical competence required for professional practice. Some states may also require that CPA candidates have a number of hours of professional experience before they can become certified.

Becoming Certified

All prospective CPAs must take the CPA certifying exam. Other accounting professionals aren't required to take it. The exam has four sections that include multiple-choice questions, written responses and task-based simulations based on case studies. Candidates must receive a passing score on the exam to become certified. They may also have to meet other requirements, depending on the state, such as passing a background check or an ethics requirement.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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