Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Thinking of becoming a CPA

I run my own law office right now and was recently admitted uknownvalue09/11/17
Demand in the northeast area, or just about any large metrop caj11109/11/17
CFA would be better. CPA/accounting is alot like lawyers in attorneydavid09/12/17
The accounting market is at an all-time high. People are get nighthawk09/13/17
Are you being sarcastic? One of my friends graduate from USC mrlollipop09/13/17
Read what I wrote: entry level salaries are low, even at big nighthawk09/13/17
I use to work at the work Big 4 in the consulting division. bizzybone131309/16/17
My main motivation in obtaining a CPA license is for portabi uknownvalue09/13/17
CPA licenses are state specific joecoder09/13/17
They are but it's very easy to get reciprocity with another caj11109/14/17
I applied with the CA Accounting board, and they accepted qu trijocker09/14/17
caj111 wrote: [quote]The only finance/business related cr larrywilliams09/15/17
Regarding the "portability" aspect of having the CPA exam, i larrywilliams09/15/17
Another thought: If you're working toward a Master of Accoun larrywilliams09/15/17
Do the business courses in law school (contracts, corporate miketrout09/15/17
I submitted my JD transcript to the CA CPA board and they di trijocker09/16/17
I was already a CPA before I went to law school, but the Tex larrywilliams09/16/17
Larry - What motivated you to become an attorney after the C uknownvalue09/16/17
[quote]Larry - What motivated you to become an attorney afte larrywilliams09/16/17
you can even take online classes to qualify for the CPA. man whiteguyinchina09/16/17
I am also an attorney/CPA but worked in the accounting field nubiansage09/16/17
For the first 3 - 4 years after accounting school, the best uknownvalue09/18/17
Well, you should have quite a few options after you finish. nubiansage09/18/17
The lady who graduated first in my law school's class a year fettywap09/18/17

uknownvalue (Sep 11, 2017 - 3:43 pm)

I run my own law office right now and was recently admitted for a Master in Accounting program at a respected but not prestigous public university. I was contemplating enrolling as a part time student and continue to work full time. By the time I finish the program, I would be ready to wind down my practice
and be able to study for the exam. As long as I can pass the exams, I would move to NYC, where hopefully there are more accounting jobs.

Does anyone have any idea about the job prospects for CPA's on the East Coast?

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caj111 (Sep 11, 2017 - 5:27 pm)

Demand in the northeast area, or just about any large metropolitan area, will always be strong for CPA's. CPA is probably among the most well-regarded and well recognized credentials. Doesn't everybody know what that is? Everybody has certainly heard of it, as compared to a CMA, CIA, CFP, etc. Whether it's for a tax-related or an financial audit statement type job, some places (although not all) demand you have a CPA before they even consider you and other places that don't specifically require it will still hold CPAs in higher regard than non-CPA job candidates. Any CPA I knew that got laid off from one firm was never unemployed very long before they got a job at another firm or company. There's competition for sure, some places pay better than others, but the need for CPAs is always there if you're in a large enough town. Can't speak for mid-sized or smaller towns. NYC would not be a problem - plenty of jobs in the five boroughs but if you can't find the right fit, there are plenty more in northern New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut. If you put your resume out on Monster you will get an avalanche of recruiter calls and emails as well as some calls directly from firms themselves.

Be aware of a few things - it's not an easy exam. Just as hard or harder than the bar in my opinion (most would say harder). There are four parts and you don't take all four parts at the same time, but you can schedule them relatively close to each other, and the exam is continually administered all year long, unlike the bar exam. Furthermore, some states require you to have a certain amount of experience being supervised by a CPA before you can take the exam, while others will let you take the exam whenever, but you can't actually hold yourself out as a CPA without a certain amount of time being supervised by another CPA. Check what the state Board of Accountancy says where you want to practice. There is an educational requirement as well which varies by state but if you're getting a Masters in Accounting you should be alright.

The only finance/business related credential more highly regarded than the CPA is the CFA (certified financial analyst), a very tough exam that takes at least three years to pass (even if you pass each part on the first try), and while not well known to the general public, it is extremely valuable and well known within the financial community.

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attorneydavid (Sep 12, 2017 - 9:50 pm)

CFA would be better. CPA/accounting is alot like lawyers in that you get your bet crack at interviews when you get the credentials.

CFA because it's not linked to programs seems to recruit whoever has one.

If you think you can get recruited out of the program then that's different.

The work is even more boring than being a lawyer and being a lawyer they will assume you want to do tax work.

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nighthawk (Sep 13, 2017 - 9:30 am)

The accounting market is at an all-time high. People are getting jobs, promotions, work is expanding. Big 4 have been growing at 10-15% a year over the last 5-6 years. Smaller firms that 5 years ago had 8 accountants today have 35-40. Salaries are increasing.

Bad news: there are almost no accountant jobs whereas lawyer jokes are abundant. The reason is that the work is dry and so is the atmosphere. Although growing, entry level salaries are low, even at big 4 firms.

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mrlollipop (Sep 13, 2017 - 11:01 am)

Are you being sarcastic? One of my friends graduate from USC with a Master in Accounting. She only got an offer of 50K upon graduation.

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nighthawk (Sep 13, 2017 - 12:28 pm)

Read what I wrote: entry level salaries are low, even at big 4 firms

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bizzybone1313 (Sep 16, 2017 - 1:01 pm)

I use to work at the work Big 4 in the consulting division. I made $56K a long time ago. I usually only worked 45ish hours a week. But the peeps in the audit and tax divisions usually work 50-60 hours if not more during busy season. So OP try to get a job in the consulting division. But I was in a very specialized division. You likely won't get lucky and still be working like a dog. The Big 4 is real brutal on travelljng schedule. At first it's cool jet setting. It gets old after a while.

Generally the Big 4 are pretty stingy on salaries. Because they know everyone merely wants the line on their resume. So go get your Line then use it to get into a Fortune 100 company.

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uknownvalue (Sep 13, 2017 - 1:01 pm)

My main motivation in obtaining a CPA license is for portability. There is a high probability that I will be moving at least 2-3 times over the next 10 - 15 years. Even though I have been practicing for 5 years as an attorney, I worry about my ability to get another legal job. My current situation permits me to earn a decent living, but it is fairly specific to my current location. Of course I would like to earn as much as possible, but it is not necessary.

In short I want a professional type job that I can do almost anywhere - 50k is fine with me.

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joecoder (Sep 13, 2017 - 8:48 pm)

CPA licenses are state specific

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caj111 (Sep 14, 2017 - 11:36 am)

They are but it's very easy to get reciprocity with another state or even practice in the other state without that state's particular license. You don't have to take another exam, which would be the same exam anyway (for all but a few states at most). The only potential snag you could run into would be representing in an administrative appeal and even then not all states care about that. Some states require nothing more than a Power of Attorney to represent in an administrative appeal. Other states are admittedly different in this regard - Illinois for example will only allow attorneys licensed by Illinois to represent in the newly created state tax tribunal, but I'm thinking this will change. New York allows only New York-licensed attorneys or CPAs at their state tax tribunal. Most other states don't give a damn where you are licensed, as long as it's some kind of CPA or law license, others allow out-of-state attorneys and/or CPAs to represent with special permission (sort of pro hac vice that always gets granted) and others just require nothing more than a POA.

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trijocker (Sep 14, 2017 - 5:13 pm)

I applied with the CA Accounting board, and they accepted quite a few community college accounting classes and some taxation units, which worked in addition with my MBA classes to give me enough credits to sit for the CPA exam. Once and if I pass I plan on using reciprocity to transfer my scores to other states which may have required upper division courses only to sit for the CPA exax. It is a national exam put on by NASBA and you can take any of the four sections online at testing centers.

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larrywilliams (Sep 15, 2017 - 10:35 pm)

caj111 wrote:

[quote]The only finance/business related credential more highly regarded than the CPA is the CFA (certified financial analyst), a very tough exam that takes at least three years to pass (even if you pass each part on the first try), and while not well known to the general public, it is extremely valuable and well known within the financial community.[/quote]

I think you may be referring to the designation "Chartered Financial Analyst."

The CFA designation might be "more highly regarded" than the CPA designation in some "financial community" somewhere, but as you say the CFA designation is not well known to the general public. Also, it's not nearly as well known in the legal and accounting communities as is the CPA designation.

I'm confident that the CFA designation is a fine one to have, and one for which rigorous preparation is required. HOwever, to my knowedge, you don't even have to have a day of college to become a CFA.

In many or perhaps most states, you cannot even sit for the CPA exam without a formal college degree and at least five years of college (with at least a certain concentration in accounting and business law courses).

Even the CPA designation is not what it used to be. Back when I passed the CPA exam (before electricity was invented), the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination was a 19 and half hour test, given over a three day period (Auditing 3.5 hours, Theory 3.5 hours, Law 3.5 hours, Practice 9 hours). No electronic calculators of any kind were allowed. Pencil and paper, folks! Many or most states required that you take all four parts of the CPA exam until you had passed at least one or two parts. Also, you had to make a certain minimum score on the parts you did not pass in order to get credit for the parts you did pass. In the state in which I took the exam, the passing score for each of the four parts was 75, but if (for example) you scored a 95 on each of three parts and scored 49 or less on the fourth part, you got zero credit.

Also, to get to the exam, we had to walk 12 miles through the snow uphill both ways -- no, wait, I made that part up.

Seriously, I'm confident that neither the CPA exam nor the CFA exam are cakewalks.

Full disclosure: I'm an attorney and CPA in a tax practice.

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larrywilliams (Sep 15, 2017 - 11:13 pm)

Regarding the "portability" aspect of having the CPA exam, it's gotten even better over the years. In addition to the "reciprocity" rules of the various State Boards of Accountancy, we now also have the "substantial equivalence" rules.

The difference is as follows.

Reciprocity means that if you're licensed as a CPA in State #1, you can get the CPA license in State #2 as well if State 1 and State 2 have a reciprocity agreement. I got my original CPA license in Louisiana and, under the various state reciprocity rules, I got my second license in Texas and my third license (which I later dropped) in Florida.

Substantial equivalence is even better in a way. Under these rules, depending on the state, you may not even need a CPA license in State #2 to handle clients in State #2 if you're licensed in State #1 and you have an office in State #1 but no office in State #2.

It's all pretty common sense; accounting is essentially the same in all fifty states, and all states use the same Uniform CPA Exam. Most or maybe all states now require at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a total of five years, not just four years, of college.

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larrywilliams (Sep 15, 2017 - 11:28 pm)

Another thought: If you're working toward a Master of Accountancy degree and you're thinking of doing a substantial accounting practice other than compilation, review or audit of financial statements -- for example, if you think you might be doing some Federal tax work -- the CFA designation would probably not be much help. Generally, you can prepare tax returns without being an attorney or CPA, but you cannot represent taxpayers in dealings with the Internal Revenue Service on examination, tax collection or tax refund issues unless you are an attorney or CPA. There are a few exceptions -- but "CFA" is not one of them.

In short, even though you're already an attorney (and therefore don't need the CPA license to represent taxpayers administratively before the IRS), a CPA license might help you a lot more than the CFA designation in an accounting firm.

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miketrout (Sep 15, 2017 - 11:55 pm)

Do the business courses in law school (contracts, corporate finance, business associations, etc.) count toward the general education requirements for the CPA?

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trijocker (Sep 16, 2017 - 8:32 am)

I submitted my JD transcript to the CA CPA board and they did indeed use my law school coursework as part of the 24 required hours for business. Get out you transcript and count up how many unit hours you have. If you don't meet 24 hours take some extra courses. The bigger issue for people seems to be hitting the 24 hours of accounting coursework, and in CA you can take community college classes to make up that 24 hours, you can even use tax classes if they have the word accounting in the title. You will want to take as much accounting as you can, not just financial and managerial accounting, but go all the way through intermediate, auditing, not for profit and government to pass the exam.

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larrywilliams (Sep 16, 2017 - 9:39 am)

I was already a CPA before I went to law school, but the Texas State Board of Accountancy did accept law school courses in satisfaction of the "business law" continuing education requirements for annual renewal of the CPA license. (Obviously, the Board would have little credibility otherwise!)

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uknownvalue (Sep 16, 2017 - 1:45 pm)

Larry - What motivated you to become an attorney after the CPA? Also, do you think the JD/CPA credential improved your hiring prospects?

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larrywilliams (Sep 16, 2017 - 4:46 pm)

[quote]Larry - What motivated you to become an attorney after the CPA? Also, do you think the JD/CPA credential improved your hiring prospects?[/quote]

I had gotten completely burned out on public accounting -- or, so I thought -- and was looking for something else to do. I had been primarily an auditor for the first five years in public accounting (but with a pretty heavy dose of Federal and state income tax work as well). I actually thought that I would like to teach law. I entered law school (University of Houston) at the age of 35 with no specific purpose of going into tax. I quickly found that the legal market was totally saturated -- this was in the latter half of the 1980s, mind you! The crisis in America with too many law schools and too many law graduates chasing too few jobs is nothing new.

As I was finishing law school, having taken two tax courses in law school and having had five years of tax experience (and I’m not talking just mom and pop Form 1040 returns), I found that the big law firm wanted to know only two things: were you in the top 10 percent of your class, and were you on law review. Literally nothing else mattered at all. I graduated somewhere in the middle of my class. I recall a conversation with a recruiter for a tax position, and he told me point blank that for tax-related work, law firms did not care one bit about the quality and quantity of your tax experience and expertise. Everything with the law firms was literally grades, grades, grades (and law review).

Based on a tip from one of my tax professors, I did garner a temporary three-month law clerk job -- shortly AFTER graduation, while waiting for my bar exam results -- in the tax section of one of the largest law firms in Texas, doing tax research and preparing a large number of trust income tax returns for the family of a well-known American political figure. I was admitted to the bar while working at the firm, but no permanent job there was forthcoming.

I then went to work for a tax-oriented, sole practitioner law firm, and I was laid off after only a few months. The owner of the firm simply did not have enough clients.

So, the sort answer is that the JD/CPA combo did not improve my hiring prospects at first.

After I was laid off, however, another CPA with whom I had worked in the first CPA firm (before law school) found out that I was looking for work, and he hired me to come help him with his new CPA firm (on a temporary basis) while I was looking for another law job. Well, it turned out that his tax work -- as a CPA -- was so specialized and sophisticated that this temporary “accounting” job turned into a permanent tax job where my legal skills were much in demand. I don’t want to be too specific about the type of tax work I now do, but this started over 25 years ago with that temporary job.

So, while the JD/CPA combo did not help my IMMEDIATE job prospects right after law school, the combination did pay off, and has been of immense benefit and importance.

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whiteguyinchina (Sep 16, 2017 - 8:08 pm)

you can even take online classes to qualify for the CPA. many places offer accounting certificates that count. my personal feeling is, a MACC is not necessary if you have a JD, take online classes and use the extra time to work under a CPA as you need two years accounting work experience under a CPA i believe to sit for the CPA exam. i don't think accounting employers will look badly at such a route.

a while back i calculated that you could get those 24 credits for 6-7k, with more schedule flexibility. a MACC would be much more costly, money and timewise.

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nubiansage (Sep 16, 2017 - 8:28 pm)

I am also an attorney/CPA but worked in the accounting field for a number of years before becoming an attorney. Larrywilliams is right. Don't get the CPA thinking that you can get into a tippy, top law firm because at the end of the day it's all about grades, where you went to law school, and class ranking. I found this out during summer job interviews where my prior experience was simply dismissed. It just proves once again that prior experience (even as a CPA) has no merit when it comes to Big Law.

You will definitely have some value on the tax and estate planning side of things as a CPA with your legal background within a CPA firm. You can also get into private industry working as a corporate accountant making decent to good money but if you don't have the Big 4 experience then you may have some difficulty getting promoted with a Fortune 500 company as an accounting manager or controller (but some do manage w/o it).

Why not consider going into tax law as part of your practice as a solo? That's what I did although it was more heavy on the tax side.

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uknownvalue (Sep 18, 2017 - 1:13 pm)

For the first 3 - 4 years after accounting school, the best I am hoping for is to be hired by an accounting firm that will qualify me for a CPA license on the experience component. I am not worried about my job prospects after the CPA license (worst case scenario, I start my own tax practice) but I am deeply concerned about getting the first CPA qualifying job.

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nubiansage (Sep 18, 2017 - 11:26 pm)

Well, you should have quite a few options after you finish. Try to apply for both Big 4, national, and local CPA firms. I know for a fact that the local CPA firms would give you a shake worst case scenario if you cannot break into Big 4 or national tier firms.

And depending on your state, you can get the experience requirement without working for a CPA firm so long as you were supervised by a licensed CPA. I'm licensed in California with a general CPA license which means I can do just about anything a CPA is licensed to do except for attestation (signing audit reports). You can gain general accounting experience just by working in a corporate accounting department under a licensed CPA (supervisor or manager).

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fettywap (Sep 18, 2017 - 2:21 pm)

The lady who graduated first in my law school's class a year before me was still an accounting professor for a university after graduating law school. She has never practiced law, as far as I know.

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