Training & Continuing Education
"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we
learn by doing them," stated Aristotle many centuries ago. In
his day, as well as in modern times, experience and education go
hand in hand. Becoming an accountant, with the potential of many
specialized fields within the financial spectrum, is no
exception. This winning combination can begin in high school and
continue throughout a working career.
Accounting offers a wide array of business services that
include public, management and government accounting, as well as
internal auditing. In each of these major fields are specialties
that prepare, analyze and verify financial documents in order to
provide information to client entities. These environments are
not stagnant, are ever evolving and the successful management of
these entities requires strong credentials that must be kept
current through ongoing education and training.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment
of accountants and auditor jobs is expected to grow by 22
percent between 2008 and 2018, which is faster than the average
of all occupations. Over this decade more than 279,000 new
accounting jobs will be created. However, placement in and
development of an accounting career are directly related to the
level of education and licensure achieved.
Specialized Education for Accounting
Entry-Level Basics: Today's accountant must have
strong business, interpersonal and computer skills with a strong
command of information technology to communicate and share data
on an "anytime, anywhere" basis. Although bookkeeping and entry
level accounting positions may be obtained right out of high
school or with an associate degree, most employers require a
college education with a bachelor's degree in business,
accounting or a related field.
Qualifications identified in the Bureau of Labor
Statistics Occupational Handbook suggest that some employers
prefer applicants with a master's degree in accounting, or with
a master's degree in business administration with a
concentration in accounting.
Any accountant filing a report with the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a Certified
Public Accountant (CPA). How to Become a CPA : A CPA
certification is the most popular designation in accounting and
requires licensing by the State Board of Accountancy in which
the CPA candidate intends to practice. Most States require CPA
candidates to be college graduates. Some States will substitute
public accounting experience for a college degree.
As of 2009, 46 States and the District of Columbia required
CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college
coursework - an additional 30 hours beyond the usual 4-year
bachelor's degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
only Colorado, California, New Hampshire and Vermont do not
require the 150 semester hours.
CPA candidates are required to pass the 4-part Uniform CPA
Examination prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public
Accountants (AICPA). The advantage of the "uniform" exam
is that it is now a computer-based test that is offered two
months out of each quarter at various testing sites throughout
the United States, and internationally. Each year, more than
half the CPA candidates do not pass all four parts on the first
try. However, most States do require that all four sections must
be passed within 18 months of passing the first section.
Although the CPA exam is uniform for all States, specific
requirements are not. Therefore, CPA candidates should apply
through the Board of Accountancy in the State in which they will
practice. Information on CPA licensure requirements by State may
be obtained from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy
Continuing Professional Education for the CPA
CPA licensure is not for life, but requires periodic renewal
- some States are annual, others are for a two or three year
period. All license renewals require State-defined criteria
which include continuing professional education (CPE) credits.
CPE courses and providers should have the following
- Be compliant with NASBA and AICPA standards
- Be versatile in offerings, to enhance preferred
- Be approved by the individual State Board of
- Be written by someone with experience in the field
- Be prompt with grading and certificates
CPE providers charge a fee for courses and/or testing. A CPE
provider may offer free CPE courses under specific
circumstances. For instance:
- In return for listing with them for employment
- In return for feedback regarding a pilot course
- The course is free, but the provider charges fees for
testing or grading
- One free course to encourage sign up for other
Always verify that a course is Board approved and meets
Where to Acquire Specialized Accounting Education
A CPA certification is required and regulated by State law.
However, professional certifications other than CPA often
provide advantages to accountants or auditors in their career
paths. Certifications can attest to professional competence in a
specialized field. Some designations, such as Forensic
Certified Public Accountant, require an initial CPA
designation and licensure before the additional education and
certification in forensic accounting is approved to practice as
Below is a list of specialty accounting designations, and the
professional society that sponsors the certification and links
to Websites for application and certification requirements for
education, course offerings, fees, and testing. These
certifications renew periodically and require CPE and often
membership in the sponsoring organization.
- Certified Management Accountant
(CMA), Institute of Management
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP),
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
- Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE),
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
- Forensic Certified Public Accountants
(FCPA), Forensic CPA Society.
- Enrolled Agent (EA), US
Department of Treasury .
- Certified Internal Auditor
(CIA); Certification in Control Self-Assessment
(CCSA); Certified Government Auditing
Professional (CGAP); Certified Financial Services Auditor
(CFSA), Institute of Internal Auditors,
- Certified Information Systems Auditor
(CISA), ISACA, formerly the Information Systems
Audit and Control Association.
- Accredited Business Accountant
(ABA); Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA);
Accredited Tax Preparer
(ATP), Accreditation Council for Accountancy
and Taxation (ACAT).
- Certified Government Financial Manager
(CGFM), Association of Government Accountants.
- Accredited Business Valuation
(ABV); Certified in Financial Forensics
(CFF):, Certified Information Technology
Professional (CITP); Personal Financial Specialist
(PFS), American Institute of Certified Public
A background in accounting offers competitive salaries and
long-term growth potential no matter where one's career leads.
Tomorrow's accountant will need a national and global
perspective as well as disciplined education and specialized
As noted in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational
Handbook, "Regardless of qualifications, competition will
remain keen for the most prestigious jobs in major accounting
and business firms."