Insights from the Girard School of Business
Earning a designation as a Certified Public Accountant is a goal for many who enter the accounting field. While becoming a CPA is challenging, the rewards are high in terms of job satisfaction, security, promotion, and pay. Many who enter a master’s degree program in accounting have either become a CPA or are preparing to take the exam. In either case, a master’s degree program can help accountants excel in their chosen field.
How Many Accountants Are CPAs?
While there are many accountants in the United States, not all become CPAs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are about 1.4 million accountants in the United States. According to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), there are 664,532 CPAs in the U.S. as of 2016. You don’t need to be a math whiz to know that’s a little less than 50% of accountants who earn a CPA. Becoming a CPA clearly puts you into the upper echelon of the accounting field. In most states, becoming a CPA requires earning at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and then passing the CPA exam. This is the case in Massachusetts.
Why Become a CPA?
Meeting the criteria and passing the CPA exam is difficult. So, why do it? Those who have made the commitment enjoy many advantages, according to NASBA. The organization lists the following as good reasons to earn CPA designation.
Prestige and respect. CPAs are viewed as an elite group of professionals by many, including peers and clients. Those who become a CPA have expertise that places them above others in the field.
Career development. NASBA writes that accountants with a CPA designation will stand out when applying for the best jobs in the field. Being a CPA often signals that an accountant is ready to take on a leadership or management role.
Career security. More students began moving into information technology starting in the 1990s, according to NASBA, meaning less supply of new professionals in the accounting field and a growing demand. Numbers from the BLS back up that theory. They project a 10% increase in accountants by 2026 nationwide and an 8.5% increase in Massachusetts.
Job satisfaction. CPAs have more opportunity to find the best jobs in the profession, including jobs in foreign countries, and the chance to make a bigger impact on whatever organization they work for with their accounting expertise.
Money and benefits. NASBA estimates that becoming a CPA increases your pay by 10% to 15% over the salaries of other accountants.
How a Master’s Degree Helps
The best master’s degree programs in accounting prepare students for taking the CPA. At Merrimack College, a dedicated program director helps guide students through the CPA process. Some students enter the program having already passed the CPA exam. In that case, the master’s degree program helps students earn the 80 continuing education hours they need over two years to renew their CPA license.
Becoming a CPA clearly provides benefits to an accountant’s career. And earning a master’s degree in accounting can help them achieve that goal or retain their CPA designation. In either case, it’s a step forward in their career.