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Accounting Careers FAQ

Accounting Careers FAQ

Dona DeZube, Monster Finance Careers Expert

Over the years, Monster members have posted thousands of questions to our Finance Careers message board. But some questions pop up all the time, so we thought we’d answer the most commonly asked queries about accounting careers here.

Can I advance as an accountant without a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation?

Plenty of accountants work without a CPA. However, all else being equal, employers tend to prefer a CPA to a non-CPA candidate. Hudson Financial estimates that CPAs command a 5 percent premium over non-CPA accountants. A survey by the Institute of Management Accountants says the average salary for an accountant with either certification is $102,400 versus $80,700 for noncredentialed accountants.

I just graduated with a BA in accounting. Should I work for a private or public firm?

The answer depends in part upon where you want to work. If you’re in a state that requires public accounting experience of its CPAs, then you may want to collect that experience now, because it can be hard to make the switch from private to public later. If you’re in a state that doesn’t require public accounting experience, or you will never, ever desire that CPA, then private accounting can be a great choice. Other options include government or nonprofit work.

What jobs can I get with an accounting degree and no experience?

In public accounting, entry-level jobs include staff accountant or junior auditor. On the private side, you might start by doing monthly reports or internal audits, or working in the budget department doing forecasts or mergers-and-acquisitions analysis. The accounting career ladder for state and federal workers begins with preparing and analyzing financial reports, or reviewing and recording revenues and expenses. Even before you graduate, you may be able to find work as an accounting assistant or accounting clerk, if you can work during business hours. At the end of your sophomore year, you should have no problem landing a summer accounting internship.

How do I list the fact that I plan to sit for the CPA exam on my resume?

Candidate for CPA exam or CPA exam candidate.

How hard is the CPA exam?

Really hard. So hard that fewer than half of those taking the test in 2008 passed any section. The best passing rate was for the financial accounting and reporting section: 49.21 percent. Passing rates can be much higher for recent graduates. Graduate and undergraduate students from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, for instance, posted passing rates of between 69 percent and 75 percent in 2007. Not to worry, though, plenty of study options are available.