Recently, the accountants in my firm were discussing the pros and cons to our job. It led to a rather intriguing discussion regarding how we are perceived by the general public and what we wish we could change about public opinion. This is our chance to dish the dirt about our job on a day-in, day-out basis.
To start with, I’d like to clear up the general idea that to get a degree in accounting, you only need to know how to add and subtract. This is a common misconception! To gain a degree in accounting, a bachelor’s degree (four-year college program) must be achieved. The program must be accredited, so many of the quick and easy online programs that you see in pop-ups and “get your degree in two month” emails that you see are no more than scams.
Take a look at what I had to pass in order to become an accountant. You’ll find the course load was pretty tough. I also had to keep a 3.0 grade average at all times with the Fisher School of Accounting. This means at least a B- at all times. If I got a C in any course, I had to retake it until I passed. My other option was dropping out. Before Fisher School of Accounting even let me into their program, I had to complete 60 credit hours at the University of Florida gaining a basic college education with English, Algebra, and the likes. Can you truly say that is easy?
During my four years with this tough accounting school, I was expected to pass a number of difficult courses including:
- Accounting Processes I and II
- Business Finance
- Business Law
- Business Writing
- Calculus I and II
- Cost Accounting
- Federal Taxes
- Financial Reporting
- Financial Risk Management
- International Accounting
- Interpretation of Literature
- Introduction to Accounting
- Introduction to Statistics
- Mergers and Acquisitions
- Problem Solving Using Computers
- Supply Chain Accounting
Following graduation, I had to pass the CPA exam before I could begin working as a certified public accountant. These questions were extremely difficult. In all honesty, do you know how to report the annual income of a company who earns 500,000 in profit and spends 50,000 on business luncheon expenses and another 50,000 in tax expenses? The answer is not 400,000! How do you record fixed assets that are donated to a non-profit government agency? What is the term for the market value of all goods produced by a country’s citizens? These are only a small sampling of the questions found on a CPA exam.
The CPA exam is set up in four different parts-Auditing & Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting & Reporting, Regulations. The cost alone is rather disturbing because it can cost upwards of $800 to take all four parts of the CPA exam. Each part is set up in groups of questions, usually each group, called “testlets” is around 30 questions. Each part to the test contains three “testlets” and then a couple of simulations. This means each test part comes out to approximately 100 questions. 75% of all questions in each part must be answered correctly in order to pass the CPA and become a licensed accountant. Few of us pass the parts on our first try, which can be a problem considering the tests are only offered 60 days out of every year. Each section must be passed within 18 months of taking the first section.
Once the stressful CPA exam has been passed, you can start working as a certified public accountant. Starting out, the average CPA is only earning about $40,000 a month. For all the rigorous education and test completion, this salary is barely enough to pay off college loans, find an apartment, and purchase a car if necessary. It becomes rather cut-throat to find a high paying job in a firm that isn’t cold and unfriendly. It took me a few years to settling into a firm that I enjoyed, but I managed to work my way up and now earn around $58,000 a year. I still have an uphill climb though.
It was also important for me to join the FICPA (Florida Institute for Certified Public Accountants). I spend $295 a year to be a member of this honored organization. By joining, I gain discounts for many continuing education courses, I’m kept up to date with changes to the law, I get to mingle with others in my line of work, I am offered discounted insurance plans, and more. It is expensive, but I have far more resources at my fingers than others.
On a daily basis, I am required to contact my assigned clients. My tasks vary by season. In tax season, I am the person to fill out my client’s tax forms and make sure they are getting all of the deductions they possibly can without breaking the law. In the spring, I help them establish a plan of attack for preparing for the next tax season. I go over their books to make sure the money is where it should be and not being misappropriated by any department or person. When a major purchase is necessary, I am the one to research financing and make sure the company can truly afford to buy what they are after. I help my clients apply for loans that fit their needs. I also help make sure they have enough money to handle expenses such as payroll, benefits, and the likes. Without my help, a company would never get off the ground. I’m that important!
Ready to move towards a career as an Accountant? Review our list of list of Accounting programs in Florida. To find a school near you, enter the name of your city in the search box at the top of the page.