6 More Reasons College Students Should Take the CPA Exam

CPA exam

In a recent blog post, I highlighted the first five of 11 reasons college students should start working toward the CPA exam while still in school, including having more time, resources and financial support.

A CPA certification qualifies you for many of these hot jobs we've listed in our Accounting Job Search, as well as boosts your starting salary.

Here are the remaining six reasons college students should start preparing for the CPA exam now.

6. College students who take the CPA exam show their work ethic

Hiring managers look for applicants with not just top accounting skills but also initiative and maturity. A CPA credential shows them that you’re serious about the profession and possess the drive and dedication they seek in an employee. Passing the CPA exam also proves your competency in many non-accounting skills — critical thinking, business acumen, written communications, problem solving, professional conduct and ethics, and sound judgment — that are so important in today’s hiring environment.

7. A CPA nets above-market compensation

According to our Salary Guide, the CPA certification is “still the most sought-after designation for accounting and finance roles.” A professional certification can earn a new hire, on average, an additional 5 to 15 percent. For example, an entry-level auditor without a CPA, hired at a large public accounting firm, can expect to earn between $56,000 and $68,000 a year. The CPA salary range for that same role could be as high as $58,800 to $78,200. To customize the wages for specific cities, use our Salary Calculator.

8. A CPA has more job options

Career development opportunities are simply more plentiful for CPAs because they’re highly versatile employees. The CPA exam prepares you to diversify your offerings to include auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation and business environment and concepts. CPAs can easily transition from public accounting to senior corporate roles, and vice versa. Whether you’re interested in traditional or non-traditional accounting career paths, this certification will give you more options.

Moreover, the AICPA has mutual recognition agreements with several national professional accounting bodies. This means that U.S. CPAs can practice in the following countries without having to get another credential: Australia, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, Ireland and New Zealand. Being bilingual or multilingual will boost your standing with global employers even further, as will a solid foundation in International Financial Reporting Standards.

To move up to senior and management positions, becoming a CPA is vital. In public accounting managerial positions almost always require a CPA certification. Likewise, in corporate finance, it will become difficult to attain the controller or CFO levels down the road without it.

9. CPAs are informed professionals

Laws, regulations and technologies change constantly, which is why continuing professional education (CPE) is a requirement for remaining a CPA in good standing. All regular AICPA members must complete 120 hours, or its equivalent, of CPE for each three-year reporting period. This is another reason employers value CPAs so highly: They know that their certified accountants, auditors and controllers have the most up-to-date knowledge of complicated rules and can offer sound advice and judgment.

10. CPAs enjoy prestige and respect

The CPA carries cachet. Because of the stringent requirements to become and remain certified, CPAs are considered the elite in the industry. This designation after accountants’ names tells employers, clients and peers that they are highly trained, very professional and extremely competent in their field. In other words, those three letters signal to others that you’re at the top of your game.

11. It's one of the best ways to get ahead in accounting 

Not only will earning your CPA certification reap the benefits of greater work and advancement opportunities, you’ll also gain the respect of your colleagues and earn a higher CPA salary. But don’t wait until you’ve secured your first job or have more experience under your belt before taking the exam. The best time to prepare for it is while you’re in school, and the greatest chance of passing it is shortly after graduation, when all the information is still fresh in your mind. To get a head start on attaining this certification, join the AICPA as a student affiliate member.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in New Accountant Magazine and adapted for the Accountemps blog. It was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.

More on the CPA exam 

In case you missed it, here's the first five: Top Reasons College Students Should Take the CPA Exam and, as a bonus, 4 Things to Know about the Uniform CPA Exam.