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So You Got Your CPA, What’s Next?

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CPA-positionsBy Gregory Harms
Professor of Accounting and Finance, American Public University

Congratulations, after years of hard work and study, you are finally a Certified Public Accountant! If you have reached this point in your career, it is likely that you have wanted to work as a financial professional. Have you considered all of the options that a CPA certification provides?  While auditing and private practice immediately come to mind (more on those in a minute), as a CPA you can work in the IT field, provide forensic services, become an FBI agent, or conduct risk management assessments. Following are the next steps you should take to develop your career.

State Licensure Requirements

First there is the issue of licensure. Accounting is a licensed profession in every state. In some states, the CPA certification and license to practice can be obtained at the same time. Other states require certification first and then some period of supervised practice before a license is granted. If you want to work in private practice, you will need to have a license.  Be sure to check with your state licensing board regarding allowable scopes of practice for licensed and non-licensed CPAs and to find out how to become licensed.

In many cases, working under the supervision of a licensed CPA will fulfill the state requirements. This can often be done at one of the big four accounting firms, which often have many job opportunities for recent graduates and recent CPAs needing to fulfill their licensure hours. You may be able to find supervision from licensed CPAs in private practice depending on your location. Talk to your school’s career development office they often have the information you need to figure out the steps needed to get licensed.

Join Professional Associations

Once you have a license, many more possibilities will open up. To stay informed of current job openings, you may want to join your state’s professional association for CPAs. This is a good way to network and you can often get a discount on continuing education seminars offered through the association.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the accounting field’s national association. They provide training and advocate for the profession. Membership is regarded as a sign of your commitment to your chosen profession. AICPA’s website provides a wealth of information about licensure in all states, continuing education requirements, career paths, and Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) updates. They publish several journals, some of which may come with your membership, to keep members informed on current research in the field.

Networking in the Field

In any profession, the best jobs are often in the hidden job market. The more people you know, the more likely you are to hear of the perfect job and to get yourself an interview. State and local professional associations will often hold networking events. While the thought of mingling can be rather intimidating for some, the access to career opportunities can be worth pushing through your social discomfort and talking to as many people as you can. Keep in touch with co-workers  after they leave and attend office parties

While you may have thought the hard part was over after you passed the CPA exam, your career is really just beginning. Between figuring out licensure, keeping up with continuing education, and navigating the job market, there are a lot of challenges to face as you put your CPA and education to use.

About the Author:

Greg Harms has been a full time faculty member in the accounting and finance program at APU since 2011 and prior to that was an adjunct faculty member in the business program for four years at APU.  He received his MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management in 2002 and has worked with a number of organizations to improve their organizational performance and effectiveness.

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