Your Path to 150 Hours Can Be Challenging!
To become a CPA in New Jersey, one has to obtain 150 semester hours from an accredited school. These credits can be obtained within or beyond a degree program. A candidate can sit for the CPA exam with 120 credits which must include 24 credits in accounting and 24 credits in other business courses. This applies to graduate credits as well; undergraduate and graduate credits are counted equally.
By the time you are ready to graduate you will probably be juggling so many different things in life like an internship or job, family, friends, a significant other, sleep and working out, all while trying to study for your existing classes. You may be compelled to take the easy route and take classes like volleyball or the famed “underwater basket weaving.” Don’t go there!
You may already have an offer from your dream accounting firm, you may be a tutor, you might have a 4.0 GPA in your accounting courses. But you may also be tired and about how disruptive technology/ favorable to your career. The effort that ready to check out. While it is true that once you have your bachelor’s degree/150 hours, your future employers will rarely take note of your grades in advanced accounting or any of the other courses, there is a big reason why you need to stay focused on what you do to get to 150 hours. It’s knowledge and thus your versatility.
While employers may value the fact that you have 150 hours or your master’s degree, it is equally if not more important to them how you deal with difficult clients, differing personalities, deadlines and if you challenged yourself in college. This can be done by broadening your mind and taking courses that will help diversify your accounting/business/technology acumen.
Here are some options to consider:
- Obtain a masters in something other than tax or accounting. Data analytics, big data, fraud/forensics (information systems) are other hot topics in accounting. Some firms are actually hiring computer science majors and then having those staff learn accounting. You need to think ahead about how disruptive technology/innovation will change the role of the accountant.
- Use 30 credits or choose a double major. Courses in computer science, finance, risk, analytics or other accounting electives can help you professionally. Don’t necessarily limit yourself to your current program. Do some research into other universities and colleges and see if you can take these courses as a visiting student.
- Minor in something. Information systems and technology or another minor would be helpful as you embark on your career in accounting. Today’s accountants are relying heavily on the systems that track their clients’ books. Understanding how these systems work can save you time in the audit room. You may also want to consider some classes in internal accounting.
Even if you decide to stay with a firm for the long haul, your resume is crucial to potential client “wins.” Every time you are included in an RFP, your resume is included. Clients will be more impressed with a higher degree and that could be favorable to your career. The effort that you put in now, while not paying immediate dividends, will pay off down the road. (This was a great point shared with me by my colleague, Ray Ruiz, who joined the Surgent team after a prestigious 10+ year career at KPMG as a recruiter.)
Like everything else in life—relationships, working out, your degree and your career—you will get out of it what you put into it. Keep challenging yourself. Take the interesting accounting classes or computer classes and really think about your future and what may broaden your career opportunities. Chances are your dream accounting firm will reward you with interesting projects and clients because you challenged yourself with those courses while in undergrad or grad school.
This article appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.