In addition to the standard bachelor degree requirements that accountants generally are required to have, CPA candidates must finish 150 total semester hours and meet all state specific qualifications. The a 150 hours can be obtained in one of three ways:
- Combining a master’s degree with an undergraduate accounting degree
- Combining a master’s in accounting with an undergraduate degree in another discipline
- Attending an integrated five-year accounting program that leads to a master’s in accounting
One benefit for CPAs is that salaries are typically higher than those of accountants. In fact, according to the 2012 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, licensed CPAs enter a field where the median salary is $73,800, compared to a median accountant salary of $50,500.
On average, CPAs can expect to earn 5-15% more than their accountant counterparts.
In addition, most senior and management positions within accounting firms require a CPA license. Those wishing to climb the corporate ladder should definitely keep this in mind early on in their accounting careers and be ready to fulfill the necessary requirements. CPAs are also licensed to perform audits at public companies while accountants are not. In the corporate world, CPAs are generally given job preference over accountants because of their higher education standards.
CPAs generally also enjoy greater job security because the accounting profession is experiencing a shortage of highly skilled professionals with experience in personal and business financial management. Baby boomers are retiring at a high rate, creating a need for experienced professionals.
Finally, the CPA title brings respect and prestige among peers. Accountants go through years of academic, technical and on-the-job training to be part of the elite group that holds the CPA designation.