In addition to a degree, becoming an accountant requires passing your state’s CPA exam. Each state has different requirements for who is allowed to sit for the CPA exam. Most states require candidates for a CPA to have earned approximately 120 semester hours of college credit, including at least 24 semester hours in advanced accounting courses. In addition, most states require at least one-year of work experience under the supervision of a currently licensed CPA, which is usually provided through a college internship or field experience course.
For certified accountants, tax season is often the busiest time of year. Courses in taxation provide accounting majors with an overview of the U.S. system of taxation and how to navigate the forms, laws and regulations that go along with it. For those who wish to focus on taxation in their career, advanced courses are available related to income taxes, business taxes and international taxes and trade.
Courses in auditing teach future accountants about professional ethics and how to properly document financial information. The focus of this course is on bookkeeping skills and managing financial records which are required when dealing with a fraud investigation or regular audit. Advanced courses in forensic accounting use the skills learned in a basic auditing course to teach future accountants how to recognize fraud and conduct an audit of financial information.
A cost/managerial accounting course focuses on helping business owners understand the financial implications certain business decisions will have. As part of this area of accounting, accountants create financial plans, provide projections for the finances of the business in the future and prepare financial reports for businesses and shareholders. In addition, a cost/managerial accounting course instructs accountants on how to educate clients about profit-margins and business costs, such as budgets and employee salaries.
Accounting Information Systems is focused on introducing students to computerized systems and programs that are frequently used in the field of accounting and training them how to use those systems. In addition to learning about the systems, future accountants are trained on how to use the systems to help businesses make informed financial decisions and create business projections and financial reports. Students also learn basic skills such as how to make flowcharts and spreadsheets to organize information and an overview of how to safely store and backup financial information on a computer.
Because most states require those sitting for a CPA exam to have experience working under the supervision of a certified CPA, many colleges and universities offer courses that include an internship component. Usually titled seminars or field experiences, schools assign students to work with a CPA and they spend a portion of the course working with that person. Assigned reflections and class discussions are usually included with the course and encourage students to reflect on their experience working with the CPA. Often the CPA is required to submit formal evaluations to the college or university related to the student’s performance.