40 Reasons Why the CPA Exam Matters

By Brandon Vagner, CPA, Ph.D. & Former KPMG Manager

Many people have heard about the CPA exam, but many don’t actually know what it can do for you.  Hopefully, you are an aspiring CPA and are just looking for that little motivation to get the CPA exam knocked out.  Whether you are that or just somebody trying to decide whether the CPA path is for you, this article will shine a bright light on the top 40 reasons why the CPA Exam matters.

1) $1,000,000 extra earnings potential – I’ll be the first to tell you that money is not everything in life, BUT there is something to be said for being able to afford a nice neighborhood for your family, save adequately for retirement, and put your children through college.  Life gets expensive, and having that CPA license will put you in a position to better tackle financial goals and struggles.

2) The CPA title matters in the hiring process – No matter what anybody tells you, the CPA title DOES matter in the hiring process if you are applying for an accounting position. If the CPA license is not a requirement for the position, hiring managers typically will still give priority to a CPA over a non-CPA.

3) The CPA title matters in the promotion process – Depending where you work, there are a lot of companies that favor people with a CPA license for promotion purposes.  In many companies, it is actually a requirement to have that CPA license for certain higher level positions.  Let’s face the facts, you are going to want that chance to get that higher level position.  So, you might as well get that CPA exam passed now.

4) R-E-S-P-E-C-T – The CPA title will absolutely result in gained respect – The brutal truth is that people talk and people know who has their CPA and who does not when you are in the world of accounting.  It is like a right of passage for many, and some simply will not give you the respect you deserve if you do not have those 3 letters behind your name.

  • Peers – You want to be respected by your peers from a technical angle.  These people will be working either with you or in your community for decades.  A lot of hiring happens through peer recommendations, and it is critical that you gain their respect from the get go.  Having that CPA license significantly helps.
  • Boss – This one kind of goes without saying.  Most bosses will hold you in higher regards if you can get that CPA license.  Not only does it make their team look better, but they typically will have more confidence in your abilities.
  • Clients – This is a big one!  If you can’t gain the respect of your clients, then you might be in big trouble.  You have to communicate with them on a day-to-day basis, and they typically give feedback to your direct boss with regards to your interactions with them.

5) Passing matters, because CPA firms will reimburse your CPA exam fees and prep course costs – Who the heck doesn’t like getting reimbursed?  Especially, when you are forking out thousands of dollars for CPA exam prep material.  If your firm is going to reimburse you for thousands of dollars, passing the CPA exam absolutely matters.

6) Lock in that bonus – This is even better than getting reimbursed for all the costs!  If I recall correctly, KPMG gave us a $5,000 bonus for passing the CPA exam.  There is nothing more I can say about that one.  Get that bonus, and either pay down student loan debt or go have some well deserved fun.

RELATED: Best CPA Review Courses

7) In public accounting, the CPA is a requirement to be a Manager – If you want to sign off on opinions, you best get to working on that CPA exam.  Accounting firms expect you to have your CPA license prior to manager promotion.

8) Better get it if you want that CFO position – Anybody who has dreamed about being in business has dreamed about being the CFO or CEO.  It is just natural, because they are the highest positions in business.  Well, if you really want that CFO position, you better get that CPA license.  It will drastically improve your chances of actually being able to attain that elusive CFO position.

9) Say bye to living in mom and dad’s basement – Nearly half of 25 year olds live at home with their parent(s).  There are many reasons for this.  One is because many come out of college with incredible amounts of debt and their entry level job just does not pay enough to cover their bills.  If you have a CPA license, you will significantly better your chances at earning enough to cover all your costs no matter how much debt (within reason) you come out of college with.

Another reason for so many 25 year olds living at home is that they simply can’t find a job.  Listen, just because you earn a college degree, it does not mean you are guaranteed a job.  By having your CPA license and that ‘technical stamp’ on you resume, you are much more likely to be out of mom and dad’s basement before you are 25.

10) It will make you marketable outside of the typical accounting career path – This is big, because not everybody stays in accounting.  Even if you think you might want to do something else down the road, get your CPA license.  I can’t tell you how many CPA friends I have that were able to get great jobs outside of the typical accounting career path.  Many of them attribute their success and ability to make the career move to their CPA license and related experience.  If somebody is hiring for a business related position, they typically understand the value in hiring a CPA even if the position is not directly related to accounting.

11) Will significantly help you in owning your own business no matter what it is – Owning your own business symbolizes freedom for many.  It means you get to run your own ship, and nobody can tell you what to do.  With that, nobody is there to watch out for your best interests when it comes to financial decisions unless you hire an accountant, but even then the accountant is not by your side 24/7 and it could get expensive if you are turning to a third party every time you need to make a financial related decision.  Not to mention, internal controls are huge for small business owners.  With that CPA license, you will head down a track that will give you plenty of knowledge to be successful on your own.

12 ) Career security – Has anybody ever told you that you are risk averse?  Chances are they will if you have not already been told that.  That is because most accountants are inherently risk averse.  That is also why job security matters so much to so many.  Plain and simple, if you do not want to be on the chopping block during a layoff, get your CPA license. If in some rare event you were to get let go for some reason, there is always a demand for CPAs.  You would be able to find a job much easier.

13) The travel opportunities are through the roof – As a young person straight out of college, many want to see the world.  What better way to do that than to do it on the company dollar.  Most big-4 firms ask you what percentage of travel you prefer.  If you select the high end of that scale, which is typically 80% – 100%, then you will be traveling every week seeing the country and possibly the world.

During my first couple years in public accounting, my roomate, who worked for Deloitte, requested to travel the max amount.  Every week, he left every single Sunday and returned on Friday.  I have another friend who still works for Deloitte, and she has traveled the world for her job.  She absolutely loves it!  On the flip side, I worked for KPMG and requested to travel as little as possible because I had a wife and family is the most important thing to me.  KPMG honored my request, and I barely traveled at all the entire time I was there.  I traveled for annual training, and that was about it.

14 ) Increasing demand – Becker CPA reported that accountants and auditors are expected to grow faster for the next couple years than any other profession tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Listen, getting hired out of college is a problem for some majors, but it is not for accountants.  With that being said, you are in a position to get paid really well because of the high demand.

15) If you ever want to teach and have ‘street credit’ with the students – Students are quick to catch on to your qualifications.  They pay a lot of money for their accounting degree, and they expect their accounting professors to have earned their CPA license.  If you ever have thought about even adjuncting, I would highly recommend having your CPA license so that the students will respect your lessons and opinions.

16) Perception in the business world matters – There is a reason why people wear suites to interviews.  It is all about perception, right.  You would never walk into an interview wearing street clothes.  It is the same concept when it comes to licensure.  You never would want to go up for promotion or walk into an executive led technical accounting meeting without CPA behind your name.  Perception matters.

17) CPA exam pass rates are becoming more and more important to Universities – Universities want the highest possible CPA pass rate they can get.  It helps them with marketing and attracting top talent.  Your alma mater will greatly appreciate being able to add your name to their pass rate, and it will help better the quality of the business school’s reputation, which will end up helping you as you carry that university name on your resume.

18) Having technical expertise in this world is critical – Boy, is this ever a big one!  No matter whether you are in business, engineering, medical, or any other field, having a technical talent is what will drive your success.  A CPA license is a direct mark of your technical talent.  It is HUGE for your career.

19) Flexibility to permanently relocate anywhere – This is really important for many people.  Think about it.  Every city and town in the world has businesses.  Business is what makes the world tick.  If you are a CPA, I am confident you can EASILY get a job anywhere you want.  When you are trying to get back closer to your family or your spouses family, this becomes extremely important.  Especially, when children are in the picture.

20) Have the upper hand in a technical accounting debate – The CPA license alone will not give you the upper hand in an accounting debate, but it is the track that a CPA license leads you down that will increase your knowledge in accounting exponentially.  Everybody likes to win; give yourself the best opportunity to win future business (accounting) debates.

21) Business owners will trust you more with a CPA title – If you want to own an accounting firm, you are going to need to go out and earn business.  That means convincing business owners to trust you with their financial statements and business.  You will have a much easier job at convincing them to give you their business if you have that CPA behind your name.  The CPA title instills trustworthy.

22) Ability to quickly bounce back if a layoff occurs – We all witnessed how important this was during the most recent economic downturn.  Businesses were going out of business right and left, and that left millions looking for work.  If you were a CPA, it was much easier to jump ship to a new company, because financial skills cross over into every industry.

23) Not quite recession proof, but pretty darn close – During an economic recession, if a company is going to lay off accounts, it is almost always the non-CPAs first.  It just is.  Especially, when you’re talking about public accounting firms.

24) Salary will be higher three years out of college when life is happening – There are a lot of comparison tables out there that compare a CPA’s salary to a non-CPA’s salary.  Most all of them note a pretty significant difference.  Straight out of college you are going to have friends getting married, trips people are asking you to go on, potentially a larger car payment, and much more.  It just helps to be earning a higher salary during this time period in your life.

25) Betters your chances of earning enough so your spouse can pursue a dream – My wife made a career change within the first year coming out of college.  She already had a masters degree, but would need a second to pursue her dream of being a high school business teacher.  That meant she was going back to college and she was not going to be earning an income.  If I was not making as much as I was being a CPA, it would not have been possible.

Also, you might have your spouse turn to you when you’re both 40, and he/she might say they want to pursue owning their own business.  You never know what situation you might find yourself in.  Having that CPA and earning more will allow you to support your spouse during times like that, even later in life when things are that much more costly.

26) Could possibly result in your children being highly driven to succeed and achieve difficult things in life just like their parent did – This one could be considered a bit of a stretch for some, but i’m convinced that children who see their parents achieve things in life are much more likely to try and achieve things themselves.

27) Somebody is looking up to you and it will make a difference in their life to see you achieve something so great – Aside from your children, there is probably somebody who looks up to you and you do not even know it.  If that person sees you striving to improve your life by getting your CPA license, you could have an incredible impact on how far they go with their career.  You might not even know how much you are indirectly impacting the world around you.

28) Boost to your confidence – Without a doubt, having CPA behind your name will boost your confidence in the business world.  A professional certification of that caliber is relatively rare in the business world.  It is good to know you accomplished something that is so difficult to attain.

29) Unique opportunities in retirement – This might be so far down the road you do not even want to think about it, but I recently was talking to a friend who told me that a retired CPA just accepted a position as their organization’s CFO.  How great is that!

You might want to own your business during retirement or pursue a second career like wealth management.  Whatever it is, the CPA title will make all of that much easier for you.

30) Possibility of early retirement – Since your salary is so much higher than your non-CPA peers, you might be lucky enough to stash away enough to retire early.

31) With the extra earnings potential, save more for your children’s college fund – Who the heck knows how much college will cost in 20 years.  I do know that if tuition continues to rise at the rate it current is, you are going to want to save quite a bit for your children.

32) Most sought after credential in the accounting profession – There are other credentials you can get as an accountant such as the CMA or even the CFP, but none compare to the CPA in accounting.

33) Gives you career opportunities that have work-life balance – Work-life balance is something some people chase their entire lives.  It is the dream by many. They want to work hard, but also have the ability to be there for their family.  Depending on the company, many upper management positions allow you the flexibility to leave work whenever you need to.  That is because you typically have people working under you who are the ones that stay and work late if need be.  Having that CPA title can only help you when it comes time to apply for those upper management jobs.

34) Betters your chances of doing consulting – Consulting is one of those jobs that is somewhat elusive to many.  The bottom line is that you need to be an expert, and I would highly recommend having your CPA license if you are trying to consult in the accounting profession.  It goes back to the trust factor I discussed above.

35) Introduces you into interesting law concepts – Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the law concepts covered in the CPA exam prep.  Call me crazy, but I thought they were extremely interesting and fun to learn about.  I have used some of that law knowledge gained from my CPA prep many times in my career.  I should also say that there was definitely a lot of material I did not recall ever studying in my college business law course.  I would have been toast without a quality CPA review course.

36) The CPA title is a knowledge boost for your career – This one is more for the go-getters out there, but I am a firm believer that studying for the CPA exam takes your accounting knowledge to the next level.  Yes, you learned most of the material in college, but the CPA exam process really hammers the concepts into your brain.

37) Ability to take your future business to the next level – Many of you have aspirations to own your own business.  I know this, because I talk to accounting majors on a daily basis.  The concepts that will be ingrained in you from your CPA exam studies and the career path a CPA license will take you down early in your career will significantly help you be a successful business owner.  Not to mention, your business contacts such as lawyers and any future partners will have greater respect for you if you have the CPA.  Trust me on this one!

38) You need to cap off your significant college time and financial investment – So here is the deal.  You either put or will put an incredible amount of time and energy into your accounting degree.  Not to mention, the financial cost of the degree.  Why not just take it a little further and cap it off with earning your CPA license?

39) As it is not required, the CPA license increases your chances of being accepted to a PhD program – If you want one of the most gratifying careers, then I would suggest giving thought to being a professor.  No matter what reason you want to attain your PhD for, having that CPA license will help you during the acceptance process.  Most Universities are only accepting a few students every year and in many cases only every other year.  It is extremely difficult to get accepted to a PhD program, but you will have a leg up on competition that does not have their CPA license.

40) Take the CFP without having to go back to college – The CFP Board has approved specific professional credentials as fulfilling most of the education coursework requirement for CFP certification. If you have a CPA license, you will automatically be eligible to apply for the CFP Certification Examination after you complete a capstone course registered with the CFP Board.

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