Accountants belong to a fulfilling and challenging profession, with tremendous opportunities for employment and growth. CPAs are in demand for all types of organizations, and the OnPay 2019 Small Business Finance and HR Report states that the most trusted advisor for many small businesses is their accountant (http://bit.ly/2lWnJpA). Approximately 86% of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their accountant is a trusted counselor. Interestingly, entrepreneurs who had the most faith in their accountant were more likely to expect revenue growth for the coming year, indicating that accountants are key figures in a positive economy.
Students and second-career candidates have many options for future engagement, but often know little about accounting opportunities. This month’s column looks at two great web-sites for accounting students, as well as for those mentoring future CPAs. Accounting instructors will also find helpful advising information and useful classroom materials. While there is some overlap in the topical coverage, each website has some unique features that make it worthwhile to explore.
Discover Accounting (https://discoveraccounting.org/) offers extensive materials covering accounting education, career options, and certifications, as well as a job board. It presents state-by-state information on requirements to sit for the CPA exam, as well as topical coverage on the exam. The website’s “News” section (https://discoveraccounting.org/news/) contains several blog posts concerning careers in accounting.
The “Accounting Degrees and Certifications Guide” explains the value of an accounting degree; provides a list of the various common academic accreditations for colleges and universities; compares associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees and the positions to which they may lead; and describes several accounting certifications (https://discoveraccounting.org/degree/). The bottom of this page provides hyperlinks to a mix of professional organizations and CPA exam information. An extensive discussion of national and state scholarship information is located at https://discoveraccounting.org/scholarships/.
“Career Resources” (https://discoveraccounting.org/careers/) presents 24 career options or job titles and is the perfect place to send students who ask what they can do with an accounting degree. The content of the specific job pages varies, but, as an example, the “Tax Accountant” subsidiary page (https://discoveraccounting.org/careers/tax-accounting/) discusses background information on the tax accounting field and the tax specialization, such as business tax accounting and international tax accounting. The educational requirements and certification options for tax accountants are briefly covered, and the summary concludes with median salaries and career outlook.
The “Resources” section of the website is quite extensive and includes information on scholarships, salaries, public versus private accounting, and the CPA exam, among many other topics (https://discoveraccounting.org/resources/). The main page provides an overview of some of the website offerings, including brief descriptions of accounting associations, links to study resource websites, links to open access journals (including The CPA Journal), and links to certification study resources, among many others. Another option is use the sitemap to scan for specific items of interest (https://discoveraccounting.org/sitemap-resources/).
The “Become a CPA” main page (https://discoveraccounting.org/become-a-cpa/) offers background information on certification and licensure requirements, including the role of state boards of accountancy, and provides connections to state-specific details. The New York page, for example, covers education requirements for accounting, general business, ethics and professional responsibilities, and business and accounting communications (https://discoveraccounting.org/become-acpa/new-york/). There is also information on how to apply and sit for the CPA exam in New York, registration fees, required experience, and licensing and renewal requirements. The final item is average accounting salaries in the state, including in various geographic regions.
Accounting.com is another great website for anyone interested in learning more about accounting education and careers, as well as accounting information for small businesses. The site map (https://www.accounting.com/sitemap/) is an easy way to see a quick snapshot of website contents and focus in on specific resources. Another option is to start with the “Resources” main page (https://www.accounting.com/resources/), which contains a large collection of “guides” and groups content by featured, career resources, college planning, financial aid, and accounting knowledge. The guides are thorough and thought provoking, provide links to external resources, and are presented in webpage format and easily accessible on any electronic device or computer.
“Top Reasons to Choose a Career in Accounting,” (http://bit.ly/2lztpFW) by Susan Lowe, CPA, is a featured resource and provides excellent talking points for mentoring a student interested in pursuing accounting. The related “Career” section (https://www.accounting.com/resources/career-resources/) has several beneficial resources, including an “Essential Guide to the CPA Exam,” with a thorough discussion of eligibility, registration, and preparation, as well as multiple hyperlinks to AICPA materials.
Prospective CPAs need to pursue the appropriate accounting education, and the “College Planning” section contains more than two dozen guides, such as “How to Choose a Program,” SAT and GMAT guides, and undergraduate and graduate college application guides (https://www.accounting.com/resources/college-planning-resources/). The “Internships and Practicums” guide starts by explaining what an internship is, how it will help the student, and what to expect. It suggests that students look to their university’s career center, attend job fairs and recruiting events, reach out to an alumni network, and check out internship databases, such as the seven linked websites provided.
The Financial Aid Overview and Scholarships webpage has an extensive overview of information on the costs of higher education and options to help pay for expenses (https://www.accounting.com/resources/financial-aid/). Prospective students are reminded that education costs include not only tuition and housing, but books, equipment, and travel or commuting costs. The financial aid information covers the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process, how to use personal and retirement savings, and how to obtain scholarships, grants, and private loans. The segment on federal student aid programs is especially helpful, with explanations of the Federal Direct Loan Program, Federal Perkins Loans, federal work-study programs, school-based financial aid, state aid, and veterans’ benefits.
The “In Your State” section is particularly well developed and includes background information on each state, a comprehensive directory of colleges and universities with accounting programs in that state, salaries for selected job titles and degree levels, top-paying cities in the state, and major CPA firms headquartered in the state. There is also a summary of requirements to become a CPA in that state, the costs to sit for the exam, and contact information for the state board and the NYSSCPA.