By Ryan Saum, Lerch, Vinci & Higgins, LLP
Graduating college with a degree in accounting, or any degree for that matter, is certainly an accomplishment to be proud of. Not wanting to burst your balloon, though, it's important to understand that four or five years at school is one thing, but the rigors of transitioning from the classroom to a full-time job and studying for the CPA exam are quite another.
After graduation, many students take time for personal pursuits such as travel. That is all well and good - and no doubt deserved. But keep in mind, when you get back and trade in the bathing suit for a business suit, it's much more challenging taking a full-time accounting position while at the same time preparing for the CPA exam. In other words, a gradual transition — such as through a summer internship — might provide a softer landing than an abrupt transition. After all, when you look up the word "graduate" in the dictionary, it states "to change gradually; to mark with degrees of measurement."
Trying to perform your best at, for many, a relatively new job under the specter of the CPA exam is a tall order. But, as they say, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. The difficulty of the exam didn't seem overwhelming to me, but the volume of material covered is much more significant than any test I took as an undergraduate. This is where effective time management is a must. Any of your CPA colleagues will tell you, the earlier you begin studying for the exam, the better.
The demand for CPAs is soaring. And that's why passing the exam is more important today than ever. Those three little letters add a huge amount of value to you as a professional. Think about it: if it were so easy, every accountant would be a CPA. Because the CPA exam is one of the more important tests a businessperson will ever take, it makes the related stresses that much more intense. Not only is this professional certification important to you, but also to your employer and to your clients, as well as to any future employers and future clients. So, you see, there's quite a bit riding on this exam.
You may find studying for the exam tougher and more time consuming than originally thought. Many have put it off for a few months after they get their employment footing. That's okay. But the trick is to not turn a few months into a few years. Before you know it, it may never be the right time because you continue to have increased responsibilities at work as you move up the corporate ladder. The next thing you know, you also have a spouse who wants help around the house, a child who wants to go to the park, a dog that needs to go for a walk, and little time left to read the newspaper let alone study for the CPA exam.
Getting involved in the exam process early and setting strategic goals are essential in obtaining a CPA license. In today's fast-moving world, take any advantage you can to stay ahead of the pack. Also, the better you plan, the better you will be able to handle any obstacles you encounter. Finally, fear not. The best part of your career has yet to come.
About the author
Ryan Saum works at Lech, Vinci & Higgins and is a student member of the New Jersey Society of CPAs.
Reprinted with the permission of the New Jersey Society of CPAs