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Can You Be An Accountant Without A CPA

By David Krug 8 minute read

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation is one of the most difficult certifications to earn. If the thought of taking the CPA exam makes you nervous, you should know that your career isn’t over if you don’t get this credential. Having a CPA professional credential comes with a number of advantages, including more career opportunities and a higher earning potential, but not having this credential won’t prevent you from pursuing a rewarding and profitable accounting career.

Is a CPA Necessary to Work as an Accountant?

Some aspiring accountants fear that they will only be able to land a job if they have their CPA. That’s simply not the case. There are numerous accounting positions for which a CPA designation is not required, but you generally need at least some accounting experience before you can become a CPA. According to the American Institute of CPAs, candidates for CPA certification in most jurisdictions must have at least two years of public accounting experience. As a result of this requirement, it is clear that there must be accounting positions available for professionals without the CPA credential; otherwise, it would be impossible to obtain the required experience to be eligible for certification.

In order to become an accountant, what do you need? In most cases, a bachelor’s degree in business administration or accounting is all that is required to begin a career in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants typically hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (BLS). A master’s degree in accounting is an option for some accountants, especially those aiming to become certified public accountants (CPAs).

A Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts (BA), or a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program can all lead to an accounting undergraduate degree. Accounting BBA programs with a concentration tend to have a broader business focus than accounting BS or BA programs, but no one program is necessarily a better choice for career preparation in accounting.

Finding a Job Without a CPA Accounting Degree

Many people believe that CPAs and non-CPAs attend different accounting programs or courses. Students interested in becoming certified public accountants don’t have to take a different course of study than those who aren’t. It is recommended that they obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field of business. Students in a typical accounting bachelor’s degree program learn about basic accounting concepts and practices, as well as more advanced topics like tax accounting, cost accounting, auditing, and computerized accounting systems. To put their accounting knowledge into context, accounting students often take courses in other business disciplines.

Students should be aware of the higher number of credits needed to become a CPA in the accounting field of study. To sit for the CPA exam, you must have completed at least 150 semester hours of college coursework in addition to a bachelor’s degree. To get a bachelor’s degree today, you’ll need an additional 30 credit hours, or an additional year of full-time study. More advanced or specialized accounting courses aren’t required for CPA certification, but you do need more college credits in general to be eligible for this credential than a non-CPA accountant. By taking additional undergraduate or graduate classes, CPA candidates are able to meet this requirement in a variety of ways. For example, in some cases, a master’s degree may be achieved.

Is it possible to work in accounting without a degree in accounting or a related field? Although it is technically possible to work in the accounting field without a degree, your career options become even more limited without one. Accounting clerk, accounts payable clerks, administrative assistants and tax preparers are the most common positions for those without a degree in accounting. You’ll have a better shot at becoming an accountant if you have a lot of experience in one of these roles. It’s possible that some more creative-minded companies would prefer a person with a wide range of experience to a person with just a degree.

As evidenced by their CPA exam pass rates, some schools place a greater emphasis on CPA exam preparation than others. Exam pass rates and educational options like five-year dual degree programs may be important to students who plan to become CPAs, but other factors may be more important to non-CPA students.

Accounting Positions Open to Those Without a CPA Certification

Accountants typically specialize in either public or private practice. If you end up working in private accounting, rather than public accounting, your lack of a CPA credential is much less likely to hold you back in your career.

The term “private accounting” refers to the fact that the accountant is employed by a single employer and provides accounting services for them. The CPA certification is not required for accountants who work in private firms or for private companies. If nothing else, they might want to look into credentials like the Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), Certified Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designations.

What are the responsibilities of a private-sector accountant? Accounts payable and accounts receivable specialists, who keep track of invoices to be paid and incoming payments, might be needed by companies as accounting professionals. A job as a management accountant is another possibility. It is not uncommon for a private-sector management accountant to perform budgeting and asset management functions as part of his or her job. A private company’s senior staff accountant or, eventually, a chief executive role like a chief financial officer or chief accounting officer, are examples of moving up the ranks in the world of private accounting.

Even if you don’t have a CPA, you still have a slew of options for a career in accounting. When working in management accounting, private accountants are often required to demonstrate their proficiency in the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) (FASB). Only the accounting standards themselves are referred to as GAAP; it is not a professional certification. You don’t have to go through the rigorous certification process that CPAs go through to learn the GAAP standards and how to create financial statements and documents that are in compliance with these standards.

At the more advanced levels, the curriculums of accredited accounting programs tend to align with accepted accounting principles.

Is a CPA Necessary to Work as a Public Accountant?

It’s natural to wonder if working in public accounting will be more difficult without a CPA credential, since the “P” stands for public accounting. Certification as a Certified Public Accountant isn’t required for all public accountants. In most states, the only way to become a CPA is to first have worked in public accounting, and the education requirements mean that this is the only path.

Accountancy services that are made available to the general public, such as those provided by accountants to individuals, businesses and even non-profit organizations, are known as public accounting. Public accountants work for a variety of clients rather than for a single company or organization, providing their services as an outside consultant. Tax preparation and bookkeeping and payroll services are some of the places where accountants can be employed, while others are self-employed and offer their services on a freelance basis.

CPA certification isn’t required for many public accounting positions. When you’re not a CPA, you can still do things like prepare balance sheets for your corporate clients’ potential investors.

When Is a CPA Necessary?

If you are in charge of filing reports with the U.S. government, you will need to have the CPA designation. Regulator of Securities and Exchanges (SEC). This federal government agency is tasked with enforcing laws and enforcing regulations on the financial markets in order to keep them free of manipulation.

According to the BLS, only CPAs are permitted to submit these reports to the SEC. You’ll never be able to work in a position requiring you to file any of these reports if you don’t have this certification.

How much of a hindrance will this be to your professional goals, in the long run? If you want to work in a specific location, you’ll have to think about that. Without the CPA credential, you can still land a job in a small business environment, where you may not be required to file SEC-audited or reviewed financial statements. A Certified Public Accountant, on the other hand, is required by law to produce audited financial statements for publicly traded companies. So, despite the fact that you don’t need a CPA to get a job, you’ll be able to do more if you do.

CPAs and non-public accountants frequently collaborate on projects. Financial statements are frequently prepared by private accounting firms on behalf of businesses, which a CPA reviews and files with the SEC.

What are the advantages of becoming a CPA?

There is no doubt that having a CPA certification is worthwhile, even if you can get a job in the accounting field without it. Non-CPAs are generally less likely to land a job with government agencies, public corporations, or private accounting firms than CPAs. As a CPA, you have access to a wider range of career options than accountants who do not hold the credential. As a result, if you cannot legally perform a task, such as submitting SEC reports, you cannot advance to a position that requires you to perform that task.

For positions that do not require filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, candidates without a CPA credential may be preferred by employers because a CPA has demonstrated their dedication and expertise in accounting. As a result, CPAs tend to have better job security, even if their credentials aren’t required for the position.

An accountant’s earning potential is enhanced significantly as a result of earning a CPA certification. According to the American Institute of CPAs, CPAs can expect to earn 10 to 15 percent more than their non-certified peers.

Without a CPA, You’ll Be a Success

You can still have a rewarding career even if CPA certification isn’t in the cards for you right now – whether that decision is voluntary or forced by the financial costs of certification or other life circumstances. Junior accountant, auditor, budget analyst or estimator are all entry-level positions you can get with an accounting degree right out of college. In your career, you won’t even be behind your peers who plan to become CPAs, as they are still gaining the necessary experience.

Without a CPA, can you get ahead in your career? Definitely, but it may necessitate a shift in your career path. You could also go back to school to earn a master’s degree or a specialized graduate certificate in accounting to make your resume stand out. Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees can help you prepare for leadership roles that don’t directly involve the highly regulated work that only certified public accountants can do. The other option is to earn another type of professional certification. While a higher level of education and experience can increase your chances of getting a better job, your work should also speak for itself. You can move up the corporate ladder based on the quality of your work and your professional reputation if you build the right kind of reputation at work.

Bookkeeping and clerking positions are available to students who want to gain experience while in school. You can get your first job out of college and advance your career more quickly if you have this kind of early experience in the workplace.

David Krug