Jersey City, NJ

Why study accountancy?

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Accountancy is one of many subjects you can study in college (perhaps high school too) and it can be incredibly rewarding for many reasons. Accountancy offers:

  • a defined, concrete path for both studying and pursuing a career
  • job opportunities during and after college
  • a credential called the “CPA” (certified public accountant) which can set you apart from other business professionals

I created this visual with my team at Saint Peter’s University to help explain the major milestones in the journey towards the CPA. 

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A few notes about this journey:

  • Step #1: 120 college credits can be from different institutions; for instance, at Saint Peter’s University, I teach many students who have transferred in from other local (often county) colleges.
  • Step #2: the CPA exam. This is a beast of an exam, but the rigor required to pass it is part of the screening process into the profession. Accounting is a discipline learned with practice; learning how to pass the test is also learned, and accomplished, with focused, strategic practice.
  • Step #3: the 150 credit requirement is often confusing for accounting majors for a couple of reasons. 
    • First — typically, a college graduate earn at least 120 credits upon graduation (maybe more depending on undergrad coursework). So we need to understand something about those extra 30 credits:You don’t need those extra 30 credits to sit for the exam; rather, you just need those 30 credits for the actual license.
      • a) Some states, including NJ, requires the extra 30 be “general college level credit” meaning you don’t have to take an extra 30 credits of accounting, or even business (though I would recommend it – particularly in certain areas like data science or business analytics).
      • b) Related to above, the 30 credits can be part of a second degree (e.g. masters in accountancy) but you can also earn standalone credits.

Finally, a note on CPEs, or “continuing professional education.”  All CPAs must, upon licensure, take continuing education. Here’s a brief, NJ-specific overview from the NJ Society of CPAs.  If you work at a big accounting firm this is typically baked into your experience (e.g. you’ll get access to annual trainings (sometimes in fun offsite locations), online learning, and more). This is one key benefit of a firm experience. Smaller firms may have different policies and this is something you should ask about when job searching because CPEs can be expensive to pay for out of pocket.

Final fine print. Also, this is NJ-specific, but illustrative of how important it is to understand the state you’re licensed in. The NJ State Board of Accountancy requires all NJ CPAs to take a “law and ethics” course. This is a good time to point out that the CPA exam is “uniform,” meaning the same regardless of state, but the rules around licensure vary by state. The AICPA has a great landing page for state-by-state info here.

Don’t be overwhelmed; rather, take this step by step. Additional helpful links are provided below.

Getting Started from the AICPA

This Way to CPA, from AICPA

Questions? Email me at bdsouza@saintpeters.edu.