Magazine article Diversity Employers

Career Opportunities for Certified Public Accountants

Magazine article Diversity Employers

Career Opportunities for Certified Public Accountants

Article excerpt

Working as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying of all professions that African-Americans collegians can aspire to enter. There are many reasons why a career as a CPA is so appealing to the majority of individuals who choose it.

Professional Appeal

Individual practitioners cite numerous reasons why working as a CPA is so challenging and personally beneficial.

Professional esteem: Becoming a licensed CPA is a mark of significant accomplishment. Having "CPA" behind one's name carries considerable clout in business circles and, generally speaking, fosters the same kind of esteem granted to other professionals like doctors and lawyers.

"Having CPA certification brings instant credibility to the table along with immediate recognition," says Milton Scott, Audit Partner with Arthur Andersen & Co. in Houston.

"Business colleagues are not as likely to doubt your capabilities if they know you have achieved such an important professional distinction," he adds.

Earning potential: CPAs enjoy financial rewards on par with others in professions that have stringent academic and licensing requirements. According to statistics complied by the College Placement Council, the average entry-level salary for accountants in all industries is around $28,000.

Holding a master's degree and/or being certified leverages one's earning curve appreciably. amounts to in actual salary increase depends on a number of factors: type and size of company one works for, geographic market trends, and the individual's work performance and professional potential.

Career leverage: Working successfully as a CPA automatically opens many doors for career advancement. Top jobs in accounting and finance are most often held by CPAs. In particular, CPAs with experience in public accounting are especially sought after for key corporate positions.

Allen Boston, Audit Partner with Ernst & Young in New York, comments: "Even early on, young CPAs in public accounting take on significant levels of responsibility working as members of the client services team. In this respect, they work hand-in-hand with specialists in other areas--such as tax and management consulting--and thus broaden their horizons and experience levels."

Job security: For the most part, CPAs don't face the kind of occupational uncertainty that professionals in some industries face. Whether the economy is strong or weak, the demand for qualified CPAs grows. In fact, in a downturn economy, the expertise that CPA's offer in identifying companies' financial troubles is all the more valuable.

"We're needed in good times and bad times," mentions Beverly Everson-Jones Jones, executive director of the National Association of Black Accountants, a 5,000-member organization.

"Although some specific companies have suffered cutbacks, on the whole our profession has not been hit as hard as other professions. This is due in part to the fact that sharp accountants are business-oriented and can help companies make long-term decisions that will affect their bottomline," she remarks.

Becoming A CPA

What does it take to become a successful CPA? The most important criteria include: outstanding academic background, quality training and mentoring, and professional credentialing.

Academics. Accounting and finance are the most logical majors for anyone aspiring to become a CPA. It is extremely important to excel in the classroom. Achieving a high CPA in one's major (and overall) is expected of those who compete for top entry-level positions.

The well-prepared student will also have a diversified background in other areas, such as computer science, humanities, written/oral communication, and mathematics. Given the move toward a global economy, it's also advisable to have knowledge of international finance and at least one foreign language. …

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