Magazine article The CPA Journal

Help Staff Pass the CPA Exam

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Help Staff Pass the CPA Exam

Article excerpt

Following a Plan for Success

The Uniform CPA Examination is considered by many to be the paramount rite of passage for accounting professionals. With more CPAs on staff, firms can improve internal competency and allow partners to devote more time to business development and highmargin services. These factors will bolster a firm's reputation for quality as well as specialization and staff retention. Helping staff pass the CPA exam provides an important stepping stone for a firm to expand its client base.

The tone from partners and managers can greatly influence young staffers' attitudes toward the profession and the CPA certification in particular. Partner and manager mentoring activities help develop effective planning skills among staff, directly increasing the quality of services provided to clients. When staff review for the CPA exam, they enhance their technical knowledge, which also improves service quality. Working with employees who plan to earn their CPA certification will increase employee retention. Employee morale increases when professional competency is encouraged in words and supported in action. Employees who pass the CPA exam with the encouragement of the firm feel like they are an important part ofthat firm's culture. Overall, encouraging candidates within the firm to pass the CPA exam may be !ess expensive than successfully recruiting CPAs from external sources.

Advantages of CPAs on Staff

The results of a focus group of partners and human resources managers of firms in the New York City area conducted by the authors reveal that while some smaller firms increase the compensation of staff once they pass the exam to avoid them being recruited, others base their compensation strictly on merit. The group also reported that firms, with a higher percentage of CPAs on staff, particularly ones with additional .specializations, had an advantage when pitching to clients. Specializations include business valuation (ABV). financial planning (CFP), technology (OTP), and fraud (CFE). In many cases, having the CPA certificate is a natural springboard to these specializations.

The depth of potential coverage of services by CPAs is an important consideration when a client engages or retains a CPA firm Potential clients wonder whether they will receive services from CPAs or from lower level staff during the firm's busy season or when the manager or partner is not available. The presence of many CPAs on staff allows partners to assign staff to a client with more comfort that the client will be properly served, thereby accomplishing a twofold goal: Staff members are more likely to enjoy their work (improving retention), and partners are more likely to have time for practice-development activities.

Firms can increase the number of CPAs on staff by helping those seeking the CPA certification put together an effective plan. With the help of management, staff members must assess what is needed to rally physical and psychological support create a plan, and pass.

Assessing What Is Needed to Pass the Exam

Before taking the exam, staff members must ask themselves:

* How much do I know?

* How many hours will it take to study for the exam?

* How many hours do I have available?

Staff members must first assess their knowledge. How Jong have they been out of school? If they have been out of school for an extended period of time, they may not be current on all aspects of the CPA exam's content (e.g.. the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002). They will need to add approximately 10% to 15% more study time to their CPA exam plan if they have been out of school for a long time.

Management should help CPA candidates determine how many hours they need to pass the exam. Exhibit I outhnes the suggested number of hours of study needed.

The entire CPA exam must be passed within 18 months (approximately 78 weeks). A staff member who requires 450 hours to study in total would need around six hours per week to pass all four parts of the exam (450 total hours/78 weeks). …

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