Benefits of advanced accounting degree/CPA licensure?
June 10, 2019 8:14 AM   Subscribe

What are the benefits to having an advanced accounting degree or the requirements for CPA licensure? (or being a CPA) Trying to find out what new options may be available to me if I pursue this path.

After working in my position for 5+ years (and being in accounting for over 10), we're overhauling our accounting process, including accounting system and the way we record things.

I'm hearing feedback from the person doing this that I am lacking some knowledge because I don't have the work experience in accrual accounting and I don't have an accounting degree. (I understand the accrual accounting process, I just don't do it in the way she would prefer. It's the way our CPAs instructed me, however.)

In any case, I'm wondering if at over 40, I should pursue a degree - I have an MFA, but no degree in accounting.

Looks like my options would be to get my BBA in Accounting (which I think would take about 3-4 years, depending on how many classes I could take at a time) or I could get a Master of Accountancy (MAcc), which I should be able to do at night and wrap up in about 18 months, I think? The MAcc should give me all the requirements to sit for the CPA exam.

Right now, if I look for another job, I'm running into requirements for a degree in accounting, which I don't have. I have a certificate from a community college, which a previous employer paid for. I'm also looking at a pay cut if I leave positions, which doesn't thrill me.
posted by sockpuppetfairy to Education (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When she was in her 40s, my aunt was told, after restructuring at her non profit, that she could not continue to work there as accountant, unless she got relevant qualifications. Her employer was willing to support her in that. They later restructured some more and effectively demoted her from being the 2nd most important person in the organisation to being on the same level as basic office admin. Among other things her qualifications allowed her to support her position that this was indeed a demotion when it came to making a claim against the organisation.

In general, there is a lot going on in the way accounting software is working and in how much human intervention is required. And if your system consultants feel you have gaps that mean they can’t work with you on this topic, because between you, you can’t bridge what your CPA requested and what the consultant sees elsewhere/the new system set-up will default to, that is an indicator of something. It could be just a communication problem or an indicator of knowledge gaps. More relevant perhaps is what you say about the potential drop in pay, if you were to move. It seems you have reached a point where your practical experience and competencies exceed the roles open to people with your qualifications. Between these two points that also makes you somebody who goes on top of the list of people who are let go because you’re either overpaid or not qualified.

Seeking to correct that would probably help keep you employed and appropriately compensated. At 40, you’re looking at another 20+ years of working in most countries. Because it’s not going to get any less competitive, there are a lot of tasks that are being automated in accounting software and in the underlying data entry. That means there is less and less demand for people nearer the beginning and middle of the process. You‘ll want to be one of the people that can do all the human interventions and spot problems and fix them, not the person no longer needed or only needed on a part-time basis.

My basis for saying that - I have worked in audit in a big 4 firm for more than 10 years and that’s just what I see happen at my smaller clients now. At my larger clients these changes are fully implemented and the jobs in those categories were moved to third parties in low cost countries and/or to in house shared service centres in low cost countries. I imagine your organisation is a bit smaller than my small clients but still, that is the trend. So explore that more because my feeling is you’ll need to do something.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:48 AM on June 10, 2019

I probably do similar work as you. I'm in the CPA exam phase right now, and I'm pursuing a license because, like all professional licenses, it has a gate-keeping function and things are easier (and more lucrative) if you're on the "right" side of that gate. I think of it as basically the difference between being an experienced paralegal and a lawyer.

Get the MAcc if you're going to get a degree, but do some careful research to see what classes you actually need in order to fulfill the CPA educational requirements in your state. I was able to take everything I needed through a community college program, which cut down on the expense and hassle immensely. At the end of the day, if you're a CPA, that's your qualification for accounting work, not your degree -- so I wouldn't get a degree just to get one.

Don't worry about your age. I doubt it would be a factor, and besides, 40 isn't particularly "old" for the field.
posted by rue72 at 10:14 AM on June 10, 2019

From my Mom, who works at the AICPA*:

I would encourage you to get the CPA license because that is the gateway to a more lucrative career. I know several women who got their CPA licenses after working in different fields. I agree with the advice to focus on getting the credits necessary to sit for the Exam; where you get them won't matter. Take every class on data analytics and artificial intelligence that you can.

Go to - they have a great deal of information, advice, and resources, including information on scholarships.

*She has a wealth of knowledge/experience and would be happy to talk further about this - memail me for her contact info if you're interested!
posted by cosmic owl at 5:10 PM on June 16, 2019

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