I'm actually considering the CPA exam.
I know, I know. Those of you who know me and my intense dislike for exams, studying, homework, and the CPA exam in general are probably more than shocked. I mean, who wouldn't want to take an exam with a 30% passing rate? And just for your information, that number does not mean 30% pass the CPA on their first try. Oh no. It means 30% OVERALL. Seventy whole percent of people who take the CPA will eventually give up. Lovely news. Do you want to know what percentage of people pass the CPA on their first try? It's estimated at about 15%. Those are some smart cookies, there.
Being a fifth-year accounting major, I happen to know a couple of people who are in the process. And oh, the horror stories they have to tell. It's not pretty. Hours of studying, multiple fails. It doesn't sound like any fun at all.
Here's how the CPA exam breaks down, because I'm sure you're dying of curiosity.
The CPA exam is made up of four sections: Auditing & Attestation; Financial Accounting & Reporting; Regulation; and Business Environment & Concepts. It costs about $1,000 to take the CPA, and that's not counting the cost of a review course, which can range anywhere from $1,000-$2,000. (And let me tell you, if I ever do take the CPA, you can bet your butt I'm taking a review course. Study on my own? Are you freakin' KIDDING me?!) So it would cost me at least $2,000, depending on my review course of choice. Although, as my current accounting professor likes to point out, that's a cheap Master's. Which is oh so true. Although sometimes I wonder if a Master's would be easier.
You have 18 months to successfully pass all four sections of the exam. If you do not finish the last one before your passing grade (75% or better) on the first one expires, you have to retake the first one. This is why it is recommended you take the most difficult section first, which varies for each individual. That way, it's all downhill from there. You don't want to wait and do the most difficult section last and run out of time, because no one wants to put themselves through that much misery. The exams can only be taken 8 months of the year, called testing windows. They are Jan/Feb; April/May; July/August; and Oct/Nov. The other months are closed to testing. You can take each section once during each testing window. So if you were really ambitious (and really stupid...or a genius) you could take all four in two months. This is not recommended.
To apply to take the CPA you have to fill out a million forms, pay a fee of who even knows how much, and wait 6-8 weeks while your credentials are verified. Then you have to schedule the first test. And study. And pass. And then you would schedule the second test. Et cetera.
Also, did I mention in the state of Minnesota you have to have at least 150 credits, of which 24 must be upper-level? No? In case you don't know, a normal Bachelor's degree is 120 credits. So yeah, lots of school there. Fortunately for me, I got screwed over transferring so I have one million credits. Actually, 163, but you get the picture.
To actually receive the CPA license you have to:
(1) Actually pass the CPA exam, which is easier said than done
(2) Complete one year of work experience (just found out working for the government qualifies)
(3) Pass the self-study Ethics Exam
(4) Apply for the CPA Certificate
And to maintain your license you would need to have continuing education. I want to say it's 80 hours over a two-year period, with no less than 20 hours in a year, but I might be wrong. If you are REALLY curious, you can probably find the answer here. I'm not feeling up to searching for it at the moment.
So now that you know all about this evil exam, what are your opinions? In the current economy it is highly advantageous to have a CPA. And I do really want it. I just don't want to do the work. Which is pathetic, but true. Anyway, the reason I've been thinking about it so much lately is because everyone (and by everyone I mean everyone who is an accountant) says I should be doing it. I ran into my accounting professor from St. Scholastica at a job fair yesterday and he asked me if I was going to take it. He told me I should. My current accounting professor is under the belief that the CPA is for everyone, so I know he wants me to take it. But I have to say, I'm not feeling it.
I'm definitely closer to considering it now than I ever have been, but I'm still unsure. One, it's very expensive. Two, I only want to take it if I'm going to pass. Who wants to be in that 70% bracket? Not me. And there's no one who can guarantee I will pass. Kaplan CPA review says it takes about 250-400 hours of study for the whole exam, which really isn't too bad when you think about it. That breaks down to a maximum of 100 hours per section, and it's recommended you schedule your test at least 45 days out, so that means studying for a maximum of 2.2 hours everyday. (And yes, I did that on my calculator.) Which compared to the homework I've been doing the past four and a half years, isn't actually all that bad.
Well, I'm tired of thinking about the CPA exam. It's too stressful. Hopefully you found this very informative. And I'm sure you're oh-so-happy you didn't major in accounting.
And if you did, I pity your soul.