For tax preparers looking for additional business opportunities, pursuing the CPA credential may be a smart and strategic career move, even if tax prep is all the tax preparer desires to do. While many tax preparers and CPA’s may have similar backgrounds and training, the public perception is that a CPA is simply more of an expert. This perception may help bring bigger, more lucrative accounts for the accountant. Some other often overlooked advantages and considerations for pursuing the CPA credential include:
In a tight economy it makes sense to invest in professional development that brings stronger potential ROI. Some firms will limit the promotion potential of accountants that do not hold the CPA credential. The main reason is the versatility factor. In many cases, only CPA’s can sign off on various audit reports. Also, companies generally want a CPA handling their more complex financials, simply because of the prestige that the credential holds.
When accountants commit to the CPA certification process, they demonstrate to their employers and to their clients that they are invested in long-term participation in the field. In addition, CPA’s often are active in the local chapters of their professional organizations and help to shape the future of the field. Clients tend to view these sorts of professional involvements as a sign of stability and good standing. Allowing someone to handle financial information is an intimate association; the credential carries clout which can help build a loyal client base.
Nearly all accountants hold a four-year degree. If an accountant is going to complete a four year degree, it makes sense to put in the extra effort to carry that education as far as possible. Through online study groups and Internet-based review courses, accountants can continue working while preparing for the CPA exam.
The investment in education tends to pay off. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the lowest 10% of all employees in the accounting field earn less than $40,000 annually. At the same time, the top 10% of all accountants earn over $100,000 annually. Though this is not common for a CPA starting salary, it does represent what could be earned depending on experience. While geographic location, skill, and education all contribute to earning potentials over a lifetime, securing the credentials necessary for ongoing opportunity and career advancement can contribute greatly to securing the competitive edge for top jobs as a career unfolds.
As mentioned above, while many tax preparers may be as skilled as a CPA doing the same job, the perception among potential clients will generally sway the business toward the CPA. In addition, it looks good for a company to have the majority of the accountants in their firm fully credentialed, not just with a CPA license, but with additional niche credentials such as those supporting sustainable business practices. Additionally, peers in the field will tend to regard the CPA with higher esteem, which may lead to a more genuine engagement in team decision-making.
For tax professionals secure in their professional calling with a steady client base, it may seem counter-intuitive to seek additional credentials. The CPA credential can help secure longevity in the field, however. In addition, it may open doors through networking and increased client traffic. Taking fewer clients with bigger stakes may also free up time for other interests. Even for the best accountants, seeking a CPA license or investigating additional niche service certifications may help boost the versatility needed to secure resilience in the accounting field no matter what the economic future holds.