There isn’t one singular path toward becoming a CPA. Some people earn their accounting degrees, head out into the workforce, then decide to take the CPA exam later in their careers. Then there are others who know early on that becoming a CPA is a big part of their career path.
If you’re one of those people who has long-known that you want to become a CPA, you’re probably eager to start getting ready to take the exam as soon as you’ve completed those 150 credit hours. Regardless if you take the CPA exam right after college or choose to wait a while, getting ready for the test is going to be a challenge. But there are some distinct advantages to taking the exam right after you get out of school.
You’ll Have More Time to Study
The longer you wait to take the exam, the more likely it is you’ll have more commitments to juggle in addition to studying. Finding a good life-work balance can be hard enough when you work full time and aren’t trying to get ready to take a notoriously hard exam. Working full time means you’ll have much less time each day to dedicate to studying, particularly during busy season. But by the time you do end up taking the exam, you might also have a family to take care of, leaving you with even less extra time each day. If you’re able to take some time off after finishing school, or at least only work part time for a while, you’ll be in a better position to focus on studying.
You’ll Have an Edge in the Job Market
Trying to enter the job market as a recent college graduate can feel very daunting when you have limited experience and you’re competing for jobs against lots of other talented people. Passing the CPA exam at any time can help open new doors in your career, including if you’re just getting started.
Passing the CPA exam shows employers that you’re very committed to your career and that you’re highly knowledgeable about what you do. Since so many people choose to wait before worrying about the CPA exam and CPAs are in high demand, taking the CPA exam right after college instantly gives you a competitive edge in the job market.
You’ll Have More Resources to Work With
No matter which program you’re majoring in, colleges are full of resources students are welcome to use, like libraries and databases. Plus you’re able to ask professors and other teachers questions anytime you like. If you start studying to take the CPA exam while you’re still in college, you’ll still have access to those kinds of resources if you need help. You may be even be able to organize a study group with other students who are also working toward taking the CPA exam as soon as possible.
It Will All Be Fresh in Your Mind
If it’s been awhile since you last did something, it can take some time to get back into the swing of it later on. But as a recent college graduate, one thing that will still be fresh in your mind is how to study. After years of getting ready for tests, finals, writing papers, and doing homework, you’re in the habit of making time to study. Not only are you used to making time to study, you know exactly what you need to do to study most effectively.
The things you learned in school will also still be fresh in your mind. If you were to spend some time working before taking the exam, it’s entirely possible that several years will have passed since you last dealt with something you learned in school.
While taking the exam right after college definitely has its advantages, there are some drawbacks, too. One of the key reasons why many people choose to wait to take the exam is because they want to get some real world experience in first. No matter what type of industry you’re working in, some of the most valuable professional lessons a person ever learns are learned on the job and that can work to your advantage when taking the CPA exam.
Another downside to taking the CPA exam right after college? You’ll probably be on the hook for paying for your own prep courses and test fees. Because of the high demand for CPAs, many employers offer to reimburse these sorts of expenses for employees who are willing to take the exam. Some firms even offer bonuses to their employees who successfully pass the exam. But you might not even see this as a particularly big disadvantage since being able to start out at a higher salary means you can potentially earn more money over the course of your career, which can more than make up for the upfront costs of taking the exam.