Give up on cpa? Is it that bad without it?

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  • #1820647 Reply

    Hi guys, I’m approaching 10 years in the workforce as an accountant. I work for a CPA firm now without my CPA (I tried a few times in the past and failed). I am being paid very well, I work in a big city and have decent benefits. I am getting calls and emails constantly from recruiters knowing I do not have my CPA. Is the CPA really the end all be all for accountants? I understand how great it is to have one and respect the amount of effort that goes into this. I know it opens more doors and opportunities. But I am miserable studying for it especially FAR. I work primarily in personal tax and some entity tax and enjoy that. I also have dabbled with the thought of buying a tax practice (non cpa / enrolled agent) which there are an abundance of in my area. Am I really setting myself up for disaster by just giving up on taking the CPA? Thanks for any advice !

    #1820702 Reply

    I'm young but here is my 2cents.. the CPA is like most other accreditations, meaningless but desired. I think of the CPA like my bachelors degree but with more relevance to what I'm actually doing but here is why I'd say go for it:

    1) If you ever decide to get it at some point in the future, it's only going to get harder the longer it goes on.
    2) It sets you apart. Regardless of experience, skills, and capabilities.. those three letters are going to put you a step above come layoffs or moving around in the field.
    3) If you're looking to set up your own practice why would a client pick your firm over another that has a CPA? CPA is a great selling point!
    4) Typically a salary increase comes with the CPA
    5) I imagine most high lvl positions in a firm (CFO, manager, partner) may require CPA. Depends on the company.

    Again, I'm 23 so this isn't coming from an experienced point of view but just what I personally would see from an outside view. I've heard of a lot of people skipping the CPA and just grabbing the EA but I don't know much about that.

    Hopefully I can help in some small way here 🙂

    #1820705 Reply

    Sounds like you already answered your own question: “paid well, big city, decent benefits, being recruited w/out CPA.” Everyone's situation is different and the reasons for wanting the CPA designation is different. If you're happy with what you're doing and where you're headed, don't sweat it!

    AUD - 94
    BEC - 91
    FAR - 84
    REG - 75
    Colorado CPA


    #1820716 Reply

    yeah, I really think you need to figure out what your long-term goal is. If you want to have your business and it doesn't require a CPA license and not having it won't be detriment (I would ask someone who has a business like this WITHOUT a CPA license first) then, there's your answer.

    Get a MENTOR and learn from them. They will help guide you to whatever long-term goal you want to achieve. And if that doesn't need a CPA license, then, good for you! 🙂

    "Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion" -- Muhammad Ali


    #1820807 Reply

    If you intend to stay in tax work and ultimately want to work for yourself you will need either the EA or CPA to sign off on clients POAs.
    I was 15 years deep on tax work and could not obtain equity in my firm, and got tired of telling/correcting clients that I was only an EA, not a CPA.
    If you stay in tax, sooner or later you will wish you had the CPA. You still have time.
    At least get that EA for now, then see how you feel about it. Something is better than nothing, but in all honesty the EA will be wasted hours if you end up with the CPA.

    Memento Mori - Kingston NY CPA & EA (SUNY Albany 2002)

    FAR-93 11/9/17 (10wks, 250 hrs, Roger 1800+ MCQs, Gleim TB 600+MCQs, SIMs)
    AUD-88 12/7/17 (3 wks, 85 hrs, Roger 1000 MCQs no SIMs hail mary)
    REG-96 1/18/18 (6 wks, 110 hrs, 1400 MCQs, no SIMs)
    BEC-91 2/16/18 (4wks, 90 hrs, 1240 MCQs)

    #1821280 Reply

    I don't think this is the website for this question….

    This is an extremely difficult exam and people need to be encouraged to stay the course…not see why giving up might not be that bad. If you don't want it you don't want it.

    Just sayin.

    AUD - 78
    BEC - 79
    FAR - 78
    REG - 90
    short-term sacrifice = long-term gain
    #1821301 Reply

    There's no grand ultimatum when it comes to getting your CPA. You can make do without it but it may be a little more difficult and you'll have to prove your worth in other ways. You have to decide if you're committed to getting it. The people who pass are those who basically say it's CPA or bust. It helps passing an exam right away, but you must be committed to the goal that you will not give up and you will eventually pass these exams. CPA's have more opportunities, earn more, and have more security. It sounds like right now you aren't committed to the goal of passing these exams because it's well known that most people are miserable while studying; only those who can keep their eyes on the prize can fight through it so you should really think about if this is a goal for you otherwise you may be wasting your time

    #1822198 Reply

    I can’t speak on how bad it is without a CPA, but I do have 10+ years of working experience. It is experience in different areas so that’s why I returned to school and now I am studying for the CPA exam.

    It was difficult trying to find jobs because I didn’t have enough relevant experience or certifications. I knew obtaining a masters degree and my CPA would set me apart. Since you have experience, a CPA is only going to help you. Each day I have to motivate myself to study and it’s not easy at all. I could be hanging with friends and/ or playing video games, but I am studying REG.😉😊 After graduating with a masters degree, I thought I was finished studying. Then the CPA came along and it's worst than college.☹️

    Good luck and stick with it!

    AUD - 81
    BEC - 77
    FAR - 76
    REG - 80
    AUD - 81
    BEC - 70, 77
    FAR - 70, 70, 76
    REG - 70, 80
    (I used WileyCPA and Ninja-FAR only)

    It took almost two years, but I am now finished with my CPA exams.

    #1822349 Reply

    Not sure if my input helps, but I am a 25 year old with a BS in accounting. I worked in the accounting department for a Fortune 500 company in an Analyst position for 2 years before I was laid off a couple months ago. My unemployment job search was HORRIBLE because I didnt have my CPA. The disappointment in the face of my employers/recruiters was so obvious when I told them I didnt have the certification. All the positions I applied to–including some basic ones like Billing and AR- wanted candidates with CPAs.

    Once I registered with BoA, I started getting more responses from potential employers/recruiters because it showed them that I was serious in pursuing the certification. Once I passed my first exam, the types of companies and positions that were interested in me were exponentially better than before I was on the CPA track.

    Of course, you have much more experience than me, so I'm sure you won't run into this problem, but I do feel like the CPA opens doors to better opportunities. But yea, I completely understand with wanting to not do it–the exam is really a killer. I'm struggling with it too.

    AUD - 84
    BEC - 81
    FAR - 82
    REG - 79
    #1822523 Reply

    I'm kind of in the same boat and everyday I debate myself on whether I really need to be a CPA and endure this misery…

    I have 5 years working in public and I'm still currently at a CPA firm. I specialize in tax. The pay is good enough for me. I'm happy with virtually everything career wise. And the difficulty in finding future employment is also not an issue for me because- if the time ever comes where I'm let go, I'd still have a good amount of public experience doing taxes and auditing (my speciality in tax will be a huge plus). The “must have CPA license” line was not applicable to me when I switched jobs last year because I already had public and tax experience and I was not applying for a supervisory role. And I doubt I would ever want a supervisory role.

    So I've made a short list of all the things the CPA license gets me – 1. respect 2. promotion (that I don't care for) 3. pay increase coupled with the promotion 4. ability to sign off on returns

    I just don't want to waste my money, my time and my happiness on this exam if my life is not going to substantially improve afterwards… And I can't see a big enough improvement for people who are already working in public and content with their roles.

    #1822769 Reply

    I think you are brave! I’m not being condescending here, I think if you start with the exams, it’s harder to stop and realize it’s not the path you’ll be taking.

    Individual tax is imho a different ball game. I worked in tax for several years. If you’re already successful, maybe it’s not something you need?

    I think the CPA title will give you a little more clout but is a little more clout worth the money, time and stress of the exam, only you can decide!

    Good luck,

    I'm going to be the person who says "I finished even though..." not the person who says "I didn't finish because..."

    B - 77, 76

    A - 57, 64, 72, 76!

    R - 78, 72, 78!!! DONE

    F - 54, 73, 71, 64, 69, 76!

    #1822844 Reply

    You have a nice setup now, but….

    what happens if you get laid off? Need to move? or any other reason to re-enter the job market?

    Like many posters here I am young, but I do know that looking for a job right out of college (at least in accounting) without a CPA is much easier than job hunting over 30 without it.

    AUD - 79
    BEC - 92
    FAR - 82
    REG - 90
    Don't get nervous, you suck when you're nervous


    #1822862 Reply

    Get it if you plan on sticking with tax expecislly in public. Ditch Far. Get your confidence up by passing BEC first. Then Far then Audit and reg last. Roger is great, hated becker. Take your time understanding concepts and whatever you dont understand, google. The review material doesnt cover everything and assumes some level of knowledge already coming in. I literally totally forgot JEs and watched youtube videos to relearn. It can be done but you gotta get out of the mindset of your climbing mount everest or question why you need to get the designation in the first place. Once you block out all the crap, you’ll make progress. Good luck u got this!

    #1822954 Reply

    Looking for a job right out of college without a CPA is difficult because you have no public experience. So your employer is looking for the designation to replace the lack of experience to justify hiring you. My friend had 5 years of private experience and applied for public jobs for an entire year and she was unable to get one because she only had private work experience. But when she got the CPA, she was finally hired at a CPA firm. I had 3 years public experience (because I started in public as an intern) and I was hired right away at another CPA firm. From what I've seen – it's either the CPA or the experience that will qualify you for the job. If you have one or the other, you should be fine. If the OP has 10 years public experience (especially in tax), he definitely wouldn't have trouble finding employment in any CPA firm. The only problem will be if he applies for a supervisory/manager role, which would require the license. But, as I said before, a lot of people don't want to be managers or partners. There are a few people at my firm now who chose not to get the CPA license and are capped as a senior accountant. And they seem to be doing fine. But I guess it depends on how ambitious you are and how badly you want that manager or partner role really…

    #1823150 Reply

    What is really boiled down to for me was dollars per hour, and quality of life.
    If self-employment is your dream or possible in your future look up normal billable rates for Tax Preparer, EA or CPA.
    Tax Prep might be $100 an hour, EA is normally $150/hr, lower level CPA might be $200 an hour and partner level CPA will be $300+ an hour.
    I had a bachelors, 15 years experience, and EA and I squeezed my billable rate to $200 an hour. I increased my rate by $25 per passed part, and am currently at $300/hour.

    The certification enables me to work less hours and produce the same amount of money(theoretically).
    This enables me to do more things I enjoy in life instead of being chained to my desk for a 9-5.
    Granted you can't really drastically increase the price you charge for your normal bread and butter tax clients, but you can be more aggressive with your yearly increases.

    I was never too concerned with my salary as I live small and made enough to pay my bills and buy a house. But the older you get, the more you realize you don't want to sit at a desk for the rest of your life. The CPA and $ increase is allowing me to save more than ever before so I can get out of the game sooner. We all have our goals and end games. I don't want to make money for someone else, I want to work hard (and play hard) for myself.

    Even with all my years of experience and the EA, the CPA elevates how my clients perceive me, and I can take on the role of trusted advisor more readily with those 3 letters after my name.
    Just do it. Get it done, get in get out. You will never regret it, I guarantee it. It may not be now, or 10 years from now, but eventually YOU WILL REGRET NOT DOING IT! 110% Money back guarantee on that.

    Memento Mori - Kingston NY CPA & EA (SUNY Albany 2002)

    FAR-93 11/9/17 (10wks, 250 hrs, Roger 1800+ MCQs, Gleim TB 600+MCQs, SIMs)
    AUD-88 12/7/17 (3 wks, 85 hrs, Roger 1000 MCQs no SIMs hail mary)
    REG-96 1/18/18 (6 wks, 110 hrs, 1400 MCQs, no SIMs)
    BEC-91 2/16/18 (4wks, 90 hrs, 1240 MCQs)

    #1823693 Reply

    8 years experience (mostly) corporate here, recently finished runner up to two very well paying jobs each to a candidate who was already licensed. One went as far as to tell me I'd be a better fit, but without 3 letters, they were hesitant. Ridiculous, but here in Orange County it seems CPAs grow on trees sometimes, high competition.

    To echo a few points above, the question is what happens if you decide to leave etc.? I would discuss with recruiters the job market for your experience and salary range without the CPA; less or more competitive, that will provide some guidance.

    I always try to understand my marketability and potential to (at the very least) job-hop laterally while considering current work-life balance, comp and other ancillary pros/cons.

    AUD - 85
    BEC - 83
    FAR - 75
    REG - 85
    #1823908 Reply

    I passed the CPA back in March 2017 but decided to stop in the old stomping grounds here at A71 to say hi. I realize the test has changed a bit since I passed but here would be my advice.

    Ask my fiancé or any of my family or friends and they’ll let you know that the 16 months that I banged my head against the proverbial CPA brick-wall was not one of the most enjoyable periods of my life. Any CPA candidate will let you know, CPA does not stand for Certified Public Accountant but rather “Can’t Pass Again”. After struggling (aka failing) my first 3 tests over the first 7 months of my CPA journey, I felt stuck. But then I reevaluated everything and discovered the 5 key solutions to get me to the promised land.

    1. Purchase a review program that works best for how you learn.
    Seriously, this sounds obvious but barely anyone follows it. Almost every review course on the market offers a free trial period. If you’re smart, use EVERY course’s free trial until you pass your first test. If the course that you passed with works for you, buy it. If not, take a step back, EVALUATE YOUR STUDY HABITS (see pt2), and try a different study course if need be. I personally purchased 3 over my journey because I didn’t know better and purchased the “best”, aka the one that marketed well, before trying any other review programs.

    2. Schedule and evaluate your study habits daily
    The CPA exam, unless you’re already a tenured accounting genius, is not a walk in the park. Like a lot of things in life that take effort, if you’re not planning for success, you’re planning to fail. After my early failure I started creating daily schedules of which chapter and how many MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions) I would complete. Shoot for 20 hours a week. Personally, I liked to do 2-3 hours every weekday and 8-10 hours over the weekend.

    3. 80/20 rule
    After you have successfully figured out which study program works best for you and have a schedule you can follow, you have to figure out how you LEARN. This was one of the hardest parts for me and unless you have taken strenuous exams in the past, you probably don’t know how you learn best. Check out my post on How you learn for more on this. Spend 80% of your time on 20% of the review material. Generally a given review course will have 100+ hours of videos, 1000+ pages of review books, dozens of pages of notes, hours and hours of audio notes, etc etc. Figure out which of these ways of learning works best for you and spend 80% of your time on that 20% of material. For me it was MCQ. When I first started studying I tried to do everything, watch 4 hours of a video, do 2 hours of flashcards, read the notes for an hour, then do an hour of MCQ. I realized that those first 7 hours were ultimately WORTHLESS for how I learn. After changing up my study habits and doing 80% MCQ and 20% everything else, that’s when the passes started coming.

    4. Evaluate your prior knowledge and experience and leverage it for your first pass.
    This may be counter intuitive to some but in my opinion, leveraging prior education and work experience to get that first pass can be critical to building momentum. I can’t tell you how many colleagues I have that tried to pass their first test and couldn’t do it, so they gave up. Take the test that you can relate to first to build momentum. As an example, I have a B.S in Mathematics and a minor in Business. After going back to school for my accounting credits I still was a little shaky on book keeping and financial statements. I tried to hammer through FAR without a good foundation and it just did not work. I decided to go to a subject a bit more calculation and business intensive, BEC, and received my first pass! After that I had momentum and went on to finish the exams.

    5. Take 2 exams every testing period and most importantly, DON’T QUIT.
    One thing I noticed other CPA candidates doing when I was testing was they would spend 10-14 weeks studying for one test, fail it, and then feel like the world had just ended. Many of those candidates decided to quit after doing that twice. Put some pressure on yourself and take 2 exams every testing period. Yes this will cost more if you fail them but I assure you, even with 10-14 weeks of studying you will NEVER walk into a testing center feeling 100% confident and ready. Schedule your first exam on the 2nd or 3rd week of the testing period, that way you have the entire dead month to study for it, and your last exam the last week of a testing period. This means from the last test you took, you have 6 weeks to study for the first and 6 weeks to study for the second.

    Done! 9 tests over 16 months. Failed first 3 with Becker. Passed 4 of next 6 with Ninja MCQ.
    #1825211 Reply

    I guess if it works for you in your situation for now, then it works. Although if your situation changes, you may wish you had stuck it out.

    But it's almost impossible for someone like myself who's over 40 and just trying to get my foot in the industry door. Hundreds of swings and misses. I was planning on starting the CPA process once I landed my first accounting job, but maybe that was a mistake.

    #2421681 Reply

    honestly- if you get laid off (which can happen, and often does) you will have a very hard time finding a job without one.

    AUD - NINJA in Training
    BEC - NINJA in Training
    FAR - NINJA in Training
    REG - NINJA in Training
    Full time working momma of a 3 and 6 year old....

    “Of course it’s hard.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  It’s the hard that makes it great.”<

    #2421759 Reply


    The exam is outdated. The exam is graded on a curve, which means mediocrity is the bar that you need to surpass. There's not enough data analytical concepts involved. You have a huge % passing the exam with little to no work experience. That leads me to believe that most folks don't understand what they are passing.

    Studying and thoroughly understanding the concepts is the only way that you'll gain from this process. The discipline involved, is equivalent to the discipline of an athlete.

    Your future is up to you…'s not written on a resume or justified with credentials.

    #2421894 Reply

    I think having a CPA is pretty much the standard if you want to reach the controller level or higher.

    “Get to the chopper.”

    79 FAR-5/2019

    76 AUD-6/2019

    81 REG-8/2019

    78 BEC-2/2020

    #2421960 Reply

    everyone has their reasons for committing to this animal, whether personal, financial, etc. It's a bit of both for me. I'm 24 and it's a personal goal in that I'd be happy to say I accomplished this and make my family proud. I didn't have best GPA in college so I'm hoping that once I pass these exams I can apply to some top 10 firms and hopefully get an offer proving that I'm willing, dedicated and hard-working.

    FAR - 76

    AUD - 89

    BEC - 84

    REG - 86

    #2422386 Reply

    @AcctDataMan – CPA exam is not graded on a curve, a quick google search will show that.

    Why would it be outdated? It is updated every year.

    Huge % passing the exam? If you think 44% FAR pass rate is huge then ok. Yes, most candidates have little experience, all the new CPAs I know are Jr. or Sr. Accountants.

    “There's not enough data analytical concepts involved.” Agreed, accountants are not data scientists. We want to be CFOs, not CIOs.

    “That leads me to believe that most folks don't understand what they are passing.” In my experience, the exam is not very forgiving to people that do not understand the concepts. Look around these boards and see how many people studied their ass off and still failed. It takes a lot of repetition and frustration to sit down an understand what they are being asked because of all the nuances in CPA topics.

    I can go on with my rant but I just to leave it with this: don't try to downplay the difficulty of this exam or the amount of hours needed to pass. It isn't the upper division accounting course we all crammed for on Finals week and ended up passing with an 85.

    B - 83 (expired), 91

    A - 68, 81

    R - 75

    F - 82

    #2421963 Reply

    @AcctDataMan – That's erroneous; per the AICPA, the exam is not curved, and the wild passing fluctuation support this. Instead, the AICPA has set a standard that they deem a CPA must meet. Remember, the AICPA takes your raw score (total points earned, based on the weight of each correct answer), inputs it into a fence that's determined before your exam is taken (e.g. Business Law = 10% of your score), and uses a series of algorithms to validate your performance (among other things, to reduce the luck element in passing).

    And it's a test of knowledge (and arguably intelligence) – not a test of experience. In fact, under the “new” exam, the simulations are suppose to mimick work that an accountant would do early in their career at a CPA firm.

    – If you want to stay in public, sure, but in the hot economy, there's tons of firms that will hire experienced accountants regardless of the license.

    #2432034 Reply

    im an assistant controller, and i will never get higher unless i have my cpa

    AUD - NINJA in Training
    BEC - NINJA in Training
    FAR - NINJA in Training
    REG - NINJA in Training
    Full time working momma of a 3 and 6 year old....

    “Of course it’s hard.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  It’s the hard that makes it great.”<

    #2432706 Reply

    Not the end of the world, but when it comes down to you and another candidate who's just as qualified as you are and gunning for the same position, but this candidate has CPA, then you know what happens.

    AUD - 86
    BEC - 87
    FAR - 87
    REG - 84
    "The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want badly enough." - Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.
    #2432727 Reply

    @PNS2CLt i am actually not in public, never have been. I got the public requirement waived b/c a cpa signed off on my experience

    AUD - NINJA in Training
    BEC - NINJA in Training
    FAR - NINJA in Training
    REG - NINJA in Training
    Full time working momma of a 3 and 6 year old....

    “Of course it’s hard.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  It’s the hard that makes it great.”<

    #2433237 Reply

    They say it's not curved but that should really be in quotation marks. They have never explained how it's actually graded so I truly believe it's “curved”.

    This whole exam is just a memory dump.

    AUD - 75
    BEC - 77
    FAR - 77
    REG - 76
    Licensed in VA
    #2433270 Reply

    The reality is that CPA is not needed. I would go so far as to argue that even having bachelor degree in accounting or related field is not needed. The trend in many industry not just accounting is to care more about experience compare to formal education. Employers now do not care that much if you do not have bachelor degree and some don't even care if you have associate degree as long as you have the needed experience. Obviously the smaller the city, higher unemployment having both more credentials helps. So no CPA is not needed as long as you can keep finding a job. If you are not going to be working for yourself doing taxes then neither CPA or EA is needed.

    #2433333 Reply

    @Jimmy G and the Boys I totally agree with you. It's like any professional test, it's all about memory dump. Bar exam is no different, 90% of it you will ever see again but you need to prove that you could retain/learn the material at minimum 1 time. CPA test is no different, big part of what is being tested, people will never see again.

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