Over 50 and Thinking about Studying to Take the CPA Exam
May 11, 2016 at 3:22 am #201931
I'm 51 years old, I have an MBA, I have been a financial Controller for over 15 years. I'm currently working but for the company from hell (actually even worse than that).
I can't find a new position because I don't have a CPA license. I have been doing this work for years, successfully passed numerous Big $ audits for company's. Managing staff and operations, but without the little CPA designation recruiters and companies file my resume in the shredder.
So…I am thinking about starting to study for the CPA exam. Do I have any advantage because of my experience? What is the success rate for candidates over 50?May 11, 2016 at 3:53 am #775985
Yes! Go for it! If you really want to do it and are willing to put in the time then go for it!!!! Your years of experience can only help you. I would suggest getting a review course that works for you by first trying the demos available for the different review courses (most allow you to demo them on their websites Roger, Wiley, Becker, Gleim and of course theres NINJA too, etc.), there are lots of videos on youtube as well regarding courses and advice so you can get a taste of whether you want to take the CPA exams and in what direction you want to take your CPA exam journey.
Here's an inspirational story of a professor who decided later on in life to get his CPA designation. This story is only for inspiring purposes, not pressuring 🙂 One is never too old to grow and learn something new!
Best of luck to you going forward!May 11, 2016 at 3:58 am #775986
I'm 51. I'm studying for the exam for many of the same reasons you mention. My company failed back in 2010 and I ended up taking Controller positions at two pretty awful companies. I knew they were bad going in, but I didn't really have any other options. I've also had two stints as a contractor just barely “keeping the lights on” at home.
I've got about six years where I have been severely impacted by my lack of a CPA. Things are better now jobwise, but I (and my family) went through some difficulties that we probably wouldn't have had to if I had just completed this years earlier. I've got a nice chunk of credit card debt as a reminder.
I have three parts completed and only FAR remains for me. It's taken every night and every weekend for a year to get here. My advice — start now. The primary reason I have the job I have now is because I was heavily recommended by a former co-worker who I now work with once again. I wouldn't have gotten the job if I wasn't in the process of getting the CPA.
I'm not sure what the success rate is but I've seen a number of “Over 50s” on these boards. I don't know if my experience helped me, but every exam is time consuming and generally awful. You'll need the support of your family and the NINJA MCQs (2000-3000 questions per section and reading the explanations is what is working for me). Good luck ! Back to studying…..May 11, 2016 at 4:59 am #775987
I'll be 52 tomorrow 🙂 I'll be 52 whether or not I become a CPA 🙂 I found my memory isn't as good as it was, but I'm more patient. I find that studying for the understanding of a concept works best for me. Best wishes!! You can do this!May 11, 2016 at 4:59 am #775988
@happygal, outstanding article….I am going to print it so I can read it over and over when I start to lose momentum. (which I did because of the Mother's day), but I can appreciate the information in this article.
To add to the topic though, I am 51, I have run my own business for 20 years, the tax industry has changed and will change even more next year. I can agree with what was said about not having to suffer tough times if I only had this done a few years ago. My thoughts exactly. Well, I am currently encountering tough times , another very rough tax season this year is why I am on the MUST pass end of the cpa. As I thought about my life, and how my children are really grown, if I don't stop living for them I won't live. It's time for me to move forward with my dreams and desires and I am not taking no for an answer. Yes, I want to make more money, I want to experience being a CPA and I want the respect of a CPA. Tough times has definitely been a career game changer for me. So go for it, this is your chance to do what you want and you have A71 to cheer you on.May 11, 2016 at 7:29 am #775989
NO KIDDING YOU'RE OVER 50, WHY DO YOU FEEL THE NEED TO YELL AT US WITH YOUR THREAD TITLE?May 11, 2016 at 7:39 am #775990
The success rate for those over 50 is the same as any other demographic. If you stick with it you will pass. I think in some ways its easier with years of experience and in some ways its harder, but still completely manageable if you're committed to it.May 11, 2016 at 9:59 am #775991
I'm probably in the minority, but I wholeheartedly recommend against it. With an MBA and all the years of experience you have….what makes you think a CPA will give you an edge? It won't and you'll just waste time and money.
But you'll probably take it, so I guess all I can say is good luck because you'll need it.May 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm #775992
Going for an external position, I think it would definitely help. Recruiters identify key terms on a resume when gathering potential candidates. CPA is one of them.May 11, 2016 at 2:24 pm #775993
In industry generally the first few people to see and screen a resume are not accounting people at all and on paper to those HR people there are very few nuances when deciding whether to pass along or file a resume. So for the OP, they see a great job as a controller they'd like to apply to. Many other resumes are put to the bottom of the pile (recent grads, different industries,etc.) and that person is left with a pool of candidates who (a) have 10+ years experience, (b) have a grad degree and (c) list certain skills that are critical for that particular company like fixed assets or cost accounting. Lets say that leaves our HR person with 6 potential candidates.
Of those 6, only two list that they have a CPA. Does it guarantee an offer? Not a chance. Could it put them higher priority on the prescreen list? Absolutely.
Job searches are not conducted in a vacuum but hiring companies have very limited information to make interview decisions. I'm hiring a controller, I know 5 things about you. One of them is that you are a licensed CPA. I don't particularly NEED a CPA. However of the 5 other potential candidates the resume qualifications aside from that are fairly homogenous so I suddenly find you a bit interesting.
Telling a highly educated and experienced professional they don't need a CPA is like telling a charming successful man they don't need to iron their shirt for a first date. It certainly can be the polishing touch that makes the impression that seals the deal.May 11, 2016 at 2:37 pm #775994
@mla11692. I can see from your signature that you are CPA in MA. I am CPA exam candidate in MA. What are job prospects for CPA in MA?May 11, 2016 at 5:21 pm #775995
“Job searches are not conducted in a vacuum but hiring companies have very limited information to make interview decisions. I'm hiring a controller, I know 5 things about you. One of them is that you are a licensed CPA. I don't particularly NEED a CPA. However of the 5 other potential candidates the resume qualifications aside from that are fairly homogenous so I suddenly find you a bit interesting.
Telling a highly educated and experienced professional they don't need a CPA is like telling a charming successful man they don't need to iron their shirt for a first date. It certainly can be the polishing touch that makes the impression that seals the deal.”
I agree with what you are saying, but I just think it's a really weird way to approach things. This person has over 15 years of experience. Surely, using their network is a better bet than applying in a massive job board or on the company website? Shouldn't that be the extreme last resort?
The OP mentions recruiters, but how many has he/she talked to? Have they tapped their network? Checked on linkedin to see if any contacts have become recruiters or are working for a company looking to hire? I have a feeling that we're not really getting the whole story here, but I may be wrong. Still, getting a CPA in this situation reads to me like tearing down your door by hand because you accidentally locked yourself out. Why not try the back door? Maybe there's a key under the floor mat that you forgot about? Calling a locksmith?
But I get it. We're on a CPA exam board. The advice makes sense I suppose. OP, I would really take what we all have to say with a grain of salt. With the exception of mla11692 and a few other posters, the general attitude here is always positive and encouraging even when it might not be the most honest feedback.
I think you should really step back and think how much time and effort it would entail and if you've successfully exhausted all your options. Then, if you feel still like you need a CPA and that'd it be worth it then the best of luck to you. Not trying to be discouraging, but this board is littered with old threads of “I passed the CPA and stlll can't get a job”. Like I said earlier, Good Luck!May 11, 2016 at 5:30 pm #775996
Mayo I'm only speaking from personal experience as someone who also has 20+ years experience, a grad degree and now a cpa license, it made a difference in my own job search.May 11, 2016 at 5:32 pm #775997
Oh no. Not at all. Was just disagreeing is all. Your posts are always very informative.
EDIT: I tend to be anti-certifications anyhow. I don't really feel they add as much value as some people tend to think. Type of experience and a strong network is always more important IMO. But the CPA can definitely be the clincher for specific situations. This one might be one as you've implied.May 11, 2016 at 5:36 pm #775998
Ib553- I think it depends. Was hard for me because of my age and no public experience. Just meant I had to work a bit harder at it but landed something great. I can tell you it's all about how much work you put into a search. I think it's likely stronger than in other regions.May 11, 2016 at 5:41 pm #775999
You know I'm with you there mayo on the certifications in general, people thinking they can compensate for limited experience by studying for another exam don't get it. But certs and experience each only go so far on their own and if you're in a candidate pool comprised mostly of CPA's you can be overlooked in some cases. Not sure I'd say most but a good number of management level candidates are going to be licensed nowadays even if it's not required.May 11, 2016 at 6:20 pm #776000
Having certifications can be VITAL when dealing with other professionals. I network with attorneys and doctors and they are probably more sensitive about referring their clients to another professional with a certification. There are many paths, Grasshopper. Choose the one that leads you to your own destination.May 11, 2016 at 10:36 pm #776001
The CPA is definitely more respected than certifications. It's like getting achievement awards in high school. I know, I know some of these certifications cost a pretty penny, but if you're gonna be, for example: a certified bookkeeper, certified tax preparer, or certified payroll specialist, you may as well take the cpa exam…..the respect and money is very different. Sure the certifications specialize in different areas with different depths, but the CPA will qualify for all of them and beyond. Even the EA.May 13, 2016 at 1:11 am #776002
Do it, do it, do it (did I say do it!!). And being a late career professional means you'll be able to leverage the technical knowledge in a way you could never do just out of college. Just be prepared to be floored (not in a good way) by how much things have changed since we graduated.May 13, 2016 at 1:39 am #776003
57 years young. try and stop me.May 13, 2016 at 2:10 am #776004
Hey I can go with that…..I feel so much energy….Why not over 50 🙂May 13, 2016 at 2:48 am #776005
Let's just all pass this thing together before the test changes in 2017.
Ben Affleck is also cramming and crunching to pass his last section before the release of his movie (The Accountant) this coming October:)May 13, 2016 at 2:32 pm #776006
I'm in a similar situation at 43, with an MBA that has a concentration in Accounting. I've worked in industry for over 18 years. I've worked for some really great CFOs who didn't give a care that I didn't have a CPA designation because my skills spoke for me. I've worked in Controller & VP Finance roles for several $150MM + revenue companies. I decided to get my CPA for me and only for me. It's something that I always wanted to do but kept putting it on the back burner, but now is my time. I knocked FAR out in April, and have AUD at the end of May, REG in July and BEC in August.
Your years of experience can only help you! I found it to be true myself as a lot of the situations that are covered in the sections I've seen/done/handled/been part of first hand in my career experience. The hardest thing for me has been to not read into the questions. It took me a bit to take off my work experience hat and put on my test hat. Once I did that, I read the question answered it based on only the info in the question. That helped me a ton. If you study and keep on it, you will pass. And get a good quality review course that fits your needs and your learning style. I use RogerCPAReview because his style synchs with my learning style and it's worked well.
Go for it! If nothing else, getting your CPA is something that no one can take away from you. (unless in the case of a ethics violation!)May 15, 2016 at 5:34 am #776007
Not QUITE 50 but closing fast! One of my bucket list things was to get my CPA before I turned 50. A serious downturn in my current industry pushed me even more. So, 4… er something, havent worked in accounting in years, and I managed to pass them all in one year while running my own (non related) business, with a 10 year old kid and (thankfully) a very supportive husband.
Thats the good news.
The bad news. It still aint easy to find a job. I live in a small town and cant move. No one wants to talk to me in public although Ive made clear Im willing to start at the bottom. Almost 7 months now since getting my license and not even one interview. 🙁 Sucks. So yeah getting a CPA is not the end all and be all.May 15, 2016 at 2:04 pm #776008
@over50: Make the decision to do this, and go all in. This test is about stamina, commitment and never giving up. I had tax experience and my degree is in economics – those both helped in BEC and REG.
You came to the right place to learn more about the exams and meet other folks who are going through this with you. Best of luck to you and please keep us all posted. I passed the exams last December, but Jeff (A71 founder) and everyone here were so helpful as I got through it that I occasionally come back to chime in and help. Having the CPA license is AWESOME!!May 16, 2016 at 6:30 pm #776009
I think we need a forum for us 50 year olds! I actually turn 50 in a few months and have decided to take BEC as soon as possible. Hoping to knock this out in a year. Good luck to you Over50!February 16, 2017 at 10:58 am #1479247
Birthday coming soon, still have not passed this exam, BUT…I printed the article “why are you not a CPA?. I've read it again just to regain momentum. Yes, I am struggling again. But so what, I'll get it one of these days.February 17, 2017 at 9:23 am #1480050
Maybe someone else pointed this out and I missed it, but here's one thing I would say…
If you think you might work in public accounting, you want to get the CPA. You can't become an owner and you can't do some of the work without a CPA. E.g., you can't do comps, reviews, audits… and you can't (unless you're an attorney or EA) get power of attorney for IRS representation.
Note: Your odometer mileage in business can be a huge advantage if you do end up public accounting serving businesses. Which is relevant because you want to focus on businesses and not individuals if you're working in a CPA firm.February 17, 2017 at 11:00 am #1480155
UPDATE to my post above – I did get a job in 2017 and the owner of the company that hired me as a controller specifically told me that having a CPA license was a large part of his decision – that he had been getting resumes from all kinds of accounting people but very few had a CPA license and he binned those immediately. so….February 17, 2017 at 6:51 pm #1491769
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