Erica’s Story: Life After the CPA Exam

28 Aug 2012

NINJA CPA Review, NINJA Hall of Fame

By Erica H


My name is Erica, and after several years of lollygagging I finally buckled down and passed my last section of the CPA exam in February of 2011.

Somehow we think that there will be some pivotal shift in life and work after the CPA exam is over, and in some ways that is certainly true, however I think it tends to be subtler than we might expect.

There is always the most obvious change after the exam – no more studying! I found myself with a little bit of “post-test depression” after the exam was done.

It was spring, busy season was over, and suddenly I had all this time on my hands! The last thing I expected was to feel a bit lost and, yes, even BORED without the studying and upcoming challenge of another exam.

Fortunately summer did what summer does best, and I was quite busy enjoying the nice weather. Summer and getting licensed mentally occupied me for a few months and gave me some time to kick the can around a little bit.

One of the things we expect after passing the exam is some major change in our work life. For me the change was subtle. My bosses were thrilled I finally passed the exam, but my daily duties didn‘t really change very much.

I’d started the exam in 2006, then lost my motivation and took several years off only to resume in 2010 when some of my office-mates were taking the exam. The biggest change for me at work is that I am no longer stuck on a plateau.

I have been a supervisor for several years, and am now eligible for further advancement. There is an undercurrent of expectation there that was not there before, and I’m hopeful this will translate to more challenging projects and duties as time goes on.

A major life change also occurred for me after the exam. My husband and I found out we were expecting a new addition to the family! And for added fun, she was due to arrive this last March, right smack in the middle of busy season.

I will say this was definitely not ideal. The stress of busy season during the last few months of a pregnancy was no small matter! Our daughter Ingrid arrived right on time in March, and I was out of the office until June.

During the months after passing the exam and getting licensed, I had plenty of opportunity to think about what I really wanted from my career. What I decided was that I want to be really, really good at what I do. I also want to have the opportunity to work on the most challenging projects available.

I realized that I enjoyed the academic challenge of the CPA exam, and that perhaps I might enjoy further study. However this would mean years of additional schooling and hard work.

At some point after the exam I think we will all face our own little existential dilemmas – what do we want to do with our lives? Where do we want our careers to go?

Passing the exam means we have much more freedom to make these decisions because suddenly we have much more time and energy to devote to our goals. Suddenly life can move on, and we just need to decide where we want it to go.