Advice for Current Accounting Students: This Two Step Process will be the Most Valuable Thing You Can Learn Before Going Out Into the Accounting Profession


Step One: CPA Exam first, Job second

The CPA exam is probably the hardest exam youíll ever take. Many students spend thousands of dollars on different CPA review course because their initial CPA review course failed them. Itís recommended that you focus on passing this exam right after graduation because the some of the class material will still be fresh in your head. Plus, passing CPA exams helps land you a job. Itís harder to studying for the CPA exam while maintaining a full time job.

Tackling this beast is nothing like classroom exams. Studying for one part of the CPA Exam is like studying three condensed version of your accounting courses. Here are the different choices of CPA Review Course you can buy: Becker, Yaeger, Bisk, Roger, Wiley, Gleim, and Kaplan.

Before going out to buy anything, I recommend you join the Washington State Society of CPAs. Why? Because student members gets DISCOUNTS! Yes, you heard me. Check out this link for the discounts:

Kaplan is the most expensive. Then Becker is the second most expensive. The only reason why Becker is so expensive and so popular is that the Big Four advertises them. Donít believe in the hype. Students who pass the CPA exam will recommend their CPA Review course. Students who fail one part of the CPA exam will downplay their CPA review course. Just buy the CPA review course that youíre able to afford; however, Becker really does take the largest share of the market and has a really good pass rate (90%?). Itís not the CPA review course that will help you pass. Itís the amount of time, effort, and commitment you put into the studying that will help you pass. Remember from earlier when I said many students spend thousands of dollars on CPA review course? I think those people didnít put in enough time, effort, and commitment, or any of these combinations.

IMPORTANT for Becker students: unless you intend to pass all four parts within a year (i.e. between January 2009 Ė December 2009), do not buy all four parts. I made the mistake of buying all four parts because there was a discount. Once I started the Becker Review Course, then the Becker will expire within a year. This means you have to pass all four parts within a year. So please do research before committing and choose a review course that suits you.

Here is the recommended order when you take the CPA Exam:
1. FAR Ė Financial accounting. Everyone over-prepares for their initial exam. You want to over-prepare for FAR because it has the most amount of material that you will have to learn. Thus, FAR is most commonly known as the hardest exam.
2. AUD Ė Auditing. How can you really know auditing when you donít know the mechanics of financial accounting? Many students say there are FAR questions in the AUD, so you better be prepared for FAR when taking AUD. FAR after AUD makes sense because the FAR material will be fresh in your head from over studying. Then you donít have to worry about studying FAR when you study AUD. AUD is most commonly known as the easiest. And you probably want to take it easy after testing for AUD (Iím not saying that AUD will not be hard).
3. REG Ė Business law and Tax. This is probably the second hard exam. Youíre going to feel you donít have enough time when you sit for the exam.
4. BEC Ė Business environment. No simulation on this section. By the time you get here, you will be glad to not worry about the simulation.

Everyone has different opinions when they tell me their recommended order for taking the CPA exam. For me, I would say you should take the hardest section, which is tax for me. When you sign up for these exams, you better think twice before making anything picking an official date.

When you sign up for the CPA exam, they will allow you a 6 months period to take your exam (including any non-testing month). So if you donít intend to pass all four parts in the 6 months, then do donít sign up for all four. They will not give you a refund if your schedule doesnít work out and you canít take the exam that you paid for.

STEP TWO: Looking for a Job

Itís really tough to get an accounting position. Trust me. I've talked to some other students who has graduated and passed all four parts of the CPA exam (UW, CWU Ellensburg, WSU) and still haven't found a job yet. As a matter of fact, there is an over population of CPAs out there (due to the fact that the exam got easier ever since it got split into 4 parts). Public accounting is extremely difficult to get right now because there are a lot of accountants who got laid off in this slump economy. Iíve asked a representative of a medium sized accounting firm about their application rate for 2008. She told me that out of 600 applied, 200 got interviewed and 20 got the job. This should pretty much give you a basic idea of the competitive nature of each accounting job. Firms are less willing to take on the liability of an entry level accountant.

Even though you see less jobs being advertised, that doesnít mean there isnít a job. I heard somewhere that over 50% of jobs arenít advertised. And Iíve talked to many employers whoíve said that many companies (accounting and non-accounting) who are looking to fill a position, but they do it secretly because they donít want to sort through 1,000+ resumes/applications.

Here are some of the things that will help you get an accounting job:


1. Network, network, network. Itís self explanatory and this is what Iíve been told since day 1 in college.Attend all major social and recruiting event your school offers (Rock Salt in the fall), WSCPA events, and even open events from other schools.

2. Pass all four parts of the CPA exam. It helps a lot because employers will know that youíre detail oriented, able to analyze problems, and pick out pertinent facts when faced with multiple facts (CPA exam will try to confuse you and trick you).

3. Participate in extracurricular activity on-campus and in your community. This will tell a lot of an employer. They would rather take a candidate with a lot of extracurricular activities and 3.0 GPA than a candidate with no extracurricular activities and 4.0 GPA. By the way, ANY job that can help you in an accounting position helps too!

MEMORIZE THIS: accounting employers will ask you about your involvement with your college accounting club. You donít even need a play a major role in the accounting club. Just as long as youíre being involved, then employers think that you like accounting. Accounting employers also wants to hear that youíve been staying up with the current accounting news, so read about that kind of stuff or try to hear them in meetings. Besides class, the things you do that involved learning accounting will tell an employer that you love accounting. Itís hard to be an accountant if you donít even care about the news in the accounting profession. Join the Washington State Society of CPAs or become heavily involved with the Society of Student Accountants at CWU.

4. Keep your GPA above 3.0. If you canít keep/meet this minimum, then you better have a lot of work experience and are involved in a lot of extracurricular activities.

5. Nail the interview. PRACTICE! Practice interview as much as you study for the CPA exam. The interview will land you a job and helps you negotiate your salary.

Terrance Duong

CWU Alumni and SSA member


Related links:


Kaplan CPA Review:

Call 1-800-CPA-2DAY to speak to a representative


Becker CPA Review:

Please contact Robbie Dahl for more information


Phone: 425-803-0181


Roger CPA Review:

Please contact Katie Criddle for more information


Phone: (206) 321-3654


CPA Job Finder:


Washington State CPAs:

Please contact Mark Peterson for more information or to become a student member


Phone: (425) 586-1118