I get this question a lot from young people about whether they should get their CPA. Obviously, you don’t need a CPA license to succeed in the accounting field. I do think that having a CPA designation shows tremendous commitment to what it takes to succeed. I often encourage people to take the CPA exam because I think the license represents us as a professional - it’s the same thing in any profession - if you are in a particular field, you should be licensed to be able to perform at a particular level. You wouldn’t let an unlicensed doctor operate on you, would you?
I’m so excited to share this episode with Liz Kolar. Liz’s life resume encompasses all walks of experience, from public accounting at PwC to college professor; from CPA instructor to a leader in the educational technology space, Liz thrives on providing and encouraging young accountants. Her impressive experiences lead her to help bring in and retain top talent in accounting. In this episode, I speak with Liz about her career journey, her understanding of the changing CPA, and advice on how we can bring in the best talent to become CPAs and excel as accountants in the field.
CPA licensing can open incredible doors but opportunity cost matters; the field needs to consider shifts in its current approach in order to attract top talent, and this is an incredibly exciting time for the profession! I hope you enjoyed listening to Liz as much as I enjoyed talking to her.
1. 2024 is coming faster than we think
If you’re a sophomore in college, the CPA exam that you take will be different than the current one. Rather than have four mandatory sections, the Emerging CPA requires one to excel in three core disciplines: accounting, auditing, and tax and one specified sector, from which potential candidates can choose between (1) Business analysis and reporting, (2) Information systems and controls, and (3) Tax, compliance and planning. This new format addresses technological advances while putting control of focus on the shoulders of potential candidates. Liz explains that while large universities with resources at their disposal may be able to offer incredible opportunities in all three specific disciplines, smaller schools may benefit from specializing in just one of these three.
2. CPA licensing can open incredible doors but opportunity cost matters
The CPA exam is the first step towards an incredible career. Licensure carries prestige, an assumption of intelligence, and a stamp of hard-working and dedicated approval. Liz discusses how the opportunity costs associated with becoming a licensed public accounting can serve as true roadblocks to bringing in and retaining effective talent. Firstly, the 150 hours requirement of credit sometimes requires a fifth year of study; the coursework of the CPA exam may add up to thousands of dollars, and this cost comes at the expense of missing a full year of paid work. Her advice? Take as many credits as you can while paying the normal tuition price, including summer programs if possible. If you major in accounting while in undergrad and want more time to learn before heading into the workforce, feel free to expand your horizons with a master's. Masters in many fields will help; she even mentioned her past student excelling with one in psychology!
3. This is an exciting time to become a CPA
With rapid advancements in technology automating more and more of the labor-intensive workload, accountants are changing how they work. No longer are we crunching numbers; rather, we work to tell a specific story with the numbers and provide intelligence on how businesses can improve. Liz advocates for students to take up a minor in Data Analysis or Information technology if they are interested in these fields, as they are taking up more and more of the space of accountants’ work as technology and data collection techniques progress. Moreover, she explains that the current labor shortage in accountants means firms will continue to rise salary rates, provide for their employees, and assist in professional development. There’s never been a more exciting, more profitable, and more important time to become a CPA.
🎧 To listen to this episode, learn more about how to succeed on the new CPA and how to structure your accounting education, and to gain general mentorship advice from Cece, listen to the Dear Accountant podcast here.
🎙 The “Dear Accountant” podcast is a uniquely insightful and entertaining podcast for aspiring young business professionals. Each episode is packed with actionable advice to help young finance professionals get ready for whatever challenge they may face next. Aside from all of the many cool things in accounting (technical topics and trends), we bring in industry experts and influential leaders to share their journey, insights, and perspectives. We will also cover topics that were not taught in school - life essential skills such as personal finance, emotional intelligence, mentorship, networking, body language, human behaviors, and so much more!
💬 About Liz Kolar: Liz Kolar, CPA, CGMA, has been teaching CPA Review for more than 25 years in the United States, has personally taught more than 2,500 live sessions, and has helped thousands of candidates pass the CPA Exam. She founded Pinnacle CPA Review and co-founded Surgent Kolar CPA Review. She is a recipient of the ASWA Business Woman of the Year Northeast Region, Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year, and PICPA Outstanding Educator of the Year. Liz began her career in Public Accounting with a Big Four accounting firm auditing financial service clients after graduating from Pace University with an MBA in Public Accounting. Liz’s teaching career spans almost 30 years. She has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Pace University and Seton Hall University, and is currently a professor at Delaware Valley University.
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