As a young accounting professional, one of the best decisions you can make is taking the Uniform CPA Examination early in your career. Of course, if you’re already working 60+ hour weeks at a public accounting firm, dedicating your remaining free time to exam prep is hardly an appealing prospect. While it’s tempting to delay the exam, waiting too long can make it more difficult to advance professionally and transition to new roles. As a seasoned Accounting & Finance recruiter, my advice is to take the exam within your first two years in the industry– or risk missing out on future career opportunities.
After crushing it for four or five years at a public accounting firm, many young accountants begin to look at their career trajectory and how to accomplish their professional goals. As an Executive Recruiter, I see a lot of young accounting professionals who are eager to transition into higher-paying positions with greater responsibility. Within the current market, if these professionals come to me without a CPA, their path towards that next great job and higher earning power will be hindered.
On the fence about studying for your CPA? You stand to gain more than just a certification. Taking care of your CPA early tells future employers five things about your professional character:
- Work ethic. Coming home after a 12-hour work day and cracking open the books to study for the CPA takes determination and hard work. Studying for the CPA during your first few years out of college demonstrates impressive work ethic to future employers.
- Go-getter. Taking the CPA exam early shows employers that you take your career seriously and that you see yourself moving into a senior role in the long-term. Such an early investment of time and money demonstrates that you believe your career is worth it. Employers see that you approach your career in a thoughtful, considered manner and they know that you are a goal-oriented, ambitious professional.
- Prioritized. Studying for the CPA exam is so time consuming that it instantly demonstrates to employers where your priorities lie. Employers will see that you are willing to sacrifice a few nights out with your friends to develop your professional competencies, which isn’t the case for every young person.
- Committed. Taking the exam early in your career signals to employers that you view accounting as a long-term profession, rather than just a job that pays the bills. Even if you intend to transition into finance, I’ve found that being a CPA gives you an edge over other candidates and makes you much more marketable.
- Strategic. One universal truth is that the longer you’re out of school, the harder it can be to get back into a test-taking mindset. When you’re fresh out of college, your study skills are sharp and you’re still used to multitasking between work and school. Without the added stress from all the responsibilities that get added to your plate as the years go on, you’ll be in a better position to successfully take the CPA exam.
While earlier is always better, it’s never too late to take your CPA exam. How has your exam timing affected your career?