CPA Career Path: What You Need to Know

Do you aspire to become a Certified Public Accountant? There are many reasons you may wish to become a CPA. CPAs tend to have relatively high earning potential and substantial room for advancement in their careers.

One of the best ways you can prime yourself for success as a CPA is to familiarize yourself with the typical CPA career path. While the route one person takes to becoming a successful CPA may vary from the route someone else takes to some degree, in general, there are certain steps in the process that tend to apply across the board. They include the following:


To become a CPA, it’s naturally important that you study accounting in college. Be aware, different states have different requirements as to the number of postsecondary credits someone must have before they can qualify to officially become a CPA. You’ll have to research the requirements in your state (or the state in which you plan to be certified). You may also have to research citizenship requirements, depending on your citizenship status.

If possible, during your summers as a student, take small jobs or internships either with accounting firms or with the accounting departments of organizations. Making the right connections early can help increase your odds of landing a dream job in the future.

It’s also best to begin preparing for the CPA exam sooner rather than later. In all your classes, consider how what you’re learning can apply to the exam.

Strongly consider supplementing your education by taking an additional CPA exam prep course. You can take one online instead of spending more time taking an in-person course.

Remember, the CPA exam is rather challenging. Preparing as thoroughly as possible ahead of time is important.

Becoming a CPA

Many jobs in your chosen field will require you to be a CPA to even apply to them. However, that’s not always the case. Particularly at large accounting firms in major cities, there are many fairly high-paying jobs available to talented graduates who are preparing to complete the CPA exam.

If you fill such a job, once you pass the exam, your earning potential within your current role may increase substantially. You can decide to stay at the company you’re already with, or leverage your new credentials to apply for more desirable jobs elsewhere.


Once you’re an official CPA, you have many options from which to choose in regard to future career plans. You can fill a general accounting job at a major accounting firm or start an accounting firm of your own.

Or, you may choose to become an in-house CPA for an organization in an industry or niche that appeals to your values. You can also specialize in various types of accounting work, such as financial analysis, cash management, and more.

Becoming a CPA does require some dedication, ambition, and hard work. However, all that work can pay off substantially. While a career as a CPA may not appeal to everyone, those who have the talent and inclinations necessary to succeed in this role often find it to be quite rewarding, both financially and personally.