Preparing for the CPA at square one

Get the experience you need on your path to becoming a CPA

So you’re interested in the CPA profession but you don’t have the degree or experience to get the job yet? Well there’s no replacement for getting the education you need, but acquiring a competitive advantage can be done in all sorts of ways. Consider a few of these ideas to give yourself a leg up on the competition upon graduation.

Find an internship

While you’re still in school, get yourself an internship. By pursuing an internship with a company in your field, you’ll get a chance to test out the job itself and get some real accounting experience on your resume (not to mention those coveted job references). Choose an internship that fits you and you could find yourself in a permanent accounting position in no time.

Try a temporary position

All of the internship opportunities have dried up and you’re not sure how you’re going to get accounting experience during your summer break. Try a temporary or temp-perm position. Finding an accounting-related temp assignment is a great way to gain experience and build your resume up for the big career hunt upon graduation. Jump ahead of the couch potatoes and learn about getting the most out of your temporary assignment.

Pass the CPA Exam

There’s really no getting around this one. In order to become a CPA, you need education, experience, and to pass the beloved CPA Exam. Join the elite accounting professionals who find it much easier to find a job once certified. It’s a statistical fact! Get the need-to-know on the CPA Exam and while you’re there, get some advice from those that have already passed.

Seek out ways to market yourself

Career fairs are mega-networking opportunities to get lots of face-time with accounting professionals (aka future employers). Make sure you show up prepared with plenty of business cards and copies of your resume. When mingling, remember: keep it short, straight to the point and avoid sounding desperate at all costs. Job search engines (i.e. Career Builder) are good places to find job fairs in your area and while you’re at it, why not post your resume too? Try cold calling or researching local start-ups or firms that you may be interested in working for. Craigslist is also good tool for snagging a local gig.

Join your state society

Every state has a society of CPAs that support the CPAs in that state. Most of these organizations have student memberships that will allow you to attend networking events, career fairs, etiquette dinners, resume workshops, and more. Develop good relationships with your state society staff and they just might be able to introduce you to your future. Get the contact information for your state society and sign up for membership ASAP.

Become a student member of the AICPA

If you plan on having CPA at the end of your name, then you’ll definitely want to join the leading professional organization for CPAs. The American Institute of CPAs not only writes the CPA Exam, but also provides continuing education opportunities to make smart accounting professionals even smarter—not to mention we make helpful websites like this one. You can join as a Student Affiliate Member as early as your freshman year in college to help you with networking and training opportunities. (You’ll also be eligible to apply for AICPA scholarships and to participate in our accounting competition.) Best of all, it’s free and easy to join.

Give a little to get a lot

Volunteering is great way to meet new people and make career-changing relationships. You can even offer to volunteer at a local business during their busy season. You may not get paid but you might be able to get some accounting experience while you’re helping out, like at a local tax office. Or volunteer for a cause to expand your network, take a break from the frustration of searching for a full-time gig, and help regain a positive outlook.

The one thing to remember is that becoming a CPA is no small feat, but the job opportunities once you’re there are endless. Take advantage of some of these tips and set yourself up for success once you’re ready to jump into the working world.

In the meantime, try mapping out what that will look like.

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