A certified public accountant (CPA) is an accountant who has undergone advanced training and passed the CPA exam. CPAs might work in upper management and blend leadership acumen with an understanding of advanced accounting principles. In private practice, CPAs often complete and file tax returns for individuals or companies. The vast training that goes into becoming a CPA prepares accountants for a wide range of potential careers.
CPAs often enjoy high salaries and work autonomy. The average salary for a CPA in Pennsylvania is $67,841 a year, according to ZipRecruiter (2019). Annual salaries for this profession in the Keystone State reach as high as $106,482.
Steps and Requirements to Become a CPA in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants provides guidelines on how to become a CPA. CPAs need a college degree in accounting that includes at least 36 credit hours in accounting subjects (accounting, auditing, finance, business law or tax law). Before taking the CPA exam, applicants will have to have completed 150 hours of college credit. Many accountants fulfill this requirement by completing a master’s degree in accounting or MBA. La Salle University offers an advanced MBA, Accounting Specialization online program that covers topics needed to pass the CPA exam.
Once an accountant has completed the 150 credit-hour requirement, he or she will be eligible to take the Uniform CPA Examination. The four-part exam covers:
- Auditing and Attestation: Ethics, assessing risk, obtaining evidence and forming conclusions
- Business Environment and Concepts: Economic concepts, financial management, IT and operations management
- Financial Accounting and Reporting: Financial reporting, financial statements, and state and local reporting
- Regulation: Ethics, federal tax procedures, business law, and federal taxations of individuals, property, and entities
Candidates must pass the four tests with a score of 75 or higher on each, with all tests completed within 18 months of taking the first one. Even qualified accountants may need to take one or more tests multiple times to pass. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the average pass rate for the exam is around 50%.
Beyond passing the CPA exam, candidates must complete one year (1,600 hours) of related work experience within five years of the day they apply for the CPA certificate.
Unique Considerations for CPA Licensure in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania does not require 150 credit hours to take the exam, but the 150-hour rule must be fulfilled to obtain a CPA license. In Pennsylvania, the notice to schedule expires six months after being issued, meaning that CPA candidates should not apply and pay for exam sections that they will not complete within six months. Some states require a written ethics exam. Pennsylvania’s Board of Accountancy does not require CPAs to take a separate ethics exam.
The fee to complete all four sections of the CPA exam is $743 plus a $95 application fee. Re-examinations require a $95 application fee as well.
Job Outlook for CPAs in Pennsylvania
The job market for CPAs in Pennsylvania is “very active,” according to ZipRecruiter. The Keystone State ranks 23rd out of 50 states nationwide for CPA salaries.
Nationally, job growth for auditors and accountants is projected at 6% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job growth for this field is closely tied with the health of the overall economy, the BLS notes. Career paths for CPAs in Pennsylvania include:
- Employment with an accounting firm
- Management consulting
- Tax filing
- The role of treasurer
- IT consulting
- Financial planning
A CPA license can open the door for leadership positions that offer high salaries. Senior financial analysts use their advanced accounting skills to analyze economic trends and data to determine degrees of financial risk. Senior analysts may lead a team of analysts tasked with developing investment advice for the companies they work for. The average annual salary for these professionals ranges from $85,979 to $104,024, according to Salary.com (2019). The average salary for this position in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is $94,313.
Gain the Skills Needed to Begin a Rewarding Career As a CPA
If you are preparing to take the comprehensive CPA exam, consider pursuing an MBA in accounting. Accounting-focused MBA programs can prepare you for the rigorous four-part test. La Salle University’s MBA, Accounting Specialization online program also helps graduates fulfill some of the semester credit hour requirements for CPA licensure. Taught by La Salle faculty, the online courses include important topics like financial accounting, financial markets, managerial accounting, financial statement analysis and more.
The MBA’s online format, which includes five start dates throughout the year, allows for greater flexibility and on-campus programs. Many of our students hold full-time jobs while pursuing their MBA in accounting. The program can be completed in as few as 14 months.
Learn more about La Salle University’s online MBA, Accounting Specialization program.