HOW TO BECOME A CPA (Certified Public Accountant): What it really takes

The CPA License is not awarded to all. It is a symbol of excellence and professional prestige to some. It is known that for one to have it, you have to take a four to five year college course, review for board exam, submit all the documentary requirements to the professional regulatory and pass the board exam. But what does it really takes for you to become a CPA?

First: You MUST LOVE the Profession
There are two stereotypical reasons why people think you should become a CPA because you are good in Mathematics and because you would easily become rich as soon as you get your CPA license.

If you are a high school student or a high school graduate who happen to be the mathematician of your batch, most often you’ll receive unsolicited career advise to take accountancy. But let me tell you this: accounting is NOT mathematics. Other than addition, subtraction and some seasonal use of your multiplication and division skills, you could totally forget all the complicated formulas you have learned from your Algebra, Geometry or Calculus subject, bring your most heavy duty calculator and you’re good to go!

If you happen to came from a humble family with limited budget for college education and dream to be the breadwinner of the family, provide education for your younger siblings and give them the luxury of life someday then taking accountancy course might be an easy escape since accountancy is one of, if not the cheapest course, all you need are pen, pencil, journal books, ledgers, and calculator. After all, we were all molded to believe that Accounting graduates have the highest paying salary. Sounds like a very good investment, which might be true but only after a decade or two of EXTRA HARD WORK and UNPAID OVERTIME.

To become a CPA, above all you must have the appropriate reason why do you want to become one, and neither being good at mathematics nor big paycheck could qualify as a reason. You MUST LOVE and MUST HAVE THE PASSION. Otherwise, at every stage of your study, review for board exam or even in actual practice, you will constantly look for the exit route.

Second: Be Disciplined

During our freshmen orientation, I remember our college dean once told us “Accountancy is a jealous course, if you want to stay in the program you must prioritize it over love-life and night-life”.

That statement might be exaggerated but looking back, it really is a fair advice and warning at the same time to us. The course requires you to develop analytic skills and critical thinking which would take you tons and tons of time. Those skills were not learned from high school, that is why sometimes even if you used to be an honor student you might still find your self struggling. But don’t worry, accounting is not for the genius ones it is for the disciplined.

You will be needing to read and solve practice problem a lot! I myself, used to have two to three book references both for text book and practice problems, that is four to six books for just one subject. Sounds crazy? Might be. But with proper schedule planning and the discipline to follow the schedule, it is possible. Sure, there will be times that you feel like you’re tired, you may take breaks in between your study hours but not to a point that you are already procrastinating. Sleep and relax during resting hours and study on studying hours. How much time is sufficient? It really is depending on you. Develop a schedule based on your own strength and weaknesses, your leaning curve, your learning style and your current level of understanding. Make a plan and make sure you act on it. Don’t let distractions take you off the track. Remember your goal. Eyes on the prize!

Third: Be Persistent

Accountancy is said to be one of the toughest course (at least here in the Philippines), it is proven by the low ratio of graduates and low passing rate in the past board exams. The solution is such a cliché, anyone could tell you, “if you study hard you will pass the exam”. And we hate it because we also know it. The problem is, in accounting, “studying hard” is such an understatement. It is never easy to push yourself to go further after long toil, from one exam to another, mid-terms to finals, and finally from board review to actual board exam. Feeling exhausted from never ending study is normal. But what can we do? That is the only way. So we continue and we persist.

In one of my favorite book “OutIiers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell”, it is said that for one person to successfully master something, it requires him/her to devote 10,000 hours. This number might or might not be accurate but speaks the truth that no success is made overnight. You have to keep going. Keep a positive mind and always remember your passion. Nothing should discourage you, not your previous exams, not your previous grades, not even that one accounting problem that you can’t get right, anyway it is okay to make all the mistake on practice problems over and over as long as you get it right on the board exam.

Some reviewees would give up understanding one or two topics and problem solving, show up on board exam and say “I can still do this”, which is a good attitude, inspiring even. But most (if not all) CPAs persevere during their review in every theories to understand and in every problem to analyze and solve. So, what separate CPAs and non passer? It is the attitude of never giving-up. Not in a generic way, but in a very specific way in every minute, in every hour and in every step of the way.

The Glam-O-Rose Girl

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