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4 reasons undergraduate accounting programs should add CPA exam review

Few colleges make it a curricular priority to actually include the review and test preparation process needed to pass examination and obtain licensure as a CPA.

Undergraduate Accounting Programs: Benefits of Adding a CPA Exam Review Explained

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in the field of accounting will continue to grow throughout the decade. As a result, competition for top jobs will remain tough. Many colleges do a great job offering internships and other hands-on opportunities for students to learn vital skills in the field.

Few, however, make it a curricular priority to actually include the review and test preparation process needed to pass examination and obtain licensure as a CPA. For students seeking the most out of tuition dollars and time spent in school, it seems like a strategically beneficial move for colleges and universities to infuse curriculums with the specific test prep knowledge and review needed to pass the CPA licensing examination.

Students and financial professionals are all required to meet the same requirements in order to sit for the exam. Thus, in most cases they’ve completed 4 years of accounting education or experience. Knowing this, the fail rate of the collective exam sections is alarming. Where is the disconnect occurring? Between the information and knowledge that students are digesting and applying during their respective programs and their natural knowledge base, one would expect pass rates to be higher than fail rates.

Consider the following for current accounting students:

1. Academic Mindset ready for Success

While completing a competitive degree like accounting, students are already immersed in the curriculum and can more easily associate test prep knowledge with what they are already learning. Though internships and proper summer job placement, students could complete a fair amount of the practical hours which are necessary in information gathering for the exam.

Through the 2nd quarter of 2012, the failure rate for any given section of the CPA exam is approximately 50%; generally professionals are out of school for a number of years before taking the exam though. Some trends reflect otherwise for enrolled students who take the exam actively as a student.

It makes perfect logical sense for students both undergraduate and graduate to take the exam while enrolled as this is the time of the education where resources are most readily available. For those currently enrolled in accounting programs with exam review classes built in, meeting the CPA exam requirements we most likely be part of the curriculum.

Therefore, it seems wise to re-visit how the curriculum is organized for students enrolled in a college accounting program, if the ultimate goal is a student’s successful entry into the field of accounting as a CPA.

2. Clout and Know-How

Securing the CPA certification brings prestige and increased professional confidence. For institutions most concerned about students securing employment after college, preparing them with the theoretical and practical knowledge-base needed to excel in the field should remain a top priority. Preparing successful graduates not only creates more loyal alumni base, but also may serve as perhaps the best form of advertising a school can invest in, especially in a tight economy.

3. Market Value

CPA’s are more valuable to their employers for a variety of reasons. The versatility for more complicated projects and the ability to oversee and sign off on junior employees’ work is attractive to potential employers. In addition, as niche areas continue to grow (such as environmental accounting or forensic accounting), an employer who wants to grow business in a new area can select from a larger talent pool already primed for broadening the boundaries of the firm.

4. Good Business Sense

For students looking to reap largest ROI from their time and money spent on education, seeking credentials toward the end of a degree is a smart move. While in college, strategically using internships and summer employment to secure practical knowledge and sample different firms also may prove to be economically and professionally beneficial.

In addition, being active in a local chapter of a national professional association can help develop contacts that can open doors later. Even career mentoring in niche areas can open dialogue with prospective employers about areas of personal growth and possible company expansion.

As schools compete for tuition dollars, and students are increasingly savvy about educational investments, there are many benefits to implementing proven and effective CPA review courses into any undergraduate or graduate accounting program. While in school, students are already immersed in the curriculum needed to complete their degree and intellectually invested in achieving their academic goals.

With increased competition for jobs after college, including the CPA test prep course as part of the curriculum could seamlessly and organically prepare more well-rounded students demonstrating the aptitude needed to secure the competitive edge in this growing and vibrant field. For more information and resources about the field of accounting and how to become a CPA, visit:

Grant Webb is a writer and learning facilitator with Bisk Education. Interact @biskcpareview or converse with current students and CPAs on Facebook.


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