Monday, December 21, 2015

Public Accounting: 6 months in...

And...I'm back!

I left the blog thinking I had nothing else to offer by way of the Account Analysis field but I've received a constant string of questions concerning the CTP exam, how it compares to the CPA exam, what Treasury careers may entail/require, and how to move from Accounting to Treasury (and vice versa).  I've enjoyed meeting different people from many academic backgrounds and career paths so continue to send me LinkedIn network requests and/or any questions you have!

Now, what have I been doing for the last 6 months as a Staff Accountant?

My 1st assignment on my 1st day in Public Accounting was Probate Accounting.  I thought to myself, "what have I gotten myself into?!"  It was complicated, involved many investments which required accounting for, legal documentation, calculating gains/losses, and blah blah blah.  I was overwhelmed, drowning, and felt this was more Finance than Accounting!

Once that was complete.  I moved on to compile a set of financial statements.  Then a Review.  Then an Audit.  Mind you, all of these assignments were supervised by a Senior Accountant who is 10 years younger than I am with 2 (going on 3) years of Public Accounting experience under her belt and in the final stage of completing the CPA exam for her license.  And, here I am with 3 different letters behind my name and a degree in Accounting feeling like I needed to slow down and go back over debits and credits!  Good news: I survived!  I just completed my first audit 90% on my own and am confident that, if we are the auditors for this client next year, I will do an even better job on my own.  One thing I underestimated about Accounting in general that I think was severely glossed over in school - the attention to detail.  I thought I was good at this.  I even have it on my resume as a skillset! I didn't lie on my resume or any applications; I was just overly confident in what skills I thought I could bring to the table.

I left the field of Account Analysis for various reasons, a major one being the desire for a new challenge and to pursue the CPA while I am (relatively) young. A mentor of mine who worked as an Asst Treasurer was laid off shortly after I made the move over to Accounting.  One thing he noticed during his recent job search was the number of Treasurer and Comptroller positions which required a CPA.  His advice to me was, if I have the chance to pursue it then do so now because he wished he'd done the same years ago.

Well, fast forward 6 months and I've already sat for (and failed) my first section of the exam.  FAR is 1 of 4 sections of the CPA and has the most material to study.  A former classmate of mine (who recently earned his CPA) said this section alone is the equivalent of 3-4 of our semester long Accounting courses in one 4 hour exam.  To some, this makes it harder than the other sections.  For was intimidating.  I took FAR at the end of the Oct/Nov test window and got a 69. Passing is a score of 75 so I was decently close (this is my internal pep talk).   I am scheduled to retake it next month.  When I pass FAR, my 18 month clock starts ticking down and I have 3 more sections to sit for and pass before my first score expires.  I'm using Becker's Self-Study which has awesome lectures, practice questions and practice exams (but very expensive).  I didn't utilize the program as much as I should have the first time around but I'm learning my lesson.  To supplement, I am using the Ninja MCQ test bank.

One question I've received from someone who found this blog, already has their CPA but is now sitting for the CTP soon - how does the CPA compare to the CTP.  I honestly can't answer this well considering I've only taken 1 of 4 parts and didn't even pass the part I took!  But, conceptually, the CTP is a lot of material but 3-4 semester courses of college?  Not sure.  The CTP does not have simulations whereas the CPA does and will increase this portion in 2017 which is scary.  I believe both exams are beasts which can be conquered if you study well for them.  You can't study as you did in college although it would be best to take the CPA right after college when the information is still fresh.  The CTP had a few pages over Accounting.  During the planning stage of an audit I was part of at my current position, we were talking about internal controls for cash/bank accounts and I asked if the client uses Positive Pay or Controlled Disbursements - you'd be surprised to know some accountants have no idea what those are!

So, for both exams, they require specific knowledge that serves no purpose in passing the other.  I do not feel the information gained working in Account Analysis or having studied for the CTP will tremendously help me in any part of the CPA exam.  To further assess the situation I was about to walk into, I asked a former client who has both the CPA and the CTP how one compares to the other - she said the CTP is a "walk in the park" compared to the CPA exam.  Well...

That's all I have to offer right now.  In a few months, I'll have passed FAR and moved on to studying for AUD (auditing).  I wish everyone the best of luck in their studies and hope fear or intimidation doesn't keep someone from tackling either.  My view is, it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!

Happy Holidays,


  1. Thank you for taking the time to outline the process for this career. I appreciate your input and I am really excited about starting this journey myself. I think that no matter the state of this country, this is one position that will be in high demand for many years to come. Keep us posted on what the future brings.

    Tim Norton @ Perfect Accounting Service

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