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Simple question, but haven't been able to find the answer!

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Simple question, but haven't been able to find the answer! [#permalink] New post 20 May 2009, 21:03
Hi everyone,

Wow, I'm very glad to have found this site, I've already found tons of great info on here. I'm a junior (rising senior) accounting major considering a career in public accounting and currently trying to figure out what to do with my next few years. As bad as it sounds, I'm really burnt out on school right now and am looking to get out as soon as I can--the only problem is that when I graduate I'll be nowhere near the CPA-required 150 hours. I'd love to start working for one of the Big 4 right after I graduate, but am unsure if they're even hiring non-CPA's at this point. I'll be over 120 hours, so I'll be eligible to take the test (right?), but obviously even if I pass immediately I still won't be a CPA for at least a few years. Are the Big 4 only hiring kids who have their 150 or will they take someone who passes the test with <150?

I'm willing to do the 5th year to get into one of these firms, but only if I really have to. I'm weary to take on more loans right now, it's already bad enough as it is :oops: . Are any of the better MSA programs known to be generous with scholarship money? I doubt I'll be an "elite" candidate but my grades are good (~3.8 cumulative GPA, 4.0 in accounting) from a top program and I plan on studying the GMAT all summer if need be. Thanks for any help! I guess that was more than one question :)
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Re: Simple question, but haven't been able to find the answer! [#permalink] New post 21 May 2009, 05:20
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I'm a manager at a Big 4 firm and can assure you that you definitely don't need to be a CPA to be hired by a Big 4 firm, you don't need to have even sat for the exam yet, nor do you need 150 hours at hiring. Our campus recruiting is focused on people like you, and the only expectation is that once you join you will begin taking the CPA exam and progressing towards getting your CPA license (including taking more credits if needed). I didn't actually get my license until 16 months after I started working, and I know plenty of people who are in their 3rd and 4th year with the firm and still are working on their license. The only point at which it becomes an issue is that you must have your license to be promoted to manager (typically 6-7 years after you join).

In terms of hiring, certainly the economy is having an impact on hiring demand but we're still planning on recruiting on campus for fall 2010 start dates. The business model of accounting firms depends on a continual stream of new entry-level hires. So while the numbers will likely decrease from what we took on this year, we will still need new associates next year. Are you doing an internship in public accounting, either with a Big 4 or otherwise? That's usually a best path to getting a full-time offer, but even if not there are plenty of people who get full-time offers without having had an internship. I'd say if your goal is to work in public accounting after graduation, your best bet is to skip the masters program for now and start working. Once you get hired, you can use the firm to pay for the extra credits/masters program to get your license.
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Re: Simple question, but haven't been able to find the answer! [#permalink] New post 21 May 2009, 22:24
Thanks for the reply, Jerz. What you're saying is what I figured the case was, but it's great to hear from a knowledgeable source. It's amazing how little guidance is given to accounting majors at my school regarding current hiring practices and CPA requirements--I've even received incorrect information from a business adviser in our career services.

If Big 4 recruiters aren't concerned over this, why are so many kids considering the fifth year? I'm a bit confused as to what its major benefits are. Is it because of the difficulty of completing the credits while working full time, increased marketability (i.e. having better credentials than a straight-out-of undergrad kid), or something else that I'm missing? I'm also woefully undereducated on the specific requirements of the 150 rule--can the credits be in anything, or are there certain requirements that need to be met that may be difficult to find outside of an MSA program? I realize that it varies by state, but I'm more concerned with what the general rule is.

Edit--And to answer your question, I'm not working in public accounting this summer, but I am interning in accounting at a large company. Sorry to be overly vague but I'd prefer not to be identifiable.
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Re: Simple question, but haven't been able to find the answer! [#permalink] New post 22 May 2009, 02:33
IMO, there is no major benefit to a fifth year for people planning to go into public accounting. The vast majority of campus hires only have a 4 year degree, so it doesn't give any extra advantage there. Once you're hired, at least at my firm, no preference is given to people with a masters degree vs. bachelors. All promotion and compensation decisions are based on how you actually perform while working, not your credentials. I've sat on my office's annual review committee for associates, and who had an advanced degree and who didn't was not a subject of discussion. My pessimistic side says that people do it because the schools market it as a great way to get the 150 credits (and pay a 5th year of tuition), and there is really no competing voice suggesting it may not be the best idea. Even when firms recruit on campus, they'll tell students who are interested in a 5 year program that it's just as possible to get a job after 5 years (which is true). The people recruiting aren't going to get into a discussion of positives and negatives because a) they're there to recruit not be career counselors, and b) they're not going to be openly critical of a school's program and possibly jeopardize their relationship with the school. My less pessimistic side says people do it because they think it'll be easier to do the classes before they start working, which I'm sure it is but the firms are also pretty flexible in terms of allowing people to leave work for class so again it's definitely do-able to take classes while working.

In terms of the requirements for the 150, it varies state by state. In general, the states will have a minimum set of required credits in specific courses (e.g. 24 credits in accounting, 6 credits in finance, etc), and an overall total requirement of 150. Meaning if you are an accounting major and have completed all the specific requirements during your 4 years, the extra credits to get to 150 can be in any subject you want. It doesn't even have to be business related, you could pick up a masters in fine arts and it would still count. Your state CPA society should be able to help you understand the specific requirements in your state if your school isn't helpful, and I believe the AICPA website for students has info on the requirements as well.
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Re: Simple question, but haven't been able to find the answer!   [#permalink] 22 May 2009, 02:33
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