You’re Going to Grad School: Do You Sit for the CPA Exam or Wait?
For many of you it is graduation season and that means planning to start at a firm in the fall or going back to school. But do you really need grad school?
Here’s our question from a reader planning on eventually taking the CPA exam but unsure as to when:
I just finished my undergraduate degree in the summer and therefore did not meet any of the application deadlines for grad school this Fall. I plan on going to grad school in the Spring, but in the meantime, I wanted to register to sit for the CPA exam. Is this a dumb thing to do? Most of my friends are going to grad school and studying for the CPA exam simultaneously. I don’t want to wait to the Spring to start taking the CPA though–but perhaps it will be more beneficial to me to wait. I need all the help I can get to pass. On the other hand, I’ve heard that you don’t necessarily need everything you learn in grad school to do well on the CPA exam, and all that extra information that they feed you can actually confuse you. I would love to hear your input on this.
Let’s be honest here, there are two distinct universes: 1) the CPA exam universe and 2) the actual universe.
Scenarios presented on the CPA exam are often contrived in the way that only made-up content can be and very often fail to match real-world experiences that you will encounter in your exciting career as a CPA. That also means that college may have poorly prepared you for the CPA exam universe, whether undergrad or graduate level. The CPA exam changes twice a year but it’s pretty likely that your college professors used the same books several years in a row. Of course accounting is still accounting but you are right to assume that grad school may not adequately prepare you for the CPA exam. Why do you think review courses make so much money?
Our advice is ALWAYS the same when it comes to loading up your plate with other things while trying to tackle the CPA exam: less is more. If you can trim out part of your social life, take time off of work, and avoid any additional educational or professional responsibilities while studying, you’re in a much better place to focus on the exam. Ask any of your friends who are trying to do grad school and the CPA exam at the same time in a few months how things are working out and I guarantee you they’ll tell you it’s not the cake walk they thought it would be. If you can save yourself the headache, do it, you can always go back to school later.
Grad school may make you more hireable and teach you a few tips and tricks for your career but as far as the exam goes, if that’s your only motivation for getting more education, you’d be better off just picking up some extra units to meet the 150 hour rule and focusing your efforts with a good review program. Again, college texts are usually outdated and don’t cover the same topics as the CPA exam.
It is our humble advice that you apply for the CPA exam immediately and make it your goal to complete all exam parts before you start school in the Spring since you will have the time to focus on the task at hand. Good luck!
Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.