Poets&Quants reported yesterday that Deloitte is pushing back start dates for MBA new hires, for […]
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We’ve been through this particular problem before but since this question is sort of unique, we’ll bite. How does an O.G. coming back to accounting after 30 years prepare for the CPA exam?
Doug in Milwaukee asks:
I’m a 50-something MBA and have just completed the extra six (advanced) accounting courses needed to qualify to sit for the Wisconsin CPA exam. Since it’s been 30 years since I’ve taken the basic accounting courses, I’m feeling weak in the areas that may be most heavily stressed on the exam. I’m interested in one of the “higher-quality” reviews that you mentioned, that will give me all the information I need.
Can you recommend a CPA review course for me?
First of all, I have to disclaim for those who don’t know that I came to accounting through the CPA review industry so while I am wholly independent, it doesn’t matter as I may appear biased were I to actually recommend a review course. Perceived bias aside, it is always best for candidate to do their own research and instead of only listening to bitter writers who don’t actually have to take the exam themselves. But we’re sure Doug already knows that and would simply like a professional opinion to supplement his extensive research on the matter.
Besides, everyone is different. Some candidates do well with a self study program while others need the structure of a classroom-style review. So the first thing you should figure out is what you need and how much you are willing (or can afford) to pay for it.
Once you have that part figured out, hit the CPAnet forums and check out their entire section on study materials and review programs. Actual candidates who have used the various review programs are generally more than happy to leave extensive information regarding each program but remember – people are more likely to rant about a negative experience than they are to glow about a positive one. The CPA exam is a difficult process and, unfortunately, my professional experience has been that many candidates are happy to blame everyone (college professor, boss, CPA review course, Father Time, some jerk on Facebook, etc etc) but reluctant to accept their own shortcomings in the event of failure. So keep that in mind.
CPA review is a pretty small industry and there are really only three or four courses that are considered “top of the line” – the others are either supplements or CPA review products offered by companies that also do a variety of other programs.
If you are able to, get as many free resources as you can from your prospective CPA review provider before you actually hand over your credit card. Visit their classroom location or watch samples of their lectures online (if they are reputable, they’ll have these readily available on their website) and call them to ask what is covered in their courses.
Remember too that CPA review is a business and, since I used to be a part of it, I can tell you it’s more cut-throat than this sweet online media gig. At the end of the day, the company exists not to help you pass the exam but to make money (like all companies, duh). So keep your eyes peeled for too good to be true marketing tactics, suspicious blog posts that read like ad copy and always read the fine print.
Follow these few rules and I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out the review that’s right for you in no time. Good luck!
Accounting News Roundup: GOP Senators Not Caving on Tax Cuts; NY Court of Appeals Hears In Pari Delicto Cases; Convicted Ex-PwC Employee Loses Case to Get MBA Back | 09.14.10
~ Good morning capital market servants. It’s Dan Braddock’s favorite day of the week. Just another reminder that we’ll be on a lighter posting schedule today as TPTB continue to interrogate us about our lack of influence. We’ll pop in from time to time today to make sure everyone is playing nice and be back to a full schedule tomorrow.
A Career in Accounting [WSJ]
“[W]hile jobs dried up during the economic crisis, hiring in accounting wasn’t hit as hard, and cutbacks have created a need for more hiring as the econ my Thompson, the U.S. campus recruiting leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. She’ll be hiring 3,000 people this year, up from 2,600 last year.”
Does Anyone Really Want to Be an Accountant? A Tailgate Survey [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson articulates two time-honored traditions: college football and accounting. The former’s popularity is never in question but Jim talked to some young tailgaters that might make you doubt the substantive popularity of the latter.
Senate Republicans firm on tax cuts for rich [Reuters]
“Republicans in the U.S. Senate poured cold water on Monday on hopes for a compromise with President Barack Obama that would have allowed Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire.
Taxes have become a flashpoint going into a November 2 election in which Republicans are seeking to wrest control of Congress from the president’s fellow Democrats. Obama says the cost of keeping the tax cuts for the rich is too high as the United States emerges from recession with a massive budget deficit.”
AIG Plots End to U.S. Aid [WSJ]
“American International Group Inc. and its government overseers are in talks to speed up an exit plan designed to repay U.S. taxpayers in full while enabling the giant insurer to regain independence, according to people familiar with the matter.
Under the plan, which could commence as early as the first half of 2011, the Treasury Department is likely to convert $49 billion in AIG preferred shares it holds into common shares, a move that could bring the government’s ownership stake in AIG to above 90%, from 79.8% currently, the people familiar said. The common shares would then be gradually sold off to private investors, a move that would reduce U.S. ownership and potentially earn the government a profit if the shares rise in value.”
Auditors Anticipate NY Ruling on Malpractice Exposure [Compliance Week]
“A group of investors in the reinsurance firm American International Group are suing the company’s audit firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, for failing to detect a long-running bid-rigging and accounting fraud scheme at AIG. PwC won a dismissal of the suit contending AIG shared blame because it was AIG employees who carried out the fraud that PwC failed to identify, a common defense for audit firms against shareholder claims.
The investor group, led by the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans Employees’ Retirement System, appealed the dismissal and will have their day in the New York Court of Appeals this week. A Delaware appeals court handed the case over to the New York Appeals court, saying ‘a resolution of this appeal depends on significant and unsettled questions of New York law.’ “
Seeking An Equitable Outcome: NY State Court of Appeals Hears In Pari Delicto Cases [RTA]
Francine McKenna’s take on the case above.
Verizon Finance Chief Joh Killian Announces Plan to Retire After 31 Years [Bloomberg]
Get your résumé in now.
So Then I Guess Accounting Is Mostly Influenced By Middle-Aged White Dudes? [JDA]
“I’m on a roll with offending people lately so let’s just take this all the way and pull the diversity card, specifically when it comes to Accounting Today’s recent list of 100 Most Influential in accounting.
OK so some faces were predictable and totally warranted; soon-to-be-former FASB Chairman Bob Herz (we’re talking about influence in the profession, not sexiest), GASB Chairman Robert Attmore, PwC Chairman Dennis Nally, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman… you get the idea. No, I mean you really get the idea, as the rest of the list is comprised of middle-aged white guys too except for 13 women and 3 1/2 black men (Barack Obama counts as .5 if we’re looking at this in a strictly statistical way). Yeah, we noticed.”
Convicted Accountant Loses Legal Bid for MBA Degree [BusinessWeek]
“A certified public accountant who hid his conviction for insider trading from his teachers at New York University’s graduate business school wasn’t entitled to the MBA degree that he thought he earned, a judge ruled.
In February 2007, three months after completing his course work at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Ayal Rosenthal pleaded guilty to charges that he leaked to his brother secret tips that he learned at his job at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Rosenthal never told the school about the investigation of him or his guilty plea, even while serving as a teaching assistant in a professional responsibility course, according to a court ruling.”
We’re often asked which way to go when it comes to pursuing additional education or tackling the CPA exam before moving on to grad school (if you’re in one of those awesome 120 states or somehow loaded up on units after graduation) so let’s see if we can offer some insight on the matter.
Reader question is as follows:
Hello, I am looking at a public accounting career in tax and will graduate with a bachelors and 150 credit hours after 4 years. I am wondering if there are benefits to a Masters in Tax or MBA versus entering the workforce.
Funny you ask, have you checked with Going Concern contributor Joe Kristan? He can tell you all about taking the Masters route AND tax work so hit him up (you’re welcome, Joe) for more insight. “I think if you have good grades otherwise, a M.Acc can give you an edge in getting hired, especially with big firms. For me it gave me a huge edge – my M.Acc beats my B.A. in history with CPA firms everywhere,” he told us awhile back. Somehow we’re not surprised to hear his history degree wasn’t useful once it came time to find a sweet number-crunching gig.
Back to School
I think your payoff depends on what exactly you’re trying to get out of your career and which direction you plan to go. An MBA offers you flexibility (which comes in handy when the economy is in the can and jobs are scarce) while a Masters would keep you tethered to whatever path you take but either would make you more desirable to employers – depending on who you are applying with.
Keep in mind that for some employers, an over-qualified, well-educated candidate also means someone who will need to be paid more and could (in a normal job environment completely unlike the one we’ve got going now) easily find a better, more well-paid position with any number of employers. People may be desperate nowadays but the economy will recover eventually and employers have to consider that when deciding to offer you a position.
The Real World – CPA
The advantage to heading straight into the workforce out of school is that you can get the CPA exam out of the way and then, should you want to, choose to head back after you have been licensed and pursue a Masters. The advantage to this is that you are less of a threat to employers once you actually have your CPA since they don’t have to worry about you leaving after 2 years to the day once you have your experience requirement met so you can leverage your additional education to land a better job. Then again, the advantage to staying in school – for the moment, at least, job market being what it is – is that you can buy yourself some time, make yourself more of an asset and hope that things look better from a hiring standpoint once you have completed your Masters program. Many are taking this route simply because they’re afraid of the job market (for good reason).
Under the getting your CPA now route, you have the advantage of getting to know your profession before committing to a specialty – that means being able to change your mind before you’ve given up another year of your life and the costs associated with a Masters (or MBA) program. I don’t want to talk you out of what you’ve decided to be when you grow up but there’s something to be said for real-world experience (and I’m sure more than one old timer can tell you they wish they knew what they were getting into before they did).
Keep in mind also that if you’re looking at an MBA, work experience may be a requirement for admission so you might not have a choice in the matter. Take the CPA/work route and come back later when you have a little experience under your belt and more insight to allow you to make an informed decision on where you want to go with your life.
Can we have a show of hands who takes a list of employers published by Time Warner seriously? Fine. To hell with you; for this particular exercise we’ll assume that the list is 100% accurate.
Here’s the breakdown for the Big 4 on the CNNMoney’s 100 Top MBA Employers, Where MBA students say they’d most like to work:
#12 – Deloitte
#44 – PricewaterhouseCoopers
#45 – Ernst & Young
#75 – KPMG
So Deloitte dominates when you look at the Big 4’s performance. To put it in a little bit of perspective, Deloitte ranks ahead of The Blackstone Group and Morgan Stanley while the rest of the Big 4 rank behind the State Department.
Is this possibly due to the fact that they are the only firm to keep their consulting (not Advisory) practice in-house? Do they simply do a better job of selling their firm? Or is it possibly because male-patterned baldness is not discriminated against in leadership positions?
Or maybe we’re making too much of this. All the firms have a spot on the list and Google beats everybody’s ass with extreme prejudice, so is this one of those “it’s just a thrill to be on the list” moments, which results in the fliers all over your office and in the halls of Career Services at B-schools?
But forget all that for a minute. What’s really surprising (or perhaps not) is that the expectation of MBA graduates whose preferred field is public accounting are expecting an average salary of $59,176 for their first job after graduation. That amount is less than those for academic research ($79,590), education/teaching ($76,138), government/public service ($77,943) and “Other” ($92,110). Oh, and it’s behind “Auditing/accounting/taxation (corporate)” at $64,841. The average salary for preferred fields is $90,990.
Five years after graduation, those same graduates expect to make $92,075. Again, dead last. The average salary being $157,324.
Whether this says more about the state of the accounting profession or the firms that court those seeking accounting focused MBAs, we’re not really sure.
But in the grand scheme of things, it might just say that Deloitte’s position on the list may be – gasp – meaningless.
100 Top MBA Employers [CNNMoney]