All jobs are stressful to some extent. The question is whether it is a kind of stress that you can cope with or not. A ‘CPA’ is a designation, not a fixed role. There are many different fields of accountancy, types of business, and whether you are working in public or private accounting which all affects the type and extent of stress that someone might experience.
What is a CPA?
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is someone who has not only acquired an Accountancy degree but has also gone the extra mile to earn their CPA license. This is the most prestigious accounting license in the US and is globally recognized as being among the top accountancy designations in the world. In order to qualify, there is a whole list of requirements that the applicant will need to meet. Some of these are prior to the exam, while others are required for license. These requirements vary from state to state, and include a 150 semester hour credit requirement, work experience requirement, and ethics exam requirements, among others.
How stressful is it to be a CPA?
The short answer ‘yes.’ However, as we said above, there are many factors that can determine how stressful you will find working as a CPA. Some examples are:
Doing what you enjoy
Some people love working with taxes, and some even enjoy busy season. So, while a lot of people might complain during tax season, they are still happy with their work in general. The same is true for those who work in auditing.
Oftentimes, a CPA will have deadlines to meet. If you struggle with the pressure of meeting deadlines, then you will probably find working in public accounting, or any gig firms to be stressful.
It’s a desk job
Accounting of any kind means you’ll be spending the majority of your time seated behind a desk staring an Excel spreadsheets or other programs like QuickBooks or Xero.
How far you are into your career
If you have just started out, its going to be stressful no matter what. You are going to have to adjust to a fulltime schedule, becoming comfortable implementing what you’ve learned in a real-life setting, becoming familiar with your workspace, comfortable with your colleagues and used to producing work that matters beyond a grade, as well as other factors. Additionally, newbies are usually given the monotonous grunt work that is either easy or no-one else wants to do. So, give yourself time to adjust and to figure out whether it is has stressful or difficult as you originally thought.
Try not to overthink
While it’s important to do good work, that doesn’t mean it needs to be perfect. Furthermore, everyone makes mistakes, so unless you’re making a lot of them, no-one is likely to give you flack, provided that you own it and apologize. Also, if you don’t know how to do something, ask your senior. No-one knows everything and sometimes asking is the only way you’ll learn.
Different offices have different dynamics, even if they are performing the exact same type of work. Some atmospheres will be depressing, while others will friendly. Similarly, you can have a difficult boss or an empathetic and helpful boss. That is an office, not an industry issue.
Sometimes the stress can stem from feeling that you are out of your depth and aren’t qualified to do what you’re doing. That’s an internal source of stress that’s not true. Passing the CPA exam requires an enormous amount of dedication, commitment and acquisition of knowledge. Everyone starts out struggling with new types of work until they get used to it.
What are the advantages to being a CPA?
There are a number of advantages to having a CPA license. These include:
- The ability to work in public accountancy. This means that they can represent clients before the IRS for tax purposes (as can EAs), can approve financial documentation of a business entity, authenticate tax returns and issue opinions on audited or reviewed financial statements, and other similar functions
- Many companies, and especially accountancy firms, expect the accountant to acquire a CPA license at some point
- It opens up career opportunities for you
- Managerial and senior positions are usually given to licensed CPAs
- The remuneration is generally higher for a CPA than for a regular accountant
- You will be respected for the additional knowledge and expertise that the CPA license indicates you possess
- You will need to learn and adapt as new tax laws come up. This is great if you love learning and staying challenged
- There is variety in what you do
What are the disadvantages to being a CPA?
- You will need to renew your license periodically, according to your state or jurisdiction’s requirements. This includes paying the fee
- As part of the renewal process, you will need to fulfill specific continued professional education (CPE) requirements. These generally equate to about 40 hours per year. This may not sound too bad, but it can be annoying if you have a reporting period around the time of a sudden influx of work when you were planning on finishing off your hours. It can also be quite costly, if you are not working for a firm that will over the costs
- You will need to learn and adapt as new tax laws come up, which can be difficult at times
- You will need to remember and apply a lot of information to technical financial problems
- If you work in tax or audit, you will have busy periods that will often require up to 60 hours a week of work, including weekends
- It can be challenging to maintain a work/life balance, especially if you work for a major firm with many clients
- You will need to be familiar with the laws of different jurisdictions
- Getting the license itself is difficult, as there are high failure rates and costs involved both when taking the exam and when acquiring your initial license