How to Become an Accountant on a Budget

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If you’re looking at a career in accounting, there’s one pretty major factor that might be putting you off: the cost.

From taking a bachelor’s degree to passing the CPA exams and investing in ongoing education, becoming an accountant isn’t cheap. It is, however, absolutely something that you can do on a limited budget.

#1: Getting Your Bachelor’s Degree

If you plan to become a CPA, you’ll need a degree in accounting or a related field: it’s common to need 150 credit hours, and some states ask for even more.

Obviously, the cost of a bachelor’s degree can vary widely. To keep it as cheap as possible, try:

  • Studying at a local institution so you can live at home – saving a huge amount on room and board.
  • Going to community college for your first two years rather than a university, where fees are lower.

You could potentially obtain your associate’s degree in accounting at community college and then work as a bookkeeper or a billing/accounting clerk, or you could transfer straight from community college to a 4-year university in order to take intermediate and advanced level classes.

#2: Taking a CPA Review Course

If you do plan to become a CPA, once you have your bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to start studying for the CPA exam. There are lots of excellent CPA review courses out there, including Wiley and Roger CPA courses, and it’s well worth looking around online to find discount codes for these.

Don’t be tempted to simply go for the cheapest CPA review course without a second thought, though: it’s important to get the right course for you so you don’t end up wasting your money. Ideally, look for a course that allows you continued access to the materials for as long as you need it – you don’t want to end up paying all over again after a year is up.

Different courses also suit different learning styles, so it’s worth looking at how they stack up against each other. A course that’s perfect for your checklist-obsessed friend might not be so ideal for you.

#3: Paying for the CPA Exam

There’s not a lot you can do to reduce the costs of taking the CPA exam (which comes in four separate parts, all of which you need to take and pass within 18 months).

The best way to keep costs down here is to ensure that you’re well prepared for the exam and that you plan your time carefully so that you can complete all four parts within the 18-month time limit. If you don’t, you’ll have to take the earlier parts all over again – which means paying all over again too.

Make sure that you’re planning and budgeting for any extra fees that you might need to pay, too, like the application fee and the registration fees. It’s normally most cost-effective to pay for all four sections of the exam at once, so try to be in a position to do that if possible. (This does, however, mean taking all four parts within six months.)

Becoming an accountant may not be cheap, but it could open up a huge number of possibilities for your future. Even if you’re on a tight budget, careful planning – and shopping around – should make it possible to achieve the accountant or CPA status you’ve dreamed of.

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