Is the CPA an obsolete certification?

The license (and maybe even accounting in general) seem to be losing importance.

1) They used to be relevant due to the lack of information between company and investors, which is less prevalent today

2) They focus mostly on hard assets and the past. Today, most assets are knowledge, technology, etc.

3) It is a very technical knowledge base of which has a potentially short lifespan

4) The license and accounting demonstrate following rules, which isn't a skill that's demanded in today's economy. Anything rote can be automated.

Thoughts?

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Comments (38)

Apr 26, 2017

Instead of just hitting me with MS, why not explain your reasoning for disagreement? I am just bringing this up for discussion, not necessarily to make a point.

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Apr 27, 2017

Every company needs a finance department, backed by a CFO with a CPA.

Next question.

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Apr 27, 2017

he's an angry elf

Apr 27, 2017

Dude, I think your Silver banana to monkey shit ratio just deteriorated heavily based on the fact that every comment you posted on this thread has monkey shit.

Apr 27, 2017

Feel free to pump me back up :)

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Apr 27, 2017

your prompt infers a preference, so isn't it well deserved?

M7 MBA, iBanking. Top MSF grad. AntiTNA. Truth is hard to hear! But... :
DickFuld: Yeah....most of these people give terrible advice.:
Apr 28, 2017

No need to cry about it lol, look at this MS stampede you've unleashed on yourself. I guarantee you most people don't even care what you said, they're just people following suit.

I'll be real with you. I gave you MS (two of em badboys) because everyone else did it and I wanna find out how high we can go.

Absolute truths don't exist... celebrated opinions do.

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Apr 26, 2017

Without CPA designation, how would someone demonstrate their extensive knowledge of accounting? Where would your grandparents go to file their taxes? A CPA designation may be slowly dying down, but in no way is it obsolete.

Try arguing this with a BIG 4 firm and enjoy their response.

Cheers

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Apr 26, 2017

Ok so you seem to be agreeing with my statement, which was that the CPA is "losing its importance"...

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Apr 26, 2017

It seems like to me

a. you have a bias against accounting
b. you are not sure sure what work a CPA does (or least the extent of it)

Not all CPAs just go and work for the Big4. There are a ton of CPAs in different fields and industries. It might be dying down but it certainly isn't an "obsolete certification".

I will gladly take your MS.

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Apr 26, 2017

Question back to the author: Can you name me any one certification that you think is not absolete and why?

Apr 26, 2017

I would say most degrees and certifications are losing their value. The one's that will not become obsolete over the next 30 years are those that show analytical power like Bachelor's, MBA, JD, PhD, and even CFA. Not the CPA though.

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Apr 26, 2017

Wait... the CPA doesn't pose analytical power?

Apr 26, 2017

Although it does pose some, it is much more technical than analytical.

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Apr 26, 2017

do you know the purpose of having a cpa vs. CFA designations other than getting jobs?

Apr 26, 2017

Yes - the CPA is a license to certify financial statements while the CFA is a certification highly regarded in the investment management industry.

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Best Response
Apr 26, 2017

So you answered your own question: CPA is REQUIRED in order to protect the public by showing that you are qualified to certify the statements. CFA is NEEDED to impress your bosses.

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Apr 26, 2017

Yes - I guess I should have titled the thread is it losing its importance. I know that there is a legal requirement, for now...

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Apr 26, 2017

Not sure what you're background is, but here my take.

Your idea that accounting is rote is partially true, but it's not in it's entirety. Accounting on an accrual basis require judgement beyond just the rules. Look at the goodwill impairment, mineral asset write-downs, etc., it'll be hard to automate judgement in the short-term. The CPA is relevant in many industries and will continue to be of importance in the corporate world. Look at profiles of CFOs and VP Finance in the F1000 and you'll see a trail of CPAs whom are grounded on reality about the business.

I have a hard time understanding how accounting can lose importance if companies require more disclosures, and will continue to report statements on a quarterly basis in North America. Further, as long as there are SMEs, they will require either a compilation, review or audit in order to get bank loans and present themselves for an acquisition/exit.

From my background in Corporate Development; I don't value knowledge in a potential software acquisition, I value recurring revenues and license up-sells from the income statement. I look at operational improvements through the balance sheet by asking why their A/R is so high, why their deferred revenues is so low and tie that back conversations with finance/ operational folks.

My question for you would be, what/ who would replace accounting in your opinion? Computers just spitting out statements willy-nilly? Who will explain these results to operational heads, other execs, what if there are mistakes? If no one has technical understanding of accounting, where will your analytical prowess come from?

Just a little rant.

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Apr 27, 2017

OP, I didn't hit you with MS, but I'll explain why others did because you asked: in all my time on WSO, this is easily one of the dumbest threads I've seen. I'll go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume you don't know anything about accounting, so I'll answer all your points:

  1. This doesn't even make sense. It's not like the requirements for SEC filings have broadly changed over the past few years. It's also not like accounting firms opine on a firm's SEC filings either. The auditor's statement in the 10-k is pretty much all you're getting, and that's not exactly an opinion like an ER report might offer. You don't need a CPA to read through a 10-K (or any other SEC filing) and understand it.
  2. This doesn't make any sense either. CPAs focus mostly on hard assets? You do realize CPAs have to by law take continuing education classes (depending on the state), right? If the CPA wants to remain relevant, he/she is probably filling that continuing edication requirement by brushing up on various types of assets. But, that aside, you do realize that accounting includes a lot more than just assets, right? Who do you think is advising tech companies on tax, accounting, auditing, etc. matters?
  3. Given the complexity of the U.S. tax code and the vested interest of many firms in keeping it that way, CPAs will remain relevant forever. I don't know why you would think otherwise.
  4. You clearly have no knowledge or experience with CPAs or their work. From having worked with accounting firms when I was in IB and our internal tax team now that I'm in corp dev, I can tell you one thing: we'd be fucked if some robot or computer did their job. Tax is very much an art. There are many deductions that are not straightforward, and honestly, if you're using an automated program, you're potentially missing millions, if not billions, of dollars in lost deductions. I'll keep our CPAs, you can have your automation.

So, OP, while getting a CPA is not worth the effort or even bears relevancy to the majority of careers discussed on WSO, it is most certainly relevant and absolutely required for accounting, which is and always will be an incredibly important function in business.

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Apr 27, 2017

I come from engineering, but CPAs deliver more value per dollar of pay than just about anyone. A good second or third year accountant is worth a whole lot more than frigging $80K/year or whatever the Big Four pays them for 60 hours/week.

And while there's automation that can make their jobs easier (to be sure, much of this automation has been around since the 1980s in tax when adding machines and yellow legal-sized ledger pads were replaced by software), I don't think audit or tax is going anywhere.

No MS from me, but when are silly questions going to become obsolete? At least the dude who asked why people tip had an excuse-- he was European.

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Apr 27, 2017

Do you mean they are underpaid or the work they produce has great value?

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Apr 27, 2017
<span itemprop=name>Predilection</span>:

Do you mean they are underpaid or the work they produce has great value?

Maybe there's a difference between the two, but in my mind they're the same. If you earn $500K/year but deserve $1M because what you produce has great value, you're underpaid.

Apr 27, 2017

CPA allows you to move anywhere in the country and be legally and intellectually qualified to work for either yourself or any type of company whether it be inside a traditional accounting firm doing audit or taxes or outside being a book keeper, controller, CFO for a company doing any type of business. That has been the case since CPA's inception and remains to be the case. So where is the decline in value? I would even argue CFA is losing value faster, something you said will never lose value. As someone in the program (Level 2) myself, I believe it is too popular for its own good and it has become something it was not intended to become.

Apr 27, 2017

Why is it bad if the CFA is popular? And what do you believe it was designed for?

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Apr 27, 2017

If you look at the pass rates and number of test takers since inception, all of a sudden thousands of people starting taking it. It is similar to college admissions, started getting more popular and thus had to become more competitive. If you look at the exams, it's only really halfway through level 2 where you really get into the nitty gritty CFA stuff. Basically they had to use level 1 to weed out people, so they test you on stuff that does not even come up in level 3 or is relevant to what the typical "CFA" needs to know. Level 1 has become a broad finance exam that requires a lot of memorization just to insure they fail enough people to keep it prestigious. I think it was designed to deem one an expert in investment analysis, mainly securities, specifically for portfolio management and the understanding the risks associated with that. I think it your ideal hedge fund manager, pm in Asset Management, trader, ER, even financial advisor should have a CFA. If you look at the exams, it only mainly focuses on building/dissecting a portfolio for level 3. Like I said level 1 is a broad marathon of an exam, and level 2 is somewhere in between. I'm not knocking it by any means, I am in the program and hope to finish myself. I just don't think it has the long term value like a CPA designation does. People use part of the program just to boost a resume with no intention of actually finishing. To my knowledge this is the only license/exam/designation to which this is the case.

Apr 27, 2017

I think many equate it to be equivalent to a master's in finance at the graduate level, no? Seems useful for a low price tag...

Apr 27, 2017

Yea that is part of the thought behind it. But something like <20% of people who enter the program actually earn the charter, think its low double digits. Imagine if in a graduate program people flooded admissions like that and then didn't finish the degree. Entrance exams would be more designed to weed people and keep acceptance rates low than to see who the best graduates would be. In my opinion the beginning stages of the exam is like that, their main goal is to maintain high failure rates rather than produce the best CFA charter holder possible. Again I don't want to come off as I don't respect it. It's extremely impressive to achieve, but I think the CFAI has its flaws.

Apr 27, 2017

The certification being difficult to get and having fewer people being able to pass only raises its value in my mind...

Apr 27, 2017

https://www.cfainstitute.org/programs/cfaprogram/D...
It's not fewer people that's my point. Its become too popular that they are forcing the 40% pass rates. 200k level 1 test takers in 2016 alone.

Apr 27, 2017

Then one can make the argument that it increases the network. I see what you're saying, but when not seeing it as a degree that gets you a job, the knowledge and widespread acceptance of its difficulty are only a good thing

Apr 28, 2017

Just to add my personal thoughts of CPA, CFA, IBD and PE.

CPA. Did my masters in accounting. Eligible to take the CPA exam in New York State. Didn't take it because I don't think doing the exam (4 parts I think) and also 2 years of audit experience needed will drain away the amount of money that I can make in that time. Plus, I don't want to be a bookkeeper. Only did the program because I need to extend my Visa.

CFA. Passed Level 1. Stuck on Level 2. Had a few friends finished it. One ex-coworker at Merrill Lynch was working in some back office role thought that CFA would get him a job in IBD. Fast forwards 5 years, he became a AVP but still stuck doing the same thing. He somehow found a way to convince NYSSA to qualify that back office experience as a relevant work experience for CFA. Don't ask me how. From time to time, I was tempted to spend that 450 hours per exam to get that CFA, but then I saw some other Asian guys with no real work experience but trying to use CFA to get a job. I felt that I can do a lot better by doing relevant case study and networking aggressively when I was looking for a job; it worked. They are still doing their back office job.

Key takeaway. This is only for IBD and PE. You don't need any of the certifications. You only need two things: 1) deal pipeline and 2) investor base. If you can find a way to build that, you will be successful in your career. Spend a lot of time learning about a sector. Think from an investor's perspective how this deal make sense. Network with those company owners to sell their business to outsider. Walk them through how to do that. From the investor base, spend time with them to figure out what motivates them. Why they want more money? What is their vision? What is their risk tolerance and how they like to invest. And then find a way to match them to make things work so that you can make a living.

Instead of CPA and CFA, I would rather spend more time learning how to do more basic but useful things like: 1) keep a good track of your network and building them, 2) basic financial modeling to use in explain how a transaction would benefit an investor and how to think about a project, 3) how to manage a deal process including how to prepare for due diligence, 4) how to manage clients and investors and your IBD team, 5) learning how to sell - public speaking, 6) understanding the mechanics of how to put together term sheet, share subscription agreement and sales & purchase agreements - from ECM side, how to work a prospectus. And if you are thinking of moving from sell-side to buy-side, think more of what are the things that you need to do so that you can grow the company big enough to exit at least 5x of your initial investment.

Net net, there are so many things that you need to learn in life to make money. Spending a lot of time and energy on studying and preparing for CPA and CFA wouldn't be my best use of time. Just my personal opinion.

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Apr 28, 2017

The thing is though don't you sometimes feel it'd be nice to get some time of recognition for work and studying outside of job?

I mean all those things you mentioned might eventually become apparent to your bosses etc., but they're less concrete than a CPA/CFA. I totally get what you're saying though and I think most people do them to break in so they have a chance to build those skills you mentioned

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Apr 28, 2017

Recognition is 1) when my firm get paid, 2) I get paid personally, 3) my team dominating the League Table and within the firm and outside the firm recognize me as the "rain maker". Why would I need to study to get recognized? If being studious or being smart at school is considered a recognition, I wouldn't want that. There are many PhD students/ scholars/ 4.0 GPA so called school smart people who can't put food on the table for their family or making a living with what they studied - to me that is a failure.

Education is what they teach you at school. Knowledge is the ability to use education to make a living out of, perhaps a really good one out of it. So don't confuse the difference between them.

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Apr 28, 2017

TRUTH

Apr 28, 2017

RIP CPA. OP buried it.

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May 1, 2017
Jan 26, 2018