wikiHow to Become an Accounting Consultant

Three Parts:Getting Your EducationGetting Licensed as a CPABecoming a Consultant

Most accountants work from accounting firms or home offices that offer accounting services to the public, private companies or the government. However, a growing section of the accounting trade is offering their services as business consultants, helping businesses and people to restructure their financial reporting, analyze fiscal data ,and conform to new regulations. As an accounting consultant, you must be a self-starter who is able to build a client base and a business at the same time. Of course, you must begin by getting your accounting degree and becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Part 1
Getting Your Education

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    Develop advanced skills in mathematics and computers. Today's accountants must have technical skill in both areas to handle the demands and changes of the industry. Start taking advanced math and computer classes in high school.
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    Earn a bachelor's degree in accounting. If you aspire to be a consultant, you will want to choose a bachelor's degree over an associate's degree in order to advance quickly and gain leadership experience.[1]
    • As an consultant, you may also want to double major in business administration. That way, you'll have the skills you need to work for yourself if you would like.[2]
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    Earn additional credits if needed. Check with your state's CPA exam requirements. Some require you to have more than the standard 120 credit hours. Your school should be able to tell you what credits you'll need if you plan to stay in that state. For instance, in Oklahoma, you need 150 credit hours while getting your bachelor's degree.[3]
    • You will also likely need a certain number of upper-division courses to qualify for your CPA. Check with your school or your local jurisdiction (such as your state) to see what is required. For instance, in Oklahoma, you need 76 upper-level credits to take the CPA, as well as 30 hours of graduate courses.[4] Other states require less. For instance, Arkansas requires that you have bachelor's degree with 120 credit hours, with 30 in upper division accounting and 30 in upper division business. You must also get a C or above.[5]
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    Work toward a master's degree. It's not absolutely necessary to have a master's degree to be an accountant. However, having this degree will help you stand out in a field of CPAs. You can pursue a master's in accounting or business administration with emphasis in accounting.[6]
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    Work an internship while still in college. You should be able to find internships through your school, but you can also contact local accounting firms with your resume. Working at a firm will help you decide what type of accounting you want to do. In addition, it can help you meet the work experience qualification that some states require for you to be licensed as a CPA.

Part 2
Getting Licensed as a CPA

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    Learn your jurisdiction's eligibility requirements. What requirements you need to meet to take the exam vary by your jurisdiction. You need to check with your state accounting board to find out what you need to do before you take your exam.[7] Jurisdictions are broken down by state.[8]
    • For instance, some states, such as Oklahoma, have residency requirements, meaning you must live in the state before applying to take the CPA exam there.[9]
    • Other states, such as New York, will let you skip some of the credit hours if you can show long-term experience working as an accountant.[10]
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    Get a copy of the Candidate Bulletin. This bulletin is available on the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) website. The bulletin provides useful information about taking the test.[11]
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    Have your transcripts ready. To sit the exam, you will need to prove you meet the eligibility requirements. That means that you will need to have had your college transcripts sent before taking the test.[12]
    • You can get an official transcript from your school's registrar's office. It will be sealed and signed (or stamped). Have them send it to the address for your CPA exam; often the exam board will not accept it unless it comes directly from the school. However, make sure your transcript has everything you need on it by obtaining another copy to review.[13]
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    Apply to take the exam. The first official step in taking the exam is applying to take the exam. Basically, you're showing you meet the requirements to qualify for the exam.[14]
    • In some states, you can submit your application online, through the NASBA website. However, with certain states, you must go directly to the board of accountancy. You can find out which your state allows by consulting the Candidate Bulletin.[15]
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    Have your payment ready. When you register, you will need to pay for the exam. How much it costs depends on where you live, but it is likely to be $100 or more.[16]
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    Study for the test. Once you register, you'll have access to a tutorial. You'll also be able to look at sample tests. Take some time to review these before taking the exam.[17]
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    Wait for your Notice to Schedule. The Notice to Schedule just says you are allowed to sit the exam. You can schedule your exam in your local jurisdiction. Be aware that your jurisdiction will likely set a time limit on how long your Notice to Schedule is valid.[18]
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    Pay attention to testing windows. You can only take the exam 8 months out of the year. That is because they don't hold the exam in March, June, September, or December. If you must have passed the exam by a certain date, make sure you don't let time get the better of you.[19]
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    Take the exam. Once you feel you are prepared, it's time to take the exam. You should note that the exam takes a significant amount of time. In total, it takes 15 hours, which you'll do over the course of several days. If you don't know the answer to a multiple-choice question, guess at the answer, as points are not taken off for wrong answers.[20]
    • The first part of the exam is Auditing and Attestation (AUD). It takes 4 hours, and you will be required to answer 90 multiple choice questions and 7 task-based simulations. Task-based simulations (TBS) are meant to show how you would respond to real-life situations, so you will be required to provide solutions. In this section, TBS will account for 40 percent of your score. [21]
    • The second part is Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). You will have 3 hours for this portion, with 72 multiple choice questions and 3 short essays. The short essays will account for 15 percent of your score.[22]
    • The third part is Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), which takes 4 hours. You'll answer 90 multiple-choice questions and 7 task-based simulations. TBS will make up 40 percent of your score.[23]
    • The final section is Regulation (REG), which takes 3 hours. You'll have 72 multiple-choice questions and 6 task-based simulations. The TBS will be 40 percent of your score.[24]
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    Wait for your scores. After you take the test, you must wait for your scores to be processed. The written portion will need to be graded by a person rather than a machine.[25]
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    Get you license. In some states, you must meet certain requirements before taking the exam, and then you must take additional steps before you actually get your license. For instance, you may need to work for a year or two under a CPA to get your license in your state. Check with your state's accounting board.[26]
    • For example, some states, such as California, require that you have 2 years working under a CPA to qualify for a license.[27]

Part 3
Becoming a Consultant

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    Start with a home office. A home office saves you money, as you don't have to rent out a separate space. In addition, you have easy access to your business at all times, making you available when you need to be. Plus, you don't need to commute.[28]
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    Decide on fees. When you're first starting out, you'll need to keep your fees low. That way, hiring you is not as much of a risk. Check your fees against others in your area to see if you are on the low end or high end. Once you establish a reputation, you can increase your fees to match your experience.[29]
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    Learn to network. Networking is extremely important when you're a consultant. You have to meet people and be willing to talk with them to build your client base.[30]
    • Make creating connections your goals. That is, if the people you meet think you're just after one thing (i.e. getting clients), then most of the time, they'll walk away. However, if your goal is to meet people and make connections, you'll seem less desperate.[31]
    • Don't dismiss someone because you think she's not important. You never know what someone is going to bring to the table.[32]
    • Do what you say you will. If you say you'll call someone, do it. If you meet someone, don't forget to shoot them an email afterwards to let them know you enjoyed the meeting. Keep the connection going so the person doesn't forget you.[33]
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    Locate your target market. Figure out exactly what clients you want to serve. For instance, maybe you're interested in corporate accounting, or maybe you prefer personal finances. It's easier to sell yourself to people if you focus on what they need.[34]
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    Understand your market. Try to learn as much as you can about your target audience. Use census data and other government information to figure out where in your area you can hit that target market.[35]
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    Advertise to your potential client base. Once you know your market, you can advertise your services to them. You can use online marketing, cold calling services, and mass mail-outs, depending on what your budget is.[36]
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    Build your client base. Once you're ready to consult, use the connections you've made to start building up a client base.[37] For instance, if you met someone recently who's starting a new business, give them a call.
    • Say something along the lines of, "Hello! I was excited to hear about your new business the other day. I just wanted to let you know that I am also going into business for myself as an accounting consultant. If you think I could be useful to you, just let me know. My rates are highly competitive."
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    Be meticulous. If you want to build your client base, you have to show the clients you have that you are one of the best. That means paying close attention to detail at all times, delivering work on time, and being personable to your clients. When your clients are pleased with your work, they'll pass your name along to others.[38]

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