You’ve been working as a public accountant, but now that you are certified you’re applying for a more senior, better-paid position as a Certified Public Accountant.
You’ve sharpened your pencil to get to where you are, but now you are going to have to hone your resume development skills to get noticed.
So, you need a compelling resume that will ensure you stand out from the rest of the crowd. We’re going to show you how to tailor yours to achieve this aim.
Resume objective for a CPA
CPA jobs are growing at an average rate, and there are lots of certified public accountants looking for the best ones.
According to the long-established professional staffing services company, Robert Half, writing effective resumes is an enormous challenge for many accountants.
Their five tips to get you hired are to start with a functional layout, emphasize your work experience, emphasize relevant hard and soft skills, use strong action verbs, and to follow up if you haven’t heard from the employer after two weeks.
They don’t suggest any particular layout but do acknowledge that an objective statement has traditionally been the first section in a resume that highlights career goals.
They prefer the idea of using a short summary that details your most impressive accomplishments and skills.
Whether you opt for a more traditional objective or a summary, it is essential to customize it for the CPA position you are applying for.
As The University of Scranton in Pennsylvania points out, a career objective should link back to your skills. It should also show clear examples of your work ethic and give a hint of your personality (including soft skills like communication).
Dedicated CPA with two years of experience in a Big Four public accounting firm. Expert in the fields of cost-reduction, tax strategies, and automation. Strives to form lasting business relationships.
Resume skills for a CPA
We sampled dozens of job postings and can confirm that employers want to know what skills applicants have. If you don’t have the skills specified, don’t apply for the job.
Even if you don’t have much experience as a CPA, this doesn’t mean that you lack skills. Some are learned, like financial reporting using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and the various computer software skills accountants need.
Others relate to your personality and ways of doing things, including effective verbal and written communication, dependability, critical thinking, problem-solving, and interpersonal relationships. Customer service is also important.
ZipRecruiter’s marketplace research team has developed a career keyword mapper that shows how the skills used in a resume can link to the keywords that hiring managers and automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) are programmed (or in the case of real people, trained) to look for.
Interestingly, in addition to Certified Public Accountant (32.6%), all the keywords relate to hard skills.
Financial statements (11.67%) and tax preparation (11.01%) are the most common skills employers are looking for. According to ZipRecruiter, 55.28% of their CPA job postings include at least one of these two skills.
QuickBooks software, financial reporting, and U.S. GAAP follow in importance (23.1% between them), followed by public accounting, income tax, consulting experience, and compliance.
Communication | Analytical and critical thinking | Math | Detail-oriented | Organizational | Ethics | U.S. GAAP | Financial statements/reporting | Tax preparation | | QuickBooks
CPA work experience
Since most U.S. states insist that public accountants have two years of experience before they write their CPA exam, chances are that even if you’ve just passed the exam and got your license to practice, you’ll have the experience of at least one public accounting job.
There is also a good chance that you worked as an accounting intern when you were an undergraduate studying for your bachelor’s degree. In fact, more and more accounting programs require that students complete internships that are connected to academic coursework.
Internships, however short, may be included on your resume because they show that you have hands-on experience in the field.
We sampled dozens of job postings looking for accounting internships and found that a large number offered positions assisting with tax returns for about three months during the busy tax season every year.
Even if you haven’t opted to specialize in tax, this type of accounting internship will look good on your resume.
Apart from which, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), more than 81% of college graduates, including accountants, believe that working as interns helped them improve their career directions, many substantially.
As an intern accountant, you will be able to apply the skills and knowledge you have learned in the classroom.
Sample Work Experience
Boldt Carlisle & Smith, OR
Tax Professional/CPA, 2018 – 2020
Played a senior role in the company’s tax team. Collaborated with managers, partners, and other staff members. Worked remotely during Lockdown.
- Developed high-level research and solutions.
- Reviewed and prepared trust and estate returns.
- Reviewed tax returns for hundreds of businesses and individuals representing a wide variety of industries.
- Assisted in the preparation of very complex tax returns.
- Mentored six less experienced staff members working in junior accounting positions (at different times).
California Academy of Sciences
Associate Accountant, 2016 – 2017
Worked in the accounting department as an associate while studying for the CPA examination. Used U.S. GAAP to fulfill essential functions including accounts receivable, month-end close, financial statement reporting, and regulatory filings.
- Prepared countless account analyses and reconciliations.
- Analyzed financial statement items.
- Prepared working papers for audit support by senior partners.
- Researched and analyzed variances comparing budgets from previous years. Suggested changes that improved budget results.
Arrow Electronics, CO
Accounting Intern, 2015
Worked full-time for 10 weeks in a role similar to a staff accountant. Also functioned in a role similar to SEC/SOX staff analyst.
- Evaluated dozens of transactions and records to the general ledger to ensure that the financials were accurate and complete.
- Assisted with the timely and accurate preparation of external quarterly financial reports to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
- Responsible for day-to-day functions of the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance procedure.
- Coordinated resources, reviewed work, and ensured all test results were properly documented.
- Awarded the Intern of July 2014.
Typically, accountants need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field to be employed in the field. But this is not enough to qualify as a CPA.
Generally, a bachelor’s degree requires between 120 and 128 credits to graduate, the requirement for sitting the CPA exam is 150 credits. So, CPAs, commonly referred to as chartered accountants in countries other than the U.S., often go on to study for a Master of Accountancy degree.
While there are universities and colleges that offer certification programs that result in additional credits, it stands to reason that, if you’re going to spend another year studying, you might as well get a master’s.
Also, bear in mind, that many business schools offer a five-year combined bachelor/master’s degree.
Either way, a Master of Accountancy will improve your job prospects. And, as Ohio University points out, the primary goal of a MAcc program is to prepare graduate students for the CPA exam.
The so-called Uniform CAP Examination is governed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), although the Boards of Accountancy in the Various U.S. states determines the laws and rules that apply to the exam.
See also, Courses below.
University of San Diego School of Business
Master’s in Accountancy, 2012 – 2013
- In preparation for the CPA exams
University of San Diego School of Business
Bachelor of Accounting, 2010 – 2013
Most of the universities and colleges that offer certification programs also offer continuing education courses that are required to maintain certification.
The requirements for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) for CPAs are governed by AICPA, in the interests of ensuring that professional competence is maintained. However, you will need to check what your state requires as well.
AICPA collaborates with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) on standards for CPE programs, and these are revised regularly. You can download the Standards and the NASBA Fields of Study document from the AICPA website.
Additionally, AICPA offers CPA candidates taking the CPA exam a free six-month subscription to online access to the authoritative literature used on the exam.
There are four parts to the CAP exam: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).
Candidates aren’t expected to take all four parts at one time, but most states insist that candidates pass them all within 18 months of passing the first part.
Lorman Education Services, which offers on-demand training including continuing education credits, offers a range of finance and accounting courses designed to help all those in accounting fields stay current, compliant, and up-to-date.
- Accounting Services for Small Business
- Forensic Accounting
- Technical Computer Software and Applications (including enterprise resource planning)
- Employee Benefit Plan Auditing
- Substantive Audit Procedures
- Government Auditing Standards
- Legal and Tax Issues
All accountants aiming to become CPAs have to be certified. And before they can practice, they need to be licensed.
According to NASBA, licensure is a critical factor for the accounting profession.
We live in a knowledge economy, which is constantly changing, and therefore dependent on the continual development and updating of skills, particularly in terms of technology and best practice innovations.
Licensure reassures clients that CPAs have kept pace with developments in the accounting industry, making them more reliable, trustworthy, and capable in the eyes of clients.
CPAs are licensed by the Board of Accountancy in each U.S. state, but only once they have been certified in accordance with the AICPA.
In addition to the certification requirements discussed in Education, above, most states call for at least two years of public accounting experience. This means it’s going to take, on average, six to seven years to become a licensed CPA.
Additionally, NASBA’s Center for the Public Trust (CPT) offers ethical leadership training that leads to professional certification. It is, however, only available in some U.S. states.
AICPA also offers accountants with a CPA other certification options including Certified Financial Forensics (CFF) and the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certification.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) offers the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation.
- NASBA CPT Ethical Leadership Certification
Complete CPA resume sample
While sampling job postings for Licensed CPAs we came across this advert which we have chosen for our complete CPA resume sample. We are going to tailor a resume around the position, to show you how this can be done.
You will see that this position is for a licensed CPA who has at least four years of experience. You will also see that it is a job that requires substantial experience in tax matters.
While the advert doesn’t list the skills or qualifications required by the firm, the qualities they are looking for are mentioned. They want someone who is highly ethical, with a high level of responsibility, who will offer the best possible professional service possible.
Experienced, highly ethical tax expert licensed as a CPA three years ago. Independent team player with the public interest at heart. Excellent technical skills.
Communication | Integrity | Competence | Responsibility | Ethical | Problem-solving | Objective | Leadership | Tax | Financial reporting | Compliance | Computer accounting software | Business consulting
Milian Accounting Services
Tax Accountant, CPA, 2018 – 2020
Employed as a tax accountant to prepare tax payments and returns in consultation with internal and external auditors.
- Prepared all forms of tax payments and financial statements relating to sales tax, payroll, and general accounting.
- Responsible for the preparation of corporate, federal, state, local, and personal tax documents.
- Reconciled the company bank accounts and improved accuracy by 50%.
- Assisted in preparing quarterly and year-end payroll and sales tax returns.
Novogradac & Company
Staff Accountant, 2016 – 2017
Completed a range of tax, audit, and other assignments designated by the Accounts Manager. Tasks were all with existing, long-term clients.
- Identified and communicated potential problem areas and took action to solve issues.
- Conducted business reach that involved gathering and analyzing data, interpreting results, and compiling reports.
- Made regular recommendations to principals and partners which were welcomed and acted on.
- Commended on my professionalism and ability to develop effective client relationships.
PFK O’Connor Davies, NY
Tax intern, 2014
Worked in the company’s winter tax internship program for two months, more than 20 hours a week, assisting in providing quality tax services to the firm’s clients.
- The job required a minimum 75% of a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Accepted with a 3.8 GPA.
- Got hands-on experience assisting with tax scanning and tax return preparation.
- Developed a strong working knowledge of all the microcomputer applications routinely used for tax services.
- Worked alongside the company’s partners and senior executives and was involved in office community activities. The experience convinced me this was where my career lay.
University at Buffalo School of Management
Accounting BS/Accounting MS, 2011 – 2015
- Regulatory Ethics
- Forensic Accounting
- Legal and Tax Issues
- Specialty Tax Software
A job as a CPA takes dedication and training. You need a good education in accounting to take you to the top, and you need the skills this provides to ensure you stay there.
- It takes six or seven years to get to the stage of being eligible to take the CPA exam, and only once you have passed the exam will you be able to apply for a license to be permitted to work. Once you have your license, you will be regarded as capable and reliable by the general public.
- Including an objective in a CPA resume isn’t compulsory, but a short summary stating your goals and top skills can speak mountains and ensure your resume stands out from the pile.
- Everything in your resume must be relevant to the job you are applying for. This includes your education and training, skills, and the goals you have set for yourself. Don’t be tempted to mention everything about yourself. Keep it pertinent and to the point.
Tips from Experts
“Compose a short summary of yourself for the top of your resume. In a few sentences, try to describe yourself and your expertise or intention as best you can. In addition, you will want to state that you are a CPA Exam candidate in this section. Do not be afraid that this is going to deter employers from taking you seriously. Make it clear to your potential employer that you plan to obtain your CPA licensure.” – Dina Barabash, NASBA
“As an accounting job candidate, you should talk about the company in your objective, making it as specific as possible and linking back to your skills. Use short-term goals first, rather than long-term, generic goals. “To be employed at a company I respect at a job I love” doesn’t cut it anymore, if it ever did. Keep this objective short, just one or two sentences.” – Career counselor, The University of Scranton
“The best way to decide where in your resume you should include your CPA status is to determine the story you are trying to tell how your pursuit of the CPA enhances your story. You’ll want to keep your objective and ideal job in mind while deciding how the CPA fits on your resume.“ – Dr. Irvin Gleim, PhD, CPA, CIA, CMA, CFM, founder of Gleim CPA Review
Whether you’ve worked as a CPA before or this is the first job you’re applying for since you were certified and licensed as a CPA, your resume is the best tool you have to boost your career.
When you apply for a position, it’s vital to ensure that all the information you provide, and the motivation you back it up with, is relevant to the job. Use the tips and advice we have provided, but tailor it to every individual job description.