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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How the CPA License Can Boost your Career to the Next Level


Still on the fence about whether or not you should take the CPA exam? Be ambivalent no more! Although the CPA Exam has gained fame as one of the toughest exams to take, trust us; there’s a method behind the madness. Here’s how receiving your CPA designation will help boost your career to the next level (and why everyone’s doing it!).

Traveling Options
If you’ve ever dreamed of being able to travel the world for work, look no further. Having your CPA can make this dream a reality. Because many clients are turning more and more to international markets, global mobility is an ever increasing importance in the accounting industry as overseas businesses want to do business with the U.S. CPAs have the opportunity to work and live abroad anywhere from days to years at a time. In addition, because you have a CPA license, your clients have the confidence to let you take your work and do it from anywhere in the world.

Whether you’re set up for multiple contracts in multiple countries, cities, or states, a majority of CPAs who express their interest to travel usually get the chance to do so. What better way to see the world than with a designation that’s highly valued across the globe and is always in high demand? And, if at any point you decide that you’ve had enough of the sight-seeing and culture-diving, your experience of being well traveled will stand out on your resume, letting your future potential employers know that you’re well-rounded with a great diverse perspective. This will give you a large advantage against your competitors.

Plus, it kind of makes for an awesome conversation starter in any situation: “So, when I used to work and live in Tokyo…”

Promotions 
While you don’t need a degree to get a start in accounting, you do need a B.A. if you’re looking to go into Management Accounting. As a first-year cost accountant at a large company, you can expect a salary range between $43,000-$53,750, while a controller for a smaller company could earn anywhere between $71,500 and $99,750. Without a CPA designation, most accounting positions cap off at this range.

But if you’re looking to skip ahead and take it a step further into Public Accounting and beyond, a CPA is definitely recommended. Starting off as a staff accountant or auditor, CPAs can work their way up to senior auditor with promotions and thereafter from manager to senior manager. In bigger firms, CPAs can become partner in 10-13 years. For mid-sized firms, the beginning salary for first-year auditors ranges from $52,750-$64,750 with a managerial advancement ranging from $91,000-$126,500.

Although the above types of promotions are common in public accounting firms, there are of course plenty of other areas of accounting where promotions can begin as soon as 1-2 years with the advancement in different financial positions. These include becoming company executives, budget directors, controllers, chief financial officers, or presidents of a corporation or business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for accountants will grow by 16 percent between 2010-2020. But those with a CPA license will have the best prospects of growing into a career path with better salaries, choice of tasks, and opportunities to contribute to the financial integrity of both public and private sectors.

Industry exploration
Some people are under the impression that to be a CPA means to work for public accounting firms where the stress levels are high and the sleep levels are low. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, one of the greatest advantages of having your designation is being able to dip your toes into any industry you’d prefer. Because CPAs are in high demand, they don't only have job security, but they also have better opportunities in small, medium, or large, public or private, profit or non-profit businesses that are looking for CPAs to inhabit their financial directing, maintenance, and controlling roles. You don’t have to be constricted to a suit and tie every day of the week.

If you were a kid who’s ever dreamed of being an astronaut or working alongside models in the fashion industry, you can still certainly become involved in these things to some capacity as a CPA. Although you won’t be the one blasting off into space or the designer the model wears down the runway, every sector of business needs some type of financial advisement, management, and overall help. Being a part of such companies allows you to be enveloped in that atmosphere and industry, surrounded by people and projects that do all sorts of interesting, innovative, and amazing things that add to our lifestyles and cultures every day.

Another great option that many CPAs don’t consider is going into education. If you have a firm understanding of all those accounting and business concepts that were taught in school as well as on your CPA Exam review (and you enjoy wielding power in the classroom), teaching could be a great and rewarding option for you to help future candidates receive their CPAs…like Roger!

If you explore and have experience in different industries, you’ll definitely gain recognition for your diverse work history and can become a valuable asset to your next employer.

Memberships to Professional Organizations
We went over the benefits of joining CPA organizations in a previous blog, but we’d like to talk about memberships to such professional organizations in the context of how membership will boost your career. Being not just a member but actively involved in any professional organization is what many employers are looking for. Because these organizations require adherence to technical and professional standards, it ensures that the quality of a CPA’s services are reliable and top notch. Think of your involvement in an organization as an ethical track record that ascribes to what your resume can’t show, such as your personality traits, your interests, the areas you’d like to or already have make an impact in, etc. In a sea of CPAs, your involvement may be just the thing that makes you stand out above the rest not just for employment considerations, but promotional ones too!

As Roger Philipp once said, “The question shouldn't be whether you can afford to become a CPA, but rather can you afford not to?”


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Monday, March 30, 2015

Brushing up on Professional Development: How to Get an Informational Interview

If you’re a working professional, you’re already well aware that developing professional skills isn’t something you perfect overnight; it takes time, practice, and a general level of comfort when it comes to interacting, working, and interviewing with other professionals—especially those who have been in the business for a while and know the ins and outs of the industry.

And while many people are focused on professional skills in terms of personality characteristics such as communication, leadership, or team-building, we’d like to take some time to focus on the maybe lesser mentioned areas of professional etiquette; more specifically, how to handle yourself tastefully when it comes to preparing for an interview or meeting with a working professional to learn more about a potential opportunity.

So whether you’re a college student who hasn’t had that much exposure with working professionals or you’d like to brush up on your current knowledge, we thought we’d start a short series focused on professional development. Every week, we’ll talk about a different topic, including its importance to the working world and how you can master it. To kick off our series, let’s start with the basics: how to get a coffee date.

And we’re not talking the romantic kind. Although, if you have a few pointers to put people in the right direction, feel free to comment below! In any case, here’s what we mean by getting a coffee date and why it’s so important.

What is a coffee date?
A coffee date is an informational interview. What’s an information interview? It’s exactly what it sounds like! A hidden tool you can use to further research the organization you’re interested in and how you could potentially fit in well with that culture. Getting an informational interview with someone from that company could be just the thing that sets you apart from the rest of the candidates that organization is thinking about.

How do I do it?
First, you’ll want to do some thorough research on the organization. What do they do? How do they do it? What position are they looking to get filled? Next, try to grab a list of the people working at that organization and see who in what department and with what title can most likely be able to meet with you and tell you a little bit more about themselves, the company, and the position you’re interested in.

This means making sure that you contact the right people. You obviously don’t want to reach out to the receptionist if you’re looking for an auditing position in a firm. Look for someone who’s probably had the role you’re applying for or, even better, has the role you’d like to have five years from now. They will be the ones who will give you a better understanding of what they went through to get to where they are and will probably be able to give you more insightful and valuable information since it pertains to your situation.  If you have a LinkedIn account, look up those potential people and see if you know anyone who knows them (a first or second connection is a great start). Ask your contact to connect the both of you; after he/she has done so and gets the okay, send an email that expresses your interest to meet and why. If you don’t have any connections through LinkedIn or otherwise, send an email similar to the one below but with some rewording that really focuses on your desire to learn more from them. Here’s a good example:

Dear __________, 

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I’m _________, a friend of _________, who sent you an email yesterday to introduce us. As a (insert background information here), I’m looking to (insert goals here). I really admire (insert company name) and how it is (insert interesting or noteworthy things the company is doing that pertains to your desire to be in the industry, etc.). If you have some time, I’d like to meet you for coffee to learn more about your role and the company itself. I am available (insert availability). Please let me know if any of those days and times work for you. 

Best,
___________

The more polite and considerate you are in your email, the better. Give the person a couple days to respond. If they don’t, send a gently nudging follow-up email that reminds them of your desire to meet and what their availability is:

Dear __________, 

Hope your day is going well. I’m just writing to follow-up with you regarding my request to meet with you to learn more about (x, y, and z). Please let me know if you are available anytime this week or next. 

Best,
___________

If they don’t respond after a couple days, it’s time to move on. Try to find someone else in the company you can talk to with a similar background/credentials or look to a different organization. But chances are, they’ll get back to you.

They said yes. Now what? 
Wahoo! Once the two of you have agreed on a time and place, prepare yourself to ace the informational interview by doing the following:

Research. This means doing any additional research about the company and the person that can help you better carry a conversation with him/her. Have a strong grasp of the company’s history, the current projects, what it hopes to achieve, etc. Additionally, see what information you can find about your informational interviewer on LinkedIn, such as his/her interests, the school they went to, etc. Remember, informational interviews are kind of like regular interviews except better because they’re more casual. Not wear-your-sweat-suit casual, but definitely less formal and more down to earth.

Prepare questions. Make a list of questions that pertain to what you want to learn more about both in regards to the company and the interviewer's background. This is a chance for you to really gain a better understanding of how the company works and whether or not you can imagine yourself being there on a daily basis. Here are some good starting points:

a. What is the company culture like?
b. How did you progress in your career to get to where you are today?
c. What’s your favorite thing about working here?
d. Can you describe a typical work day?
e. What parts of the job do you find most challenging/fun/rewarding?
f. Who else would you recommend I speak with?
g. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
h. What’s the advancement potential like in the company?
i. Considering my background, how well do you think I would fit in with this company?

Prepare answers. Similar to regular interviews, the informational interview is also a chance for your interviewer to get to know you and how you would fit into the company culture. So prepare to be asked questions that you might be asked by a hiring manager and prepare your answers thoughtfully and articulately. You don’t want to be caught off guard when they begin wanting to know more about your short/long term goals and background. Make sure you yourself understand why you’re interested in pursuing this career path, how your past experience makes you qualified to pursue this path, and what you’d like to do with it two or three years from now. This will show that you have given it careful thought and are confident about your capabilities to succeed in this career now and in the future.

Dress appropriately. You want to make a good impression, and even though this is not a formal, regular job interview, don’t take it as a sign to dress casual or business casual. Come in a full suit. This shows the amount of initiative and thought in the way you’re approaching not just your interviewer, but your interest and seriousness in this career path.

Bring your resume. The interviewer understands that you are interested in a position or opening at his/her company and that is the reason for the meeting. In the event that they’d like to recommend or refer you to their hiring manager, it will be imperative to have your resume handy. Or, if they’d like to see your background and experience on paper, you will have it readily available. A general rule of thumb to keep in mind is to only present it if they ask for it or to offer it to them as a wrap-up at the end of the interview to be kept on file for future consideration. Waving your resume around without them asking for it can seem like you’re only meeting them to talk about your wants and needs, rather than learning more about the opportunity and the company.

Phew. The informational interview is over. What happens next? 
Send a follow-up thank you email! The general recommendation is to send a follow-up within 24-48 hours after the informational interview, but we recommend doing it somewhere within the 24 hour window. Simply thank them for their time and always remember to input some key words and phrases to show that you were actively listening and interested in the conversation. And, if they asked you to apply for a job, send in a resume, or anything else, this is the perfect place to do so:

Dear ________,

Thank you for meeting with me today. I really enjoyed our conversation, particularly about (x, y, and z). I’m glad I was able to learn more about the company and (x, y, and z). Please feel free to contact me any time if there’s any additional information I can provide you with (or, provide additional information requested of you here). 

Take care,
___________

Am I done now?
Nope! Many people make the mistake of having an informational interview and leaving it at just that. They don’t contact the person ever again or actually just wait to be offered a job by them. But that shouldn’t be the case! You’ve probably spent more time talking to the interviewer than you have in the last ten years with some of your facebook friends from high school, so don’t lose this opportunity to add him/her to your network and keep in touch.

Send them a message on LinkedIn to connect or send some occasional articles or interesting news stories that pertain to your conversation that he/she may find intriguing or worth a read. This shows them that you’re not about just tossing them to the side once you’ve gotten what you need. Show genuine interest in being a part of their network and, maybe some time down the road, you’ll be the first one they consider when an opportunity presents itself.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Colorado CPA Licensure Changes [Handout]


Are you a Colorado CPA candidate? Colorado’s CPA licensure requirements change on July 1, 2015. Be prepared and get answers to your questions by downloading our Colorado Licensure Changes Handout below!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Studying for the CPA Exam? Be Sure to Take a Day Off!

The CPA exam is a long and grueling task that will test your mental fortitude each and every week. I found that in order to stay on track and avoid losing focus of the goal at hand, I needed to adjust my study schedule for day(s) off.  This one minor adjustment was incredibly helpful during my studies with AUD.  

Unlike Roger CPA Review, the software review package I was using prior to making to the switch did not make any mention of taking a day off from studying. The instructors continuously preached that the CPA exam demanded every minute of free time in your day. While the instructors are not completely in the wrong, they made one crucial error that I believe causes many CPA candidates to fail. 

From my experience, it is imperative to take a day off from studying.  You need that mental break to lower your stress and anxiety levels. You'll also need a day off to spend with family, friends, or significant others in order to help you take your mind off of the exam. Trust me, after a day of rest, you will feel refreshed and ready to hit the books since you've had time to relax by doing something enjoyable. 


For those of you making the switch over to Roger CPA Review, or those of you who are just beginning your CPA journey, take full advantage of the days off in your CPA Exam Study schedule that you create from Roger CPA Review. Take the day(s) off only if you can afford to take them. If you can, they will help break up your week and keep you in a good mental state to successfully pass the CPA exam.  

Chris Boate, guest blogger for Roger CPA Review
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Study On-The-Go Tips and Audio Course Giveaway!


Last Friday, March 20th, we welcomed the first day of spring. That’s right—it’s that time of year when the snow begins thawing, the weather gets warmer, and, unless you’re one of the common thousands who delight in seeing the beauty of flowers bloom and grow only to immediately suffer watery eyes, runny noses, and an uncontrollable urge to scratch, then it’s usually a very delightful time of year.

While the ushering in of spring typically signifies new beginnings and a reawakening in nature, we as people like to use spring as a chance to get refreshed as well. And for many of us whether we’re still in school, are working, or have a family to take care of, spring is a very busy time of year. Your kids are on vacation for Spring Break, you’re traveling back home to visit family and friends, and you’re wrapping up the tax season. And if you’re studying to take the CPA Exam,  this means that the blackout month of March is over and the beginning of a new testing window is just a week away!

So for all you CPA exam candidates out there looking to take the exam in April or May or are simply continuing your CPA exam journey, we’ve put together some great studying for on-the-go tips that you can use to refresh your brain and body during this especially busy time of year. When it comes to effective retention and review of concepts, try out these great techniques to squeeze in some study time between point A and point B or when you have some leisure time during your hectic day.

Identify your schedule 

This first tip is very simplistic and it may seem like an oversight at first, but you’d be surprised at how many things you’re doing in a given day when you don’t keep track of your tasks and responsibilities. Identifying your schedule means a few things:

1. What are your priorities for the day?
Make a list of what your top tasks are. Yes, taking the kids to school and going to work are a given, but aside from these major daily routines, make a list of what you’re going to do today and then checkmark the items that absolutely need to get done. This way, your priorities are better set and you are more likely to accomplish things in a timely manner when you have a clear cut task list keeping you on track.

2. When do you have down time? 
Once your priorities are set, identify the areas when you have some down time. Common ones would be during your commute to school or lunch/regular breaks. But here are some other time slots that may not be so obvious:

Your gym session
While you’re cooking
Running errands (picking up groceries, the kids)
Doing laundry
Walking the dog

You get the idea. Sometimes we’re so immersed in our everyday routines that we forget our brains may be able to squeeze in some extra studying time Identifying when you can review or learn a new concept is crucial to studying on-the-go, especially if you want to ensure that you’re doing as much as possible to learn the material.

3. Determine what you’re trying to accomplish in terms of study material
Equally important to figuring out your priorities and when to study on-the-go is having a goal for what you want to accomplish. And may we add, that it has to be a realistic one. Take into consideration the type of learner you are and how long it usually takes you to get through a concept with a full grasp. Then take a look at your studyschedule and see what it is you feel is a reasonable goal to accomplish either in terms of learning new material or reviewing difficult concepts. Think about which sections you could cover in incremental 10, 15, or 20 minute intervals; this way, you’re not overwhelming yourself with so much information that you can barely apply the knowledge, and you’re also not underwhelming yourself with too little information where you can’t apply it to anything because you can’t see the bigger picture.

Use accessible study materials

Pick and choose study materials that are ideal for on-the-go. Our flashcards (both physical and digital), MCQs, audio lectures, and Cram course are ideal examples of study materials that you can take with you anywhere, anytime. They’re mobile, small, and can easily fit into any backpack, purse, or other type of bag. This is key because as humans, we’re very much more likely to engage in something the more easily accessible and convenient it is. Bringing your laptop and textbooks with you to the laundromat is, let’s face it, a total drag. But—flipping through flashcards on your phone or tablet while waiting for your clothes to dry? Perfection. In addition, many of our students have said that the audio course is one of their favorites due to their ability to literally plug in anywhere. Listen to Roger lecture with the same enthusiasm and motivation on the train, on the treadmill, or before you drift off to bed. These provide great reinforcements that you can access comfortably and conveniently.

Prepare the night before 

You've seen your friends (and maybe you’re one of them) who post those weekly meal preps on Instagram and Facebook, right? Think of studying on-the-go in that capacity. Some of us would much rather sleep in than wake up the extra 10 or 20 minutes early to prepare a lunch for ourselves to take to work or school. The result? We end up eating out only to regret that burrito later both financially and health wise. When you prep your meals the night before, all you have to do is grab it and go, saving money, time, and maybe a few calories!

Prepping yourself to study on-the-go and during your down time is analogous in that if you have all your study materials ready the night before, all you have to do is grab them and go. So put your flashcards in your bag, have the apps already downloaded, and preset the audio lecture to the correct track. Because you’ll already be enthused to engage with them since they’re easily accessible, making sure that they’re always physically with you makes studying on-the-go that much easier, simpler, and more effective.

We hope we've given you some valuable tips and tricks that not only put a spring back into your step, but also motivate you to spring forward onto the next chapter of your CPA exam journey. We also want to do our part to keep you inspired and to be well prepared for your CPA Exam. So, we’re giving away 5 Free Audio Courses (any CPA Exam section of your choice) that you can take with you to study ON-THE-GO! Just fill out the form below and you’ll be entered to win! Giveaway ends March 31st. Winners announced April 1, 2015. Good luck and happy studying!



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Monday, March 23, 2015

How to Tackle MCQs on the CPA Exam

When it comes to test taking, multiple choice questions are probably one of the oldest and most known forms of examination in the books (and known to man!). While you’ve learned that the process of elimination is one of the most powerful ways to approach MCQs, we’ve listed some additional tips and tricks that can help you immensely when it comes to preparing and tackling them on the CPA exam.

What is the purpose of MCQs? 
But before we delve into those tips and tricks, here are a few interesting facts you may (or may not) know about why MCQs are the most popular way of assessing someone’s knowledge.
The purpose of a MCQ is to measure a candidate’s understanding of a specified content area. There are usually three types of MCQs which call for a different type of response: Recall, Interpretation, and Problem Solving.

Recall questions simply ask candidates to recall or recognize a fact. An example of this would be the following:

This is the sound a dog makes:
               a. Meow
               b. Moo
               c. Woof
               d. Neigh

Interpretation questions require candidates to use their base knowledge to interpret data or other information to come to some conclusion:

The dog’s stomach was growling, probably because he was…
               a. Sleepy
               b. Hungry
               c. Excited
               d. Shameful

Problem solving questions require the candidate to assess a situation, synthesize it with information from their base of knowledge, and then solve a problem or make a decision correctly:

         Fred is an avid dog lover. He’s walking his dog down the street one sunny afternoon when a                dog with no collar follows them home. Fred would…
               a. Keep it
               b. Take pictures of it and post lost and found posters around the neighborhood
               c. Drive it to the animal shelter
               d. Walk around door-to-door and see if it belongs to anyone

The answer choices to all MCQs will always include a keyed correct response or three to four distractors or foils. Sometimes the answer will be clear as day, as is the case with most recall questions if you know the content. The interpretation and problem solving questions can be a bit more difficult to discern. For example, you’ll notice that in the problem solving answer choices, both B and D seem correct; however, trigger words such as “sunny afternoon” and “avid dog lover” propose that D is the most correct answer. Because there’s still daylight out, Fred would probably go door-to-door before resorting to poster making. In many cases, you will have to choose the most correct answer in a batch of very probable answers. Here are some tips and tricks for how to study and tackle those MCQs on the CPA exam.

Identify the question type: If you know whether the question is a recall, interpretation, or problem solving, then you can better understand what the expected response should be. Sometimes MCQs will be a particular type of question, but will give you varied responses that don’t match the question type. So if it’s asking you to problem solve, look for an answer that solves the problem and isn’t disguised as an interpretation or recall response. This will better frame your answer choices.

Connect key words: In the same way that you have to figure out the meaning of an unknown word based on the surrounding words in the sentence (we call this context clues), you should do the same with MCQs. Pay attention key words and phrases that speak beyond what the question is asking you and tells you something more about the possible answer. When choosing an answer choice, see how it connects back to those key words and if they match up. Similarly, if you’re being asked a question you don’t know the answer to, this would be a good area to use those context clues and key words to break down the question and deduce the best possible response.

Answer without looking: This one’s an oldie but a goodie. You’ve probably done this already, but a great way to continue studying for the exam and to continually test yourself is to read the question first, and then provide your own answer without looking at the answer choices. This really tests your knowledge on the subject and, what’s better, assures that you don’t get sidetracked from your original instinct when looking at the other answer options. There will be an occasion when perhaps there will be an option that mixes your answer with other components or there’s actually a better option altogether. By all means, pick the one that’s the best, but just remember that this is a good way to apply what you’ve learned.

Narrow down: In times of uncertainty, the process of elimination is always the best way to go. Don’t panic in getting a question that seems completely foreign to you upon first impression. Go through the key words, break down the question as much as possible, and then narrow down the answer choices based on your context clues. Even if you’re only able to rule out just one option, that’s good; you’re in better shape than you were a few seconds ago!

Use the true/false technique: If you’ve used the process of elimination and you come across two similar answers that both seem plausible, translate the question into a true or false statement with each of the possible answers; afterward, select the one that is true. Use this technique to differentiate between the slight nuances that similar answers usually present.

Always verify your answers: Sometimes you’ll get a question you automatically know the answer to, see that answer as the first option, choose it, pat yourself on the back, and move on because you just aced that question in 7 seconds or less. We definitely encourage that level of confidence; however, ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK YOUR ANSWERS AND ANSWER CHOICES! Remember that time you got your Biology test back and saw that you missed a question because you didn’t read all the answer choices? Yup. Turns out there was an “all of the above” option on the MCQ you answered in 7 seconds that you failed to recognize because you didn’t read all of the answer options nor go back to double check! Simple mistakes like these can be the difference between a 74 and a 75…and remember…you want that 75 to pass! So make sure you read all the answer options before choosing one, and that you go back and double check your answers (especially the ones you’re iffy about) if you have the extra time! Trust us--you’ll be glad you did!

Another great way to use MCQs to your advantage is to boost your study skills while you’re prepping for the exam. Whenever you are practicing with a MCQ section, summarize why the answer you chose is either right or wrong when you’re putting it through the wringer. If you don’t know why the answer is right or wrong—find out! This is an excellent way to reinforce knowledge you already have about the topic and to apply it to the question. This is also a good way to go back and review concepts or topics that may have evaded you the first time. Remember—passing the exam isn’t about just memorizing the answer to the questions. It’s about understanding the concept and applying it, and this is a good technique to use to ensure that your understanding is solid.

We hope these tips and techniques are helpful to you during your next Exam window or during your next practice test. Happy studying!



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