EA vs CPA: Salary, Growth and More

EA vs CPAMany students who are about to graduate from college with a 4 year degree in accounting wonder whether they should choose to become a CPA or perhaps a EA. You would want to carefully consider all options before you, reach a decision – and then stand by it until you achieve your lofty goals.

Both paths involve a lot of hard work, dedication, commitment and clarity of thought. Here is how these two professions compare.


A enrolled agent is a specialist in taxation. They are certified by the IRS. They have unlimited authority to represent any individual taxpayer or organizations in civil matters before the IRS. They usually specialize in areas such as gift tax, trusts and estates

In contrast, a CPA may or may not specialize in taxation. Typically, as a CPA you will be working in public accounting and working in areas like auditing, certifying financial statements and the like. A CPA is certified by one of the state boards of accountancy, and can practice only within the state where they are licensed to practice. CPAs are not required to know about tax laws.

CPAs are usually have a much broader set of skills and know-how related to how businesses function and are essentially highly skilled accountants and auditors, while EAs are experts in matters related to the tax laws – but they are usually not accountants or auditors.

But there are always exceptions. Some CPAs are also tax experts, while some EAs are also accountants.

CPAs look at the whole financial picture of a business, analyse data, crunch numbers and make projections that help business owners make better financial decisions. EAs help you file your taxes.


A enrolled agent usually has a four year college degree, and has several credit hours in accounting and taxation. Some might even have a masters degree in taxation. To become an enrolled agent, you will either have two pass IRS Special Enrollment Examination that covers just about every aspect of the tax code. Or, you will have to work at the IRS for a minimum period of at least five years in a position where you would be required to interpret the tax code on a regular basis. In addition, you will need to take at least 72 hours of continuing education in every three year period to maintain your status.

For the CPA too, you will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree with a focus on accounting. Many CPAs also have master’s degrees in accounting or taxation to fulfill the 150 credit hour requirement for the CPA exam. Also, you will need to pass the CPA exam to become a CPA, and meet work experience requirements – there are no exemptions from this.

The path to becoming a CPA involves a lot more effort and is harder. Becoming a enrolled agent is easier compared to getting a CPA license.

Recognition and Popularity

CPA is definitely more popular. There are about 450,000 CPAs in the US according to the CPA directory, while there are only about 46,000 EAs according to the NAEA. So roughly, there are 10 times more CPAs than EAs.

Salary and growth

Enrolled agents can expect to start at $30k a year. Experienced EAs make up to $45k or more per year.

CPAs typically start at $65k per year, and experienced CPAs make more than $100k a year.

You shouldn’t let salary be the only factor you base your decision on. It also depends on what you want to do, and where your strengths are. If tax laws are what you want to learn, you could become a EA or even a tax attorney. But if accounting fascinates you, then you would want to become a CPA.

If growth and career advancement are what you are after, CPA is what you should be aiming for. Many companies require CPA certification for senior management positions. They have better chances of getting promoted because they are more familiar with how a business works and how to make it grow.

Here’s a very informative video by a CPA explaining the major differences between tax preparers, enrolled agents, CPAs  and tax attorneys.

How can learning about finances change your life?


Not everyone is aware that learning about finances can change your life. They don’t know that being in control of your incomings and outgoings has the potential to make your life so much better.

Take me for example, 4 years ago I was struggling to make ends meet. I had a decent income, the average amount of outgoings, but I wasn’t in control of my finances.
Fast forward 4 years, and I can tell you exactly what I have in my account, what’s coming out over the next few days, and how much money I can spend on my day trip next week.

I managed to get where I am today, by working out my income and outgoings, and keeping a track of them every week. Let’s now take a closer look at how learning about your finances can change your life:

Take a look at what you’re paying for

Have a look at what you’re paying for. You are likely to be paying for regular and essential household bills, such as a mortgage, rent, insurance, energy, water and so on.

Now you’ve looked at those bills, you will also need to consider the ‘Non-essentials’. These are bills that you don’t need to have, such as TV subscriptions that you don’t really use, or that gym membership you never got ’round to cancelling. You may also want to switch from a cell phone bill that you pay monthly, to one that lets you add credit when you can. I know we can get used to paying out for these luxuries, but if you cannot afford them, they are doing you no good whatsoever. Start cutting down on these luxuries and make do without them. The money that you’ll save can be spent elsewhere, or you may want to put it in a savings account.

Start saving

Knowing how and when to save money could potentially mean that you have access to cash should you need it. Right now, I have enough money to put down a deposit for a house, and pay the first months’ rent or mortgage. This is because I have saved when I could, but it’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed myself. I’ve still been able to go on vacation, and for nights out at the movie theater.

Saving just a little bit of cash each month can help if an unexpected bill comes along, or if you need the cash for whatever reason. You may not be able to save a lot each month, but it will all add up eventually, and that’s never a bad thing.

Pay more than the minimum amount on your credit card

I used to get by with paying the $5 minimum on my credit card, then I decided that I would double it thanks to the cash that I saved by budgeting. This meant that I was able to pay off my credit card a lot quicker, and I didn’t have to pay so much interest either. If you cannot afford to double the amount that you pay, add an extra dollar on top instead. $6 instead of $5 will still help you pay it off quicker, and you’ll be glad that you did when you get a credit card bill that says “Amount due: $0.00”.

Take a look at your budget at least once every six months

learning about finances change your lifeThis is important as the amount of money coming in and going out can change. If you get a new job and you now earn more than you used to, you can afford a few more luxuries each month. Alternatively, you may want to save more, or pay off your credit card bill or loan a little quicker. Learning to take a look at your budget at least once every six months can ensure that you stay on top of your finances, and you won’t go overdrawn.

Know where you can make cuts where you need to

I know that right now, I could end my TV subscription, and visit my favorite place to eat a lot less than I do right now. I have already decided where I could make those cuts so that if and when the time comes, I can pull the plug on them and have the cash that I need.

Knowing where your finances are, and how to deal with them can change your life. You will be able to deal with your debt in a more constructive way, and ‘Balance the books’ so to speak, at least once a month. People who know how to budget, and what they can and can’t spend, are less likely to make bad financial decisions. They are more likely to save money, and therefore have a little bit to hand should they need to.

Learn how to budget, and let the process of controlling your finances make your life so much better.

5 Tips For Doing Well On Your CMA Exams

It is important for an individual who is aspiring to pass the CMA exams to enroll in an online review course which has a fast pacing and a lively training environment.

Tips For Doing Well On Your CMA ExamsAlso, you need to make sure there are updates which are regularly provided by the course. The information and data which you can acquire from an online CMA exam study guide should be the focus of your preparation for the challenging CMA test.

There are quite a number of CMA review courses which offer online training or in classroon setting, but you should scrutinize their quality before making your purchase. Compare the various study guides to make sure you are getting the best one for your needs and learning style. There are several different types of review courses, and all work. It is just a question of finding the one that best matches your budget and study needs.

5 More Tips To Help You Pass Your CMA Exams:

  1. Take advantage of the free information which you can find on the internet. There are numerous CMA question and answer articles which you can easily download. Begin answering the items on your own and check the number of questions which you got correct. If your score is too low, it only means that you have to exert more effort in studying.
  2. Get rid of anything which might cause you to be distracted from your review. With all the gizmos we have these days, it is easy to get distracted. But if you are the type of student who spends time on social networking sites and playing games rather than focusing on your review notes, then you must change the set up. This is your future which is at stake here and if you are serious in passing the CMA exam, it is vital that you master the four subjects which are included in the test.
  3. Create a three-column category for your review questions. The first column should contain the easy ones, the second column with moderately difficult tests and the last column includes all the difficult exams. Spend time on each of the three, but focus your studying on those questions which you find most difficult.
  4. Get yourself into the right frame of mind to study. Sure, having a good degree, work experience, and knowledge base is important. But the CMA exams are very challenging and if you cannot prepare properly for the four categories of the exam, then get your act in gear. Set aside time each day to make the best use of your study time during this stressful period.
  5. Develop a study plan for yourself when preparing for the exams. Set a particular milestone for yourself like studying the same place and time each day so you know when it is time to study, and when it is time to do other things.

Fewer than 50% of all CMA test takers pass the exam, and even fewer to pass on the first try. Using a study guide or review course can raise that substantially. Good luck to your exam!

A CPA Career in Tax Accounting – Tax Planning & Compliance

A career in tax accounting, or taxation can also be very lucrative because taxes are not going anywhere. In fact, taxes are a large chunk of any organization’s expense line, and for individuals they can be the single biggest expense in their life more so than their rent or mortgage.

Career in Tax AccountingA career in tax accounting, planning and compliance is interesting in that this is an area that allows a tax accounting CPA from branching out onto his or her own relatively easily. This is not to say that a CPA can’t open his or her own audit firm. They sure can, but opening a tax accounting practice immediately lends itself to the client base (the average individuals and their families).

It’s funny because when you say the word “CPA”, the first thing that comes to a corporate professional’s mind is audit and book keeping. But when you say the same word out in the streets or in your social circle, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is taxes. I’ve always found this to be interesting.

Although I never worked directly in tax accounting in a corporate setting, I often worked with CPA professionals who practiced in this discipline. They are some of the most detail oriented and strategic folks. In fact, when I was in M&A (Mergers), it wasn’t so much my financial modeling work that oohed and awed the clients, but rather the tax planning implications of a Merger or Acquisition worked on by the tax professionals that wowed the clients.

What Do CPAs in Tax Accounting, Planning and Compliance Do?

So what does a CPA in the tax accounting profession do? The answer can be divided into two main categories, tax planning and tax compliance.

Tax planning refers to the practice of strategizing how to save on income tax expense. Whether for individuals or companies, taxes are a huge expense. For example, if a tax CPA is able to reduce taxes on a $1M high net worth individual income by just 2%, that comes up to $20,000 in gross dollars. Therefore if the CPA was to charge a $3,000 fee for such planning, the fee would totally be worth it. The same goes for companies.

Tax compliance on the other hand is the accurate filling and filing of income tax returns and related documents. Tax law is quite complex, and usually to make compliance easier, the government depicts the law in various tax forms. There are thousands of these and knowing the right forms to fill out for the right individual or company is half the battle. All tax paying entities, individuals and companies are required to fill out and submit annual income tax returns to the government.

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms, regulates and monitors compliance with the tax law. Similar government entities do it in other countries. It is common for a tax CPA to regularly interact with IRS agents or similar government officials in other countries.

Tax codes are complex and dynamic in that they change almost every year based on a country’s government composition and the direction in which it is heading. It is highly influenced by politics and demographics. In order to conduct their profession in the best manner possible, tax accounting professionals need to be updated on changes in tax law and then interpret them accurately in order to accurately apply them to their clients’ situation.

And to further complicate things, tax law varies depending on the entity being taxed. For example, individuals are taxed differently from companies, which are taxed differently from partnerships, which are taxed differently from trusts. Within the company bucket there are C corporations, Small Corporations (S Corp) and Limited Liability Corporations (LLC). Within the partnership bucket you have General Partnerships, Limited Liability Partnerships and the list goes on. You can specialize in any one particular entity type and make an entire career out of it.

Tax accounting CPAs also perform the role of expert witness in tax court cases when need be. Others branch into very specialized fields such as taxation matters as they pertain to offshore banking and foreign bank account reporting.

CPA Career Path in Tax Accounting, Planning and Compliance

If you are focused on tax accounting and start your career in a public accounting firm, the career path is the same as an associate in audit or any other service arm of a public accounting firm. In fact, to get your CPA license you will have to start your career in public accounting.

If and when you decide to leave public accounting, it is much easier to start your own CPA practice in tax accounting than let’s just say audit because your target client is the average individual, and there are more of those than there are companies. That is why there are exponentially more tax CPAs than CPAs in any other CPA profession.

Many tax CPAs also get into financial planning by obtaining the Certified Financial Planning (CFP) designation, of which income tax planning is a big component. It’s just a natural match, and with the CFP certification a CPA can get into investments, wealth management and preservation type planning.

There are also opportunities in the Government sector as the IRS is always looking for tax accountants to combat white collar crime (tax fraud).

Concluding Thoughts

Like I stated earlier, as long as death and taxes continue to be the two guarantees in life, there will always be need for solid tax accountants, especially at the local level where tax law can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another (in the USA from one State to another).

The only exception I can think of are tax free jurisdictions such as the United Arab Emirates, but then again companies and expats based in those jurisdictions may have income tax implications depending on where else they live, work, do business and have a tax obligation to.

Not enough can be written about a career in tax accounting to fairly summarize it because of the vast specialties within the profession, each very complex in its own right. That said, I hope I have done fair justice to at least getting across a high level idea to you of what a career in tax accounting entails.

How about Your Next Job in Regulatory Compliance – SOX, Dodd-Frank

I attempt to cover career choices that are not conventional to a typical CPA. We covered professional book keeping last time. Although it doesn’t sound like a glamorous jobs and it could get quite tedious sometimes, it is a stable and non-cyclical profession that you can work part-time and in any part of the world.

Regulatory ComplianceThis career I am about to discuss on this post is quite different. It also doesn’t sound terribly exciting but I bet it’s THE trend in the century within accounting and finance.

Yes, it’s compliance.

A career in regulatory compliance makes for an interesting discussion because the CPA certification is not geared specifically for it, but CPAs find themselves playing in this area because of regulation that impacts accounting and financial reporting.

After the fall of Enron, WorldCom and the likes due to financial statement fraud in the early 2000s, the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) was established to mitigate financial statement fraud. Although a regulation, it overlaps with financial statements because the regulation mandates that companies test the operating effectiveness of internal controls over accounting and financial reporting.

Similarly, the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act during the Obama registration is also geared toward financial statements, at least a part of it is.

What Do CPAs in Regulatory Compliance Do?

CPAs who are involved in regulatory compliance are typically involved from an Internal Audit perspective. (You can get more info from Ipasstheciaexam.com). Many companies rely on their Internal Audit departments to assist Management with SOX compliance testing. The same goes for other regulations. For example, Internal Audit also tests for compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) regulation.

In other highly regulated industries such as healthcare and banking, CPAs in a company’s Internal Audit department assess compliance with the various regulations such as Truth in Lending, Know Your Customer, etc.

Career Path of a CPA in Regulatory Compliance

Regulatory compliance is not specifically a designated route for a CPA, rather an area of practice that overlaps into a CPA’s jurisdiction as part of their profession (for example Internal Audit).  Regulatory compliance is in itself a corporate risk, compliance and/or legal function and falls within those respective departments.

However, a CPA can enter this profession specifically with the intention of establishing a career in regulatory compliance. In such cases, you are looking at a career path similar to what the path would be in any other CPA career choices.

My Thoughts

It’s amazing to me how the CPA profession has evolved over time. Today we are seeing CPAs highly involved with regulatory compliance type work, expanding the career choices that you can explore yet some more. With the way things have been going in the last few years, there is likely more regulation to come in all sorts of areas.

The regulatory environment, specifically as it relates to financial statements, is only going to become more complex, and parallel to that will be the growing demand for CPAs who understand accounting and financial reporting. Yeay for us! The future is bright for aspiring CPAs, and now you have yet one more specialty to explore within the profession.


A Career in Professional Bookkeeping – What a Professional Bookkeeper Does

Let’s talk about what you can do as a CPA today.

Did you know that as a Certified Public Accountant, you could also become a professional bookkeeper?

Professional BookkeepingBookkeeping is bare bones accounting, or accounting in its purest and simplest form without any complication.

Bookkeeping is exactly what it sounds like, the upkeep of financial records (books) to reflect an individual, organization or entity’s financial condition.

Bookkeeping accounting involves the recording of transactions and then preparing financial statements that show what all the transactions combined mean and how they impact the individual, organization or the entity.

Many bookkeepers go a step further and perform tax compliance for their clients as well. This is an easy extension of the bookkeeping business because a bookkeeper is already in possession of his or her client’s financial statements.

Taking those financial statements and filling out the necessary tax forms in not a difficult incremental task to perform relative to the additional income stream it provides for the bookkeeper’s business.

The Professional Bookkeeper

A person who does this for a career is called a professional bookkeeper.

A professional bookkeeper does not need to be a CPA. However, having that designation certainly adds a lot more credibility and as a result the professional bookkeeper can likely perform more tasks for their clients and command a higher salary or rate.

The specific designation for a professional bookkeeper however is the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation. Having both is certainly the most ideal, although several professional bookkeepers exist globally who possess neither, and that too is fine.

A professional bookkeeper gathers the financial data / transactions from their client and enters them into systems in an organized manner (broken down monthly typically). In the old days, they literally entered these into a book, but the advent of computers and advanced bookkeeping software enables professional bookkeepers to conduct all their work electronically and much quicker.

Most systems are set up in such a way that a bookkeeper can automatically generate all kinds of analytics, reports and financial statements with the click of just one button. How so? Because the bookkeeping is done within the system itself, the system is designed to leverage all the information inside of it to compile and prepare financial statements such as income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements.

The Professional Bookkeeper’s Career Path

This one is interesting because there is no predefined career path for a professional bookkeeper. You will find professional bookkeepers who work part and full time, mainly because they enjoy the tremendous flexibility that comes with the profession, not to mention the ability to live and work remotely wherever you want.

How does this work? Many professional bookkeepers are big into lifestyle design in that they design their life plan before their business plan. In other words, the bookkeeping business can be conducted remotely and therefore many bookkeepers choose to get into this profession because of the mobility it offers. Many stay at home mothers select this profession because it pays well while allowing them to work from home so they can tend to their home and families.

Many professionals who start out in public accounting or private industry also often times choose to become professional bookkeepers when they are ready to get out of the fast paced and cut throat corporate environment. (on how to start working for these industries in the first place, check out this helpful site at accountingresume.net)

The most challenging aspect of this career route is that you will have to build your own book of business, recruiting one client at a time. You can pull from your family, friends, professional contacts and then solicit and apply for work online. Once established, you could run a pretty smooth sailing ship on an ongoing basis.

Many bookkeepers turn what they do into larger businesses by establishing full blown professional bookkeeping services companies. If this is the route you want to take, it is certainly a very good possibility once you get started in the right direction.

Salary Discussion and Concluding Thoughts

I wouldn’t even attempt to discuss how much you can make as a bookkeeper. I have seen many make in the six figures, while others charge as low as $7.50 per hour. How much you make as a professional bookkeeper is predicated on how much work you do and the type of clients you do work for and thus the rate you charge.

Many professional bookkeepers live and work overseas in cheaper jurisdictions and seek to work for US / Western clients because their income goes a long way elsewhere. Imagine living in Mexico City or the exotic islands of the Philippines spending in pesos but earning in US Dollars? Nice arbitrage if you ask me. More control, more mobility, more freedom and flexibility all with low financial stress. The dollar goes a very long way in most places…

For Your Reference

The AICPA Ethics Exam: Not the Same as the Uniform CPA Exam

If you haven’t paid attention to the industry lately, ethics is a hot topic given the number and nature of corporate scandals and failures we’ve seen in recent years.  Ethics is such a hot topic that full blown regulations have been formed to govern corporate behavior. The two most notable compliance regulations of recent are the Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) and the Dodd-Frank Acts.

AICPA Ethics ExamBut even prior to some of the most noted scandals, CPAs have always been required to pass the ethics exam, and take ethics related courses as part of their ongoing continuing professional education (CPE).

Each State has its own requirement dictating the amount and nature of ethics related CPE a CPA must take each year.  You can read more about this in the CPA requirement page.

Though the ethics exam and courses do not guarantee inappropriate behavior, it is meant to provide the foundation that would likely curb inappropriate behavior.

Who Governs and Administers the AICPA Ethics Exam?

The AICPA ethics exam is usually administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and is required by about half of the state boards of accountancy.

There are some states that do not require a candidate to take the CPA ethics exam. However, candidates are required to take a short ethics course within a certain time frame after passing the Uniform CPA exam.

The AICPA ethics exam is not too difficult given some practice of multiple choice questions.  The AICPA’s ethics course is a self study course that you can take online at your convenience.  It mostly goes through the AICPA Code of Conduct, which you can read about on the AICPA’s website.  The material focuses heavily on the concept of “Independence”, or the objectivity necessary to be a “good” CPA.

You take the ethics exam electronically and get your scores instantly upon submission. Each exam packet comes with its own unique serial number that you have to input online.  When you first go online to take the exam, you may see a large overwhelming answer sheet. Don’t worry, you won’t have to complete all of it. The exam itself is only 40 questions.

If you are a better test taker using pen and paper, you will have the option to do so and mail in your answer sheet directly to the State Board of Accountancy.  However, the snail mail method can take weeks before you find out your score.  If you decide to go this route, remember to make a copy of your test sheet before sending it in.  I am personally very paranoid about the mail system.

AICPA Ethics Exam Tips and Must Know Information

Keep in mind that you have a full two years to study and take the exam from the time of your purchase.  In the unfortunate event that you miss the deadline, you can ask for a 30 day extension by contacting AICPA directly.  You can reach them at 888-777-7077.

How Much Does the CPA Ethics Exam Cost?

Not nearly as much as the CPA exam!  You can purchase the CPA Ethics exam online from the AICPA website around $150. If you are an AICPA member, you pay a discounted price closer to $130.

If you wish to shop around for more cost effective options, you can contact your state society of CPAs and see if they offer discounts to members.

If you end up getting it straight from the AICPA webiste, the exam course you want to get is the one titled:  “Professional Ethics: AICPA’s Comprehensive Course (155902)”.

Here is what you get with the AICPA’s version of the CPA ethics

  • 11 Hours of CD Courses
  • 2 Year Time Frame to take the exam from the time you purchase the course
  • 40 multiple choice question test (you need a 90% to pass)
  • Electronic submission capability

Studying for the CPA Ethics Exam

I admit that studying this material for 11 hours can be quite brutal. The good news is that you don’t have to.  There is some material you can do away without, but you have to use your best judgment to ensure you are not doing without the critical information you need to know to pass the exam.

As I was looking at some of the more recent questions on the exam, the single best tip I can give you is not to settle on the first best answer that sounds correct. The exam is multiple-choice and is geared to trick you. Be careful and read every option in detail before arriving at your final answer.

In the unfortunate event that you fail the exam, you can retake it up to 2 more times for a total of 3 times if you prefer the online method.  However, you can retake it again after your third attempt but this time you will have to mail in your answer sheet.

So there you have it. A complete synopsis of the AICPA Ethics exam.  See, back in the day, I had some heavy books to study to prepare for the exam. Now days, you have some pretty slick, interactive online resources that are easier to digest and work with.

Last Note

Although most States allow you to take this ethics exam prior to passing the Uniform CPA exam, I recommend waiting until after so that you can focus all your energy on passing the CPA exam, which is the tougher one.

But once you are done with the CPA exam, my suggestion to you is to take the ethics exam as soon as possible to get it out of the way. All the best!


My Detailed Review of the Gleim CPA Review Course

The Gleim CPA review course is one that is near and dear to me because it is the CPA review course I used a few years back to pass all four parts of the CPA exam in my first attempt.

Gleim CPA Review CourseI chose to purchase this review course at the time because I felt it offered the most for the price I was paying. It turned out to be a good decision for me. But is this the right course for you? You will have to answer that for yourself after reading my evaluation.

I will try to keep my personal bias aside and try to be as objective as possible in my evaluation of the Gleim CPA review course. So here we go…

What Do I Personally Like About the Gleim CPA Review Course?

Very Thorough Lectures and Explanations

I first learned about Gleim review materials through Stephanie Ng’s website (She has a facebook page that answers your questions too — check it out).

I learn best when exam topics and concepts are thoroughly explained to me slowly until I understand them. This is what I like best about Gleim. Although other CPA review courses like Roger and Becker can be entertaining and flashy in their lectures, sometimes they go so fast and the topics really don’t sink in that well.

The Gleim CPA review course is different in that their instructors take their time explaining the CPA exam concepts clearly and thoroughly, almost to the point where it can get boring! But the good news is that the concepts sink in well in the brain. I like the fact that real instructors teach who use white boards to write down the calculations and explain every step of solving a problem.

The most effective aspect of the Gleim CPA review program is the fact that their instructors cover hundreds of sample CPA exam questions one at a time and take the time to explain how to solve each one and the tricks to look out for so you can avoid falling into the trap.

Excellent Coaching and Service

In addition to the thorough lectures, I like the fact that Gleim provides you with personal counselor whom you can ask any question over the email at any time. So if you are working full time, you can go home and ask your questions during non business hours.

Most audiovisual CPA review courses don’t provide this support, and that’s why many CPA candidates are reluctant to take those courses. I know I was and would be if I were studying for the CPA exam all over again.

It there is any one particular differentiating fact about the Gleim CPA review program compared to other CPA review companies, it is their stellar customer service that I am very impressed with. Although the company has become big over time, it still retains the small business feeling by valuing each and every CPA candidate and giving them the best service they deserve.

Unfortunately, many of the larger companies like Becker have forgotten to do this as they have grown larger over time. I don’t blame them. Large businesses become more difficult to handle as they grow.

Focus on Strategy and Tactics

If you have spent some time on my website you have likely read somewhere that there are two ways to guarantee that you will pass the CPA exam:

  • Fully understand the exam concepts
  • Learn the strategies and tactics to answer the questions

I like the fact that the Gleim CPA review course focuses on all the potential ways you can get tricked into answering a question wrong. They explain each trick in detail so you know exactly how to spot tricks and more importantly how to avoid them.

This teaching approach has become so effective that approximately 9 out of 10 Gleim students pass the CPA exam. That’s a very high rate relative to the rest of the CPA candidates.

No Restrictions

I wasn’t aware of this when I took the Gleim CPA review course few years back, but apparently there are no restrictions to accessing the lectures.

What Do I Dislike About Gleim CPA?

Lectures Can be Boring

I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned slow lectures. They can get boring, but I am personally ok with because it helps me understand the material better.

Becker and Bisk CPA reviews are faster and more exciting, but then again, you may miss the crux of the content and have to rewind or read to further understand. This just comes down to our learning preference.

If you are the kind to fall asleep in slower, monotone environments, make sure you stand up while watching the Gleim CPA review lectures lol It can get annoying sometimes you know?

Clunky System

Gleim is not as big as the big boys like Becker, so they don’t have the big budget to spend on their CPA review course. For this reason, it is not uncommon to find the quality of the materials below par.

For example, you may find the videos not as professional as Becker, which is one of the reasons Gleim is able to charge so much less for their CPA review course. Sometimes it seems like the videos were shot in someone’s basement lol! But hey, for almost 50% less than Becker I am ok with that.

But the good news is that they are slowly replacing them one by one. The newer videos are more professional and better quality.

Here is a sample video showing how some of the lectures can be. This is Phil Gleim himself:

There are many other video demos you can view on Gleim’s website.

Note on the Gleim Supplemental Text Books

Gleim uses Wiley books and software. Why do they do this? Because the expertise of the instructors at Gleim is lecturing and explaining the exam material, as well as teaching you the tactics and strategies to correctly answer the questions on the CPA exam. Once you understand that, you can pretty much work off of any CPA book.

Wiley is the most solid book I have seen in terms of the comprehensive practice CPA exam questions, so in a way it is good that Gleim uses the best of the best. The good news is that you don’t have to pay for the books separately. It’s already part of the price you pay Gleim.

My Conclusion

As you can tell from my evaluation, no CPA review course is perfect, and neither is Gleim. You just have to select the one that gives you the best chance to pass the CPA exam while meeting your budget requirements.

Like I said earlier, I purchased the Gleim CPA review course because I felt it offered the most for the price I was paying at the time. Nothing has changed in that department. Gleim is still the best value for your money today. It’s almost half of what the Becker CPA review would cost you.

Their course is only getting better, which now has high passing rate compared to the 49% average passing rate of all other CPA candidates.

I also want to briefly mention the Gleim CPA Review System. I did not take these when I was preparing for the CPA exam. However, I recently had the chance to evaluate them prior to writing this review and I found them to be solid.

I’ve had students tell me that they have used these to get over the hump. These are students who basically took other CPA review courses and came close to passing but failed the CPA exam. The Gleim full Review System helped add the few points necessary to get over the 75 passing score.

You can go to Gleim’s demo on their official website and see for yourself!

CPA License or Certificate?

I wrote about the CPA requirements in California as this is the state I went through myself, and also for 15% of CPA candidates every year.

You may have notice that besides the exam requirements (involving only in education), there are additional rules on satisfying the working experience requirement. I found a lot of such info on IPasstheCPAExam.com which I linked in the above.

CPA License or CertificateIn accounting qualifications in some parts of the world, such as ACCA, there are different tiers of qualification and they allow candidates without the experience (yet at least) to have some sort of title. For example, ACCA affiliate vs full ACCA member.

Is there such a thing for US CPA? The answer is yes (in the past), but not really (now).

How to Differentiate the CPA Certificate from CPA License

Many people, including myself, often make the mistake of using CPA certificate and CPA license as interchangeable words. Truth is that they are not the same.

When deciding between a CPA license or certificate, what is more suitable, and why?

Generally speaking, a CPA certificate is easier to obtain because in many cases it does not require the public accounting work requirement. Many accounting professionals who are already working strive to obtain this credential to increase their credibility and status within organizations.

The same can be said for several International students who aspire to get the CPA certificate to enhance their credentials, whether they plan to work in the United States or locally in their home countries where the CPA certificate may be perceived a lot more valuable than it is in the United States. It is a US based credential after all.

In any case, once you have your CPA certificate, you can go on to obtain your CPA license. Both require that you pass the CPA exam.

Let’s now look at the CPA license vs certificate in a bit more detail

How to Choose between CPA License or Certificate

CPA Certificate

  • Need to pass the CPA exam
  • Don’t need experience working in public accounting
  • Don’t need to take CPE classes
  • Cannot display the designation publicly such as on business cards
  • Cannot sign on client tax returns and/or audited financial statements – cannot open your own CPA firm

CPA License

  • Need to pass the CPA exam
  • For most states, need to pass the ethics exam or take an ethics course
  • Need work experience in public accounting or under a supervisor who is a CPA
  • Need to earn 40 CPE credits each year and 120 in a rolling 3 year period
  • Can publicly display the CPA credentials
  • Can sign on tax returns and/or audited financial statements, and open your own CPA firm

The toughest part of either is passing the CPA exam, which you have to do for both the certificate and the license. I believe you should get the full credential unless your personal situation precludes you from doing so.

CA CPA Exam Requirements

*IMPORTANT NOTE* This page contains information on the OLD California CPA exam requirements. This is only good for candidates who passed the CPA exam before 2014 and are ready to get the license can use the information below. Please get an update from the California State Board of Accountancy directly.

CA CPA Exam Requirements

Fulfilling the California CPA exam requirement is actually rather simple: you need a Bachelor degree with 24 accounting credit hours and 24 business credit hours.

When it comes to licensing, it gets more complicated with 2 pathways — you can choose to complete the full 150 credit hours, or 120 credit hours with one extra year of experience.

In order to sit for the exam in California, you need to have at least a bachelor degree, with 24 or more semester units in accounting courses and 24 or more semester units in business courses.

California is quite complicated in a way because there are two routes to get the license: Pathway 1 and Pathway 2. Pathway 1 requires more “experience- heavy” with at least 2 years of experience. Pathway 2 is “education-heavy” requiring 150 semester credit hours.


  • Pathway 1: 120 semester units (i.e. a 4-year bachelor degree)
  • Pathway 2: 150 semester units
  • You have to complete the education requirement before getting qualified to sit for the exam.


  • Pathway 1: 2 years of general experience
  • Pathway 2: 1 year of general experience
  • For both pathways, 500+ attest hours are needed for those who want to sign attest reports.

Non-public accounting work is accepted but it has to be verified by an active US CPA licensee. For public accounting work, it can possibly be verified by “CPA equivalent”. For details check with the California CPA Requirements: Exam Handbook for licensing or CA State Board.

For both pathways, you need to take an ethics exam. Please note that this exam is different from what other state boards require. Specifically, the CA State Board only accepts the Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) from the California CPA Education Foundation. The exam has to be taken within 2 years after the submission of the license application. Also, fingerprinting is required for the license

For out of state resident, the good news is that US citizenship and California residency are not required to take the exam and get the license. There is also no minimum age. Social security number is not required to sit for the exam, but needed to obtain the license

For further info, you may contact California Board of Accountancy:
2000 Evergreen Street, Suite 250
Sacramento, CA 95815-3832