If you’re thinking of tackling the CMA exam, you should definitely consider a CMA review course. After all, the right materials will help you study better, which means you could study less in the long run. So in this article, I’ll give you some tips about finding the best CMA exam course for your learning style and budget.
Why You Need a CMA Exam Review Course
The IMA (or Institute of Management Accountants) grants the CMA credential, which is recognized around the world. Each year, the IMA releases the CMA exam pass rates, which tend to hover around 50%. Plus, the IMA estimates that most candidates spend at least 150-170 hours studying for each half of the 2-part CMA exam. What’s more, candidates who don’t study—or just as importantly, study with the wrong materials—often fail on their first exam attempt.
If you fail an exam part, you can re-take it. However, the re-take fees are substantial, so you want to avoid them. Therefore, you might as well save yourself some money upfront by studying with a CMA exam prep course. But with so many on the market, which should you choose?
To help you select the best CMA exam prep for your learning style, I’ve reviewed the most comprehensive packages from some of the top courses: Becker CMA, Gleim CMA, Hock CMA, Surgent CMA, and Wiley CMAexcel. And after this course comparison, I’ll share some tips on what to look for when selecting a CMA course.
Beckeris a well-known name in the accounting industry. After all, Becker has been helpingCPAandCMAcandidates pass their credential exams for decades. However, in the past, Becker partnered with a third-party provider who actually wrote all of Becker’s CMA materials. But now, Becker has completely revamped its CMA courses. And consequently, all of the Becker materials are written by the company’s team of accounting experts. Therefore, the new Becker CMA video lectures, textbooks, and test bank match the quality the industry has come to expect from Becker.
Specifically, theBecker CMA Review Procourse comes with unlimited access to 70 practice essays and 3,000+ MCQs with more to be added in summer 2021. Plus, it also includes digital and printed textbooks, even though some providers are only giving PDFs these days. Of course, the course also has video lectures, all led by Becker’s expert instructors. Each video is short and only covers one topic, so you won’t have to sit through hours of dull lectures.
What’s more, Becker’s courses use adaptive software called Adaptive2U Technology by Sana Labs. In a nutshell, this software constantly accesses your performance as you answer MCQs. Next, the technology figures out what content you’ve mastered and probably don’t need to study anymore. But more importantly, it also pinpoints what topics need more practice. Then, it curates your lessons and directs you toward texts and videos that will strengthen your weak areas. Basically, this approach could help you study fewer hours.
Plus, Becker CMA Review Pro course gives you outstanding personalized support. In fact, it comes with five one-on-one virtual tutoring sessions with a Becker instructor. In addition, you can take Becker’s LiveOnline courses, too. And you can actually interact with your instructor and ask questions in real-time.
Gleim CMA: Quality materials for 40+ years
Gleim CMA has been helping accounting professionals pass their credential exams for over 40 years. And because of the value of their courses, it’s no wonder that so many candidates study with Gleim. For example, the Gleam CMA Premium Review includes 3,000+ practice MCQs and 167 sample essays, more than any other provider out there. Plus, you’ll also get 45+ hours of video lectures including the “Deep Dive” series, audio versions of many lectures, Gleim’s famous textbooks (print or digital), a personalized study planner, and access to your online materials until you pass the CMA exam. And when you take a Gleim mock exam, you’ll notice that the Gleim platform looks and feels just like the real CMA exam.
Gleim is another company that uses an e-learning system called SmartAdapt. Basically, it works by keeping track of your performance on practice questions and quizzes. As it monitors what content you’ve seemed to master, it will suggest content to study for the questions you’ve been missing, too.
Here’s one thing to note about Gleim: if you don’t already have a strong accounting background, you might be unfamiliar with some of the terms and concepts used in the Gleim course. So before you start to answer practice questions, just take some time to study first.
Hock: For international and US-based candidates alike
Hock CMA is popular with both international and US-based CMA candidates because of the high quality of its courses that are offered at a more affordable price point. Take the Hock CMA Review Complete package, for example. It’s a good value because it includes 3,500+ practice MCQs, 66 essay samples with answers, study texts (digital or hard copies), 4 practice exams, digital flashcards, 66 hours of video lectures, and even a personalized study planner. And just as importantly, the Hock CMA Review Complete package also gives you unlimited access to your online materials until you pass the exam. This way, you don’t need to repurchase your package if you happen to fail an exam part.
Plus, Hock’s guarantee should give you some peace of mind about purchasing a Hock course, too. According to Hock’s policy, if you work through most of the study material included in your course but still don’t pass one of your CMA exam sections, Hock will pay your exam re-take fees. I think that shows you that Hock has a lot of faith in their CMA courses.
Surgent: A popular course with e-learning software
And finally, you should also check out Surgent CMA Review. After all, Surgent comes highly rated from its previous users. If you go with the Surgent CMA Review Ultimate Pass package, you’ll receive 3,945+ MCQs that have detailed answer explanations, 65+ sample essays, full-length practice exams, flashcards, and 60+ hours of video lectures. What’s more, you’ll get free updates in case Surgent updates the study materials.
Surgent is a strong course for several reasons. First, Surgent’s lessons are bite-sized, meaning you can squeeze them into your busy life. Second, Surgent’s top courses come with access to virtual CMA coaching sessions, and that could be a big study boost.
And third, Surgent uses an award-winning e-learning platform called A.S.A.P. Technology. The software creates personalized study plans according to your anticipated exam date in combination with an analysis of your performance on practice questions. Basically, it works by directing your studies toward what content you don’t seem to know yet based on how you answer practice questions. And according to Surgent, this direction greatly reduces the number of hours their users spend studying for the CMA exam.
Wiley CMAexcel is a popular CMA study course because it is one of the IMA’s Strategic Partners. Basically, this means that the IMA trusts Wiley’s study material, so it might be right for you.
Wiley’s Platinum Review course includes plenty of study tools to keep you learning, like over 5,500 MCQs (multiple-choice questions), 16 sample essays, and 66 hours of instructional videos. Plus, you receive a personalized study planner, a mobile app, 800+ pages of study text available online, flashcards (digital or printed), and unlimited mock exams.
Moreover, Wiley breaks its courses into “Bite-Sized Lessons” that are designed to be short but effective. Wiley’s courses also use an e-learning Efficient Learning System. And what’s more, many candidates have crammed with Wiley’s “11th Hour Final Review” and found that it went over some of the exam’s hardest content right before their exam day.
And if you happen to fail the CMA Exam after studying with Wiley, the Partner Until You Pass Guarantee means that you won’t have to repay to keep studying with your Wiley course until you receive a better score.
It’s also worth mentioning that Wiley now uses an interactive learning platform, similar to many of today’s top CMA review courses. The FocusMe Technology monitors your performance as you work through the course and answer practice questions. Once it starts to learn what topics you need to study more, it will suggest study material and practice questions that will strengthen your weak content areas.
CMA Review Course Materials
Each CMA exam review company has developed slightly different learning tools, but they share a common goal. Simply put, they’re all designed to help you pass the CMA exam. But most courses include some sort of textbooks or study materials that are reinforced with video or audio lectures, practice questions, and other learning devices like flashcards.
However, the type of study materials and content delivery methods that work for you might not work for the next CMA candidate. Therefore, it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you begin to search for the CMA exam review course. After all, you don’t want to waste a lot of money on a course that ultimately just doesn’t work for how you learn.
Access length – make sure it’s long enough
Firstly, consider the access length of CMA exam courses. After all, most courses put the bulk of their material online, and you need a username and password to access them. Some courses only give you access for a limited amount of time – 12 or 18 months are common. So that means you can only study with your course during that timeframe.
When you first start to study for the CMA exam, 12 months might seem long enough. However, keep in mind that the CMA exam is actually given in two parts, so you’re essentially studying for two big exams and not just one. And most candidates spend hundreds of hours studying, which takes a while when you already have a job and other commitments. Plus, it’s inevitable that something in your personal or professional life will delay your studies for a bit. So really, it’s best to take a long-haul view of your study period.
So what happens if you purchase a course with only 12 months of access and you haven’t passed both parts of the CMA exam yet? Well, you’ll need to repurchase your course, and that’s a big expense.
Access until you pass
Therefore, I suggest purchasing a course with unlimited or “access until you pass,” meaning that your online login will be valid until you’ve passed the CMA exam. This type of unlimited access course can cost a little more upfront, but you could very well end up spending much less because you never have to repurchase your course materials.
Plus, an unlimited access course takes away the pressure of a ticking clock counting down the days until your CMA review package expires. And when you’re already under so much pressure, why not make this one thing a little easier on yourself?
Sample essay questions
Both Part 1 and Part 2 of the CMA exam includes essays and multiple-choice questions (or MCQs). Each essay is broken down into 2-7 smaller responses. Basically, you’re presented with a real-world scenario and then you’re asked to explain how you would respond and why.
Although some CMA candidates struggle with the essays, you can master them with practice. Therefore, look for a course with plenty of practice essay questions. And of course, make sure the essay samples have answer explanations, too.
MCQ test banks
Most CMA exam review providers refer to their collection of practice MCQs as “test banks.” The questions usually come from two places. First, the IMA writes new CMA exam questions each year and then releases the old ones as study material. CMA courses compile these previously released questions into their test banks. Or, some providers have CMA experts that write questions similar to what you’ll see on the exam.
The size and quality of a test bank are really important. To start, look for a course with thousands of MCQs. After all, one of the best ways to get ready for the exam is to practice with MCQs over and over until you start to ace them all. And if you only have a few hundred or even just one or two thousand questions, you’ll have to review the same questions. And that just doesn’t help you learn as quickly as you would if you had more MCQs at your disposal.
E-learning software and performance analytics
These days, e-learning software with performance tracking is taking over the education market. After all, you more often see e-learning in K-12 classrooms, so it’s not surprising that many CMA exam review courses are using similar platforms not. Besides, this kind of software can build a personalized learning experience that ultimately leads to few study hours.
But how do these courses work? Well, here’s a short outline of a typical scenario:
First, many courses that come with a personalized study planner will ask about your anticipated exam date and how many hours you can study each week. With this information, it starts to understand how much content you’ll need to cover each week as you study.
Second, you’ll take a diagnostic quiz or maybe even a series of quizzes of content that is likely to appear on the CMA exam. Then, the software analyzes your performance and builds a list of the content you’ve mastered (and therefore don’t need to study) and what you haven’t mastered (and need to focus on).
Next, the course will help you build your weekly studies based on your performance. For example, your course might suggest that you watch video lectures about a certain topic and reinforce your new knowledge with practice questions.
And finally, some courses even had predictive tools that show you what percentage of the CMA content you know, based on your practice question performance. Essentially, this type of feedback helps you understand when you’re ready to sit for the CMA exam.
Expert support and mentoring
Even if you’ve been in the accounting field for a while, you’ll probably have a question about the CMA exam content at some point. After all, the CMA exam is an “academic” one. That is, it tests you on material or nuanced details that you might not use in your daily practice.
Therefore, it’s useful to have access to accounting experts via your CMA exam review course when you need some help. However, review companies give you that help in different ways. Some have live (or live online) classes, so you can ask an instructor your question in real-time. Others have expert forums, and users post questions and receive a response in a certain time period.
Personalized study planners
The IMA’s Learning Outcome Statements is the official syllabus for the CMA exam. It’s fairly lengthy since the CMA exam is actually given in two parts. Therefore, it can be easy to look at the syllabus and feel overwhelmed with the amount of information that you’ll need to study.
However, that’s where a good personalized study planner comes in. A study planner will help you do just that…plan out your studies so that you’re guaranteed to cover all the material in time. The top courses include a customizable study planner, and I think they can be a big key to your overall success.
Video and audio lectures
If you’re like many candidates, you’ll do a lot of studying with video or audio lessons. Besides, after going through college, most of us learn through lecture formats. Plus, you can watch videos on your own time and take notes as you go alone to learn even more. So it’s important to focus on the quality of a course’s lectures before you purchase it.
But when it comes to CMA exam review courses, what exactly does “quality” look like? Well, the answer honestly depends on the user. However, here are some things to consider:
Video length. For example, do you like longer lectures that cover wide topics? Or do you prefer shorter lectures that take a deep dive look into topics?
Number of lecture hours. If you’re someone who enjoys learning from videos, make sure the course includes enough to cover all the content.
Level of engagement. Some instructors are super engaging and almost downright entertaining. But others are just not, and it can be a real struggle to stay awake and focus through a boring video.
Quality of the instruction. Of course, you have to be able to follow the course’s instructors. After all, what’s the point of watching a video if the information isn’t presented in a way that helps you understand a topic.
So since lectures are such a critical component of a review course, how will you know anything about the quality of the lectures? Well, most CMA exam review providers offer free trials. Therefore, I suggest signing up for a trial and taking a look at the videos before you make a final purchase.
Textbooks and other study materials
Of course, despite the availability of video lectures, most of us still study the old-fashioned way: by reading a book. Therefore, the quality of a course’s textbooks or study notes is important, too. Besides, a lot of people—myself included—like to study with books because they can highlight and take notes in the margin.
But don’t think that all CMA exam textbooks are equal. For example, some companies will send you hard copies. Others, though, only provide you with online texts or even just a PDF that you’ll have to print and bind yourself. So if you don’t like e-books, take note.
Mock exams are another critical component of a good CMA exam review course. After all, you won’t really know if you’re ready for the exam until you sit down and take a practice exam. And like the point I just made about textbooks, don’t’ assume that all providers have the same mock exams. They don’t. In fact, some are better than others. So what should you look for?
First, your mock exams should mimic the look and feel of the real CMA exam. Basically, the CMA exam review course interface should have the same functionality as the version you’ll see on exam day. This way, when you take the real one, it will feel like you’re just taking another practice exam—no sweat.
Plus, your practice exams should be full-length and timed. Why? Well, one of the biggest challenges of the CMA exam is the pacing of the questions. You can’t linger too long on any one question or you’ll run out of time to finish the exam. But if you practice the pacing, you’ll get used to carefully reading the question, selecting the correct answer, and moving on to the next question without hesitation.
Picking a CMA Course
In the end, how do you pick the CMA exam review course that will work for you? Consider these suggestions:
First, take note of your learning style. Do you like to watch classroom-style lectures on video? Or do you prefer taking notes in the margin of a textbook? Or do you like to quiz yourself with flashcards?
Second, when and where do you plan to study? Can you use an online-only course, or do you need access to offline materials, too? Will you need a mobile app or other tools to help you study on-the-go?
And finally, what’s your budget? Do you need a payment plan? And have you looked for promo codes and CMA course discounts? (Hint: keep reading for some discount links!)
A Few CMA Study Tips
Education researchers how most people learn best, and it’s really fairly straightforward. To maximize your study time, use this 1-2-3 punch: read, hear, and then engage with the materials.
But how do you do that with a self-study course? To begin, read the material in your textbook or study notes. Then, listen to that same material in a video or audio lecture. And finally, reinforce the content by interacting with it, either by answering practice questions, quizzing yourself with flashcards, taking a mock exam, or even engaging in a class discussion.
When you interact with content via these three methods (reading, hearing, and engaging), you learn the best.
Study at the time that’s best for you
The IMA claims that most candidates spend 150-170 hours studying for each part of the CMA exam. In sum, that’s more than 300 hours. And that’s just an average, so you could spend even more time getting ready for the big day.
Therefore, to maximize your efforts with your CMA exam review course, study at a time that’s best for you. Are you a morning person? If so, find a way to carve out some time to study every morning. Or are you a night owl and like to stay up after everyone else in the house has gone to bed? Conversely, will you be studying on-the-go with your online course?
Whatever works best for you, create a schedule and stick to it.
Budget Considerations for CMA Exam Prep
Of course, as with any big purchase, you might not be able to ignore your budget when you’re picking a CMA exam review course. Plus, you don’t want to waste valuable resources on a course that isn’t right for you.
However, don’t automatically dismiss a course because you initially think you can’t afford it. Instead, consider your CMA exam review course as an investment in your future and your career. After all, CMAs have better access to top job positions and higher salaries than their uncredentialled co-workers. So even if there is an up-front cost, it’s likely that you’ll make up for the cost of your course when you start to see better salaries.
In addition, I suggest purchasing the best course for you because you’re going to save yourself a lot of study time. And time is money, right?
Plus, many courses offer payment plans so you can spread out the cost over time. And of course, keep in mind that substantial discounts are often available. So even if you think you can’t afford a top course, you might be pleasantly surprised after you factor in a deep discount.
By now, you’ve probably noticed that some CMA review providers have comprehensive courses that include lots of different study tools like textbooks, flashcards or study notes, video or audio lectures, a test bank with thousands of practice questions, and maybe a mobile app. On the other hand, companies also sell so-called “supplements,” which are basically just components of their comprehensive courses that they are selling piecemeal. For instance, companies sometimes sell their test banks (collections of practice questions) or textbooks as stand-alone learning tools.
So which is better? Should you purchase a comprehensive course, which includes a lot more study materials but has a higher overall price? Or should you just buy one or two supplements and save yourself some cash?
It’s best to purchase a full course
Well, based on my personal experience, you’re better off purchasing the best full comprehensive CMA course that you can. And let me tell you why.
You need more than a supplement
First, supplements don’t have all of the tools that you really need to study. For example, let’s say that you pick up a textbook from one of the companies I’ve reviewed here. Even if you read it cover to cover, you still don’t have practice questions to challenge yourself. And you can’t take any mock exams when you think you’re ready to take the real exam. And even more importantly, you won’t have any sort of professional expert support at your fingertips when you get stuck with a study problem.
Access until you pass is best
Second, if you only purchase a supplement, you won’t be able to take advantage of a company’s access until you pass guarantee, if it has one. Moreover, you also won’t be able to get free updates to your material. That is, the content of the CMA exam syllabus can change from time to time. When that happens, CMA review companies will change their study materials. However, if you purchase a stand-alone supplement, chances are that you won’t get a free update if the exam content changes. And that means you could be studying with outdated material, wasting your time on material that won’t even appear on the exam.
More learning tools = more productive studying
Third, and perhaps most importantly, you won’t be studying at your prime if you only go with a supplement. Earlier in the article, do you remember when I mentioned that you learn best when you read, hear, and engage with content? Well, that’s why comprehensive CMA exam review courses come with textbooks and lectures and ways to apply your knowledge through taking practice questions, sitting for a mock exam, or even taking part in a live classroom discussion. But if you only purchase a supplement, you won’t be able to take full advantage of the quickest way to learn.
CMA Exam Review Courses: What’s the Best?
I hope this article has given you some thoughts to consider before you purchase a CMA exam review course. After all, it’s a big decision because the right course could help you pass the CMA exam on your first try.
But among five strong courses (Becker CMA, Wiley CMAexcel, Gleim CMA, Hock International, and Surgent CMA), is there a best? Well personally, if I had to pick a course for myself, I would go with Becker. Let me explain why. First, Becker has completely rewritten its CMA materials, and now they are better than ever. Second, the bite-sized videos are great for working professionals who don’t have a lot of time for long lectures. And third, Becker’s e-learning software directs your studies in such a way that you’ll probably need to study fewer hours.
Basically, Becker helps you study better, which means you’ll be better prepared for the big exam day.
In this comprehensive chart, I've compared the best CPA review courses in the industry. I have firsthand experience with these courses, so I'm sure that one of them will work for you. So, you can use this page to explore the features of CPA review courses and get more information about the best CPA Exam prep solution for you. With these specifics, you can choose the course that accommodates your learning style.
Disclosure: The I Pass Team may earn a small amount of compensation if you purchase CPA review courses from our links; however, our team uses these revenues to maintain the site and produce awesome free content just for you!
Disclosure: The Accounting Resume Team may earn a small amount of compensation if you purchase from our links; our team uses these revenues to maintain the site and produce awesome free content just for you!
Best CMA Review Courses, CMA Discounts & CMA Exam Promo Codes (Biggest & Best CMA Discounts)
Enter the code at checkout and save 15% on both the IMA membership and CMA entrance fee!
More CMA Discounts
Sometimes, the IMA provides promo codes for CMA exam fees, for Middle Eastern candidates in particular. Right now, you can use code IPASS15 to save 15% on your IMA membership and CMA application fee!
Discounts on CMA Courses
Once you become a CMA, you’ll experience the CMA benefits of the certification. In fact, the CMA will pay for itself sooner than you think. The CMA affords career advantages such as increased income, incentives, and job opportunities. But before it does, you must pay for the certification with time, effort, and money. Specifically, your funds have to cover CMA exam fees and study materials.
Even though the CMA certification is worth the expense, you don't want to make that expense any bigger than necessary. That's where CMA course discounts come in. With these discounts, you can save hundreds of dollars on your CMA review. If you want to save big and pay less for the CMA, just use a CMA course discount today!
The Best CMA Discounts
If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the awesome CMA review discounts available, don't worry! I'll help you choose the best one for you.
The first thing you must do is figure out which materials and features your CMA review course must have. To figure this out, you should consider your learning style and knowledge levels. You should also consult my comparison of the most popular CMA review courses. Once you know what you're looking for, analyze each CMA review course on the market to see if they include what you absolutely need.
If you find the course you want doesn't come at a price you're willing to pay, then search for a CMA discount for that course. The right discount can save you hundreds of dollars on the CMA course of your dreams!
However, the best CMA discount you find may still not be enough to lower the price of your perfect CMA review course into your monetary range. In that case, you may need to reconsider your pricing priorities. Giving yourself a CMA course budget can be a good thing, but sometimes, you can get a lot more value out of a course if you spend a little more. And when it's the course you need to pass, it's worth every penny. You need the right CMA course so you can pass the exam the first time. Passing as soon as possible saves time and money, so the course that helps you do that is always a good deal.
CMA Exam Promo Codes
If the CMA discount you want requires you to use a CMA exam promo code, you just have to follow these steps.
To redeem a CMA exam promo code, you first have to copy the code from this site. Copying the code is as simple as clicking one of the buttons that says something like, “Get the code!” It's so easy because this button both copies the code for you and takes you to the review provider’s site. On that site, you must add the CMA course you want to your cart. Then, at checkout, you’ll see the place to paste the promo code. Once you've pasted the code, click “Apply.” The cart will refresh to apply the discount and reveal how much you’ve saved. You can now buy the best CMA course for you and begin preparing for the CMA exam!
As you can see, saving big by using a CMA exam promo code is pretty easy! Try the process today with one of the CMA exam promo codes here!
Other Ways to Save on CMA Study Materials
First of all, the easiest and most effective way to save money is to pass the CMA exam the first time. However, there are also a few other steps you can take to save.
1. Explore the Free Trials
Working through the free trial of a course helps you see whether the course addresses your learning style and affords plenty of review resources. Thankfully, both Gleim CMA and Wiley CMA have free demos available, so I suggest your start your CMA review search with these providers.
2. Maximize Your CMA Test Prep
The test prep program included in your CMA course is more than just a collection of practice CMA questions. Instead, it's an assortment of opportunities to solidify your understanding. Each practice question tests you on a specific concept, so if you get the question right, you've reached a deep level of understanding with the concept. If you get the question wrong, you get to learn more about the concept and use your mistake to improve your comprehension.
3. Create Your Own Flashcards
Now, I know that many CMA exam prep providers include digital or printed flashcards with their courses. But I personally believing that making your own is the best way to go.
When I was studying for the exam, I filled 3x5 index cards with the key concepts and important points. Some of my friends filled a few notebook pages instead. Either way works as long as you give your brain the opportunity to process all the content you learned.
Got Any Other Good Ideas?
Please share your ideas with us! The CMA community and I are eager to know how you plan to save money on the CMA exam! It doesn't have to cost a fortune to become a CMA!
Drafting an accounting resume should be nothing new for you, but have you ever reviewed a resume on behalf of your company? I have.
I started my job at an investment bank and was part of the team who screened resumes for first-round interviews of the analysts’ program (yes, this was done by junior bankers and not HR professionals). This was typically done after a long day, and the stack was thick, like 3-4 inches, so I must have been reviewing hundreds of resumes in one go.
A Process of Elimination
The most efficient way to process the pile was by elimination. I looked at the GPA. Anything below 3.0 was out. More than 2-3 typos? Out. Ugly formatting? Out.
Then, I skimmed through the text. This was more of a subjective process because we weren’t asked to look for distinctive traits or experiences. We were told to pick the ones we “liked.” I picked my favorites based on:
Those with higher grades and relevant internships
Those who had a profile similar to mine
Those I knew personally (either directly or indirectly)
Those who had done something so unique that I wanted to meet them in person
It is pretty hard to work on bettering your grades and landing internships once you graduate. Also, it’s challenging to fit your resume to match the profile of your reviewer because you never know who that person will be.
But you can definitely try to make some contact with existing employees and include something unique in your accounting resume so that everyone wants to invite you for an interview.
Find Your Accounting Resume Hook
I have seen quite a few “Miss Texas” and part-time models on accounting resumes. And while this is interesting, you run the risk of being interviewed by people who are only interested in what you look like. In my experience, my peers who selected models had almost no intention of providing the interviewee with an offer, regardless of how well they interviewed.
But if you have done something extraordinary, like you have set up a non-profit organization in Africa, this is a “hook” that almost always works to get people’s attention.
Also, a hook is much more impactful than a resume objective statement; these statements just take up valuable space on your resume, so go against your desire to include one.
Your Accounting Resume at The End Of The Day
We had 4-5 analysts reviewing the same stack of resumes, and our picks were often strikingly similar. That’s why most people either get no follow-up or lots of follow-ups from their resumes.
And if you’re pursuing big 4, discover how to make your big 4 resume shine. (Don’t forget what you learned here though — apply all the tips you can!)
The old school approach has always suggested an “objective” at the beginning of your resume, stating your desired job and field.
I am not a fan of this. Let me explain.
3 Reasons Why an Accounting Resume Objective Wastes Valuable Space in Your Resume
1. No Need to State the Obvious
If you are joining a standard program such as those offered in Big 4, or management trainee program in the Fortune 500 companies, stating the objective is not necessary because, well, there isn’t much to say other than you are interested in joining that particular program.
There is no point saying the obvious and wasting valuable space in your resume.
2. You Said What You Want, But What’s Your Value-Add to the Company?
If you are contacting a recruiter for general positioning in the accounting department, then it *might* be helpful to say what you are looking for. Examples:
Seeking a job in financial accounting to utilize my audit experience from Big 4
To obtain an internship to gain experience in governmental accounting where I would like to specialize in
The problem is, while you state what you want from the company, you are not telling the reader why they want you. The recruiter only cares whether you are a good candidate for the company, not vice versa. That’s why I don’t think an objective statement will do you any good.
3. It’s Pretty Lame Anyway
It’s pretty hard to make an accounting resume objective sound impressive no matter how you frame it (because, again, it is a self-centered statement). If you can’t wow the recruiter, don’t bother.
I understand that in some culture / country it is customary to put in such an accounting resume objective on your CV. If so, it’s totally fine; but if you are looking for a job in the US, I’d recommend that you skip it.
A cover letter is a much better way to express your interest to the firm. We will go through this in the next post.
Rumor has it that Big 4 hire only attractive people. How true is this?
Research Indicates a Bias
According to a research from the University of Michigan, beautiful people make more money. This “beauty premium” is comparable to the gap between genders and ethnicity. Another research from Australian National University reveals that taller people earn more, because they are perceived to be more intelligent and powerful.
People like to be around attractive individuals because they appear to be more “sociable, dominant, mentally healthy, intelligent and socially skilled” than their less appealing peers. These people have benefited for this bias for years, giving them higher levels of confidence.
Attractive People Perform Better at Interviews
Attractive individuals tend to be more confident, and likely perform better at interviews.
Also, people are naturally drawn to beauty and average looking candidates may be overlooked. Let’s say a recruiter met 100 students at a college fair. If everyone is equally smart, she is more likely to remember the tall, cute guy.
This is human nature and we have to accept this to some degree, not only in Big 4 but in every company in every industry.
What Exactly does it Mean by Attractive?
Let’s define the word “attractive”. It could mean hot-looking, charismatic or presentable.
Big 4 are business service firms. Interacting and soliciting business from clients is an important part of the job. Candidates who are smart, and at the same time good with people, are naturally their top choice. I don’t think Big 4 are looking for hotties. Instead, they prefer presentable candidates.
How to Look Presentable at Interviews
Are there ways to make ourselves more presentable? I think so.
1. Always Take Care of Your Appearance
This applies to the entire recruiting process, from attending the college fair to your final interview. No one expects you to look like an airbrushed model, but it helps to put some time into your appearance. Fair or not, right or wrong, it changes the way you are treated in many ways.
2. Work on Your People Skills
Firms look for people they can be comfortable putting in front of their clients. Think of yourself as the client. Whom do you want to see? Likely a well-groomed, cheerful and outgoing individual who are comfortable talking to different types of people. Does this person need to be physically attractive? It helps, but not a must.
Big 4 aren’t necessary going for good looks, but for those who are good with people.
Attractive individuals have the advantage of attracting people’s attention, but they also need to develop their social and communications skills to become top candidates for Big 4.
Therefore, if your face looks like a brick, you may have an uphill battle but bear in mind that Big 4 aren’t picking up hotties. If you overcome that with solid experience, professionalism, confidence, and great attitude, you can get hired with no problem.
What do you think? Any stories to share? Drop a note below.
You may be wondering about the difference between CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and accountants in general… aren’t they the same?
Well, yes and no.
CPA vs Accountant: What’s the Difference?
Every CPA is an accountant but not all accountants are CPAs. I like to describe CPAs as “Black Belt Accountants”, meaning that they have achieved beyond what a normal accountant does through advanced education, training, education and high ethical standard.
Let’s compare CPA to accountants in terms of education, experience and opportunities.
The CPA educational requirement is the most demanding among all accounting and finance qualifications: you need to be in accounting concentration or have taken enough credit hours to demonstrate the same level. Also, you must have at least a 4-year bachelor’s degree, and have taken 150 credit hours of higher education.
As a CPA license holder, people have comfort in your education level simply by looking at your title.
CPAs, not normal accountants, fill senior finance positions.
In light of the financial scandals in the past years, corporations have increasing pressure to only hire qualified professionals in order to uphold the accuracy and integrity of the company’s finances.
At the same time, for non-CPA accountants who move up to such senior positions after years of hard work, they are asked by the company’s board to “get the CPA done” within a year or they will be fired. I have more and more readers in this situation.
If you are young and have the time and energy to take on this exam, it is the best time to do it.
Your opportunities aren’t limited to CPA firms or auditing. The CPA qualification is the most recognized in the accounting field, so it is applicable and beneficial to any career related to accounting.
It could be the typical Big 4 route towards partnership, or it could be as different as a strategic advisor to an amazing start-up. You could specialize in tax in an investment bank to offer valuable insight in M&A structure, or be the boss by launching your own CPA firm. Sky is the limit in terms of what the CPA qualification can help in your future career.
Because of these reasons, accountants in different backgrounds are considering getting a CPA to enhance their credentials and income generation power. You can learn more about why you may also want to become a CPA here.
How to become a CPA
A CPA candidate has to go through 5 steps in their journey towards a CPA qualification. These steps are proof of their expertise in the following areas:
So you’ve been chucking along in your accounting career for a while. Things are fine but you are looking for more… whether it’s more money, more challenges and more interesting work, your career is probably due for an upgrade. Let’s take a look at how you can do it.
1. Switch to a Bigger Firm
Whether you are an auditor or financial analysts working in a company’s accounting department, you can always make the jump to a bigger competitor.
For auditors, it would mean switching from local/regional firms to national firms and the Big 4; for those working in non-public accounting, it could mean going from a regional company to a big, multi-national, fortune 500 corporations.
So What Is The Benefit?
Better pay and benefits – you can expect a small jump from your pay check, and a considerably better benefit package if you work for the big firms
Better job security – nothing is guarantee, but bigger firms are usually better in riding through financial crises and bad times
Greater exposure – everything is bigger, more complex, and (arguably) more interesting. Not everyone likes this but is certainly attractive to the more ambitious accountants
More opportunities in internal transfer – transfers between departments are common and sometimes encouraged in these firms. It’s a great opportunity to keep your accounting job interesting and greatly enhance your exposure and networking within the firm. For the adventurous lot, you can even apply to overseas post for a truly special experience.
Regional vs Big 4
If you are working in a “hot” industry and Big 4 is looking to expand that division, you have a pretty chance of success. But is the switching good or bad for you?
Here is the pros and cons of working in a regional CPA firm vs Big 4.
2. From Public Accounting To The Corporates
If you look at the triangular structure of any CPA firm, you will not be surprised that most auditors will end up leaving public accounting and work somewhere else. Most of them will likely work with their former clients or related companies on the business side.
Depending on the size of the company and whether it is a private or listed company, your experience will vary greatly.
It could be a pretty stable job churning out monthly management report and annual financial report.
It could also be an exciting and demanding job with handling the books for multiple subsidiaries, supplying data to business units, legal, investor relations and other divisions, crafting projections, answering questions from senior management and working on ad hoc financing projects…
General tips is to pick a business sector that (1) you are interested in and (2) has a relatively good future. Then it could be a stable yet interesting job.
3. From Corporates To Public Accounting
The switch from corporate to public accounting is relatively rare, and if it does happen it is most likely at the senior level when the CPA firm looks for expertise in a particular business sector.
If you started with public accounting and switched to corporate in the middle of your career, when you accumulate enough experience and connection you can certainly think about going back to public accounting by starting your own CPA firm.
As your own boss, there are more flexibility and upside, but it comes with the extra stress and risk that you need to consider as a business owner.
4. Get Into A More Specialized Field
Specialization often requires specific skills, which means that the job nature could be more interesting and likely more pay.
Therefore, as mentioned in point 2, it is important to pick the “right” sector so you can benefit from an interesting and lucrative niche when you gain the necessary experience.
5. Become A CPA!
As an accounting professional, I am sure you know how the CPA title demands respect from your family, friends, colleagues and business partners. More importantly, as you move up your career path either in public or non-public accounting, you need the CPA title to secure the job.
If you aren’t a CPA yet, chances are that you’ve thought about becoming one from time to time.
Besides the respect, a CPA title helps you:
Earn more – 10% based on a recent recruiter’s survey. Remember, it’s 10% every year
Break into lucrative and specialized niches that open only to CPAs
Keep your job – as you get promoted to senior positions such as controller and CFO, you may be asked to get a CPA qualification… or out. Better get it done sooner rather than later.
How Do I Become A CPA?
You can check out this beginner’s guide to pass the CPA Exam, or a similar page written for candidate with international background. Good luck!
Think of public accountants as “external” accountants who provides services to clients such as audit, consulting and tax planning services.
Then, think of private (non-public or corporate) accountants as “internal” accountants who work in a company, non-profit organization or a government agency. You can work in the financial accounting, management (cost) accounting, budgeting, corporate planning, treasury or in the internal audit department within the corporation.
How do I Choose between Public Accounting vs Private Accounting?
It largely depends on your career aspiration, strengths and personality.
For public accounting, you need…
Good People Skills. Public accounting is a client oriented business. This means that you need good interpersonal skill. For example, you’ll need to communicate effectively with your clients. It is also helpful to understand the client’s business and to request information for your analysis.
It may sound easy, but not all clients are willing to release all information. You need to be tactful and consistent to get the data and complete the audit work.
As you move towards partnership, you’ll acquire important skill in how to deal with difficult clients and maintain ethical standards and integrity at the same time.
Good Sales Skills. You need to solicit business for your firm, and this is people skill at the next level. Good sales and marketing skill (while keeping your professionalism) is critical if you aspire to become a partner or launch your own CPA firm
What’s Not-So-Good in Public Accounting
More Stressful Environment. Because you are dealing with a wide variety of people and demands, public accountant’s work is more stressful. On the other hand, private accountants work with the same group of colleagues and tend to have a more relaxed lifestyle.
Longer Hours. Because you work with clients instead of colleagues, the deadlines are often hard deadlines. Over-time and late nights are common especially for junior accountants. Other than the account-closing month, corporate accountants have more or less a 9-5 job.
Less Stability. While accounting job is considered one of the most secure jobs, the boom and bust of economic cycle does affect CPA firms as clients cut budget and corporate finance activities. Within public accounting, audit and tax teams are more secure than advisory teams for this reason.
What’s Great in Public Accounting
Better Exposure. Working in a public accounting firm expose you to a wide variety of projects, possibly in different industries. This is an unrivaled experience when compared to an accounting role in one company.
More Doors Opened. An experience in CPA firm (especially Big 4) is valuable for your resume. It is always easier to go from public accounting to private accounting than vice versa.
Both public and non-public accounting can offer rewarding careers for students interested in the accounting field. There are lots of interesting CPA career paths as you gain more experience in your niche.
In terms of what to wear to an interview, men and women have the same rules:
Conservative. Smart. Appropriate.
Here are the suggestions for ladies. (For men, please click here)
1. Stay Conservative
This is the number one rule in any interviews. There are many ways to look good and smart, but wearing few pieces of cloth isn’t one of them. At the very least, don’t show cleavage and red bra straps — it kills your interview immediately if meeting a female partner.
2. Look Smart
So, how do you look sharp? Remember these 3 rules: good fit, good color and good fabric.
For ladies, I would go for a pant suit or a skirt suit, with a blouse.
I generally prefer the skirt unless you feel uncomfortable showing your knees and calves. The suit should have a good cut. This means two things:
Fitted to your build: If the clothes are too big, you look sloppy; if too tight, you look intense (and worse, your undergarment shows). Not the type of personalities you want to show to interviewers.
In style: please invest in at least 1-2 suits bought within 2 years so the cutting matches with the current style. Never borrow a suit from your mom.
I would also pick a darker color. Unlike the man, I think girls can pull off with a black suit as long as it goes with a blouse with lighter color. If wearing a suit without a blouse, then you may consider charcoal, a darker shade of ash gray, midnight blue, maroon or raw umber depending on your skin color.
A simple design and a light natural color would work for most ladies. I probably wouldn’t go for pure white because it looks austere and unfriendly. A color that is too close to your skin tone isn’t a good choice either. Some girls look fabulous in bright colors so you may consider that, but bear in mind the first rule on conservatism.
A pair of good quality stud earrings and possibly a simple necklace can add an air of elegance to your appearance. I would skip the bracelet and anything that dangles. Definitely no ankle bracelet.
For bags, try to stick with a darker and more conservative color. Also, skip your Prada — if your bag looks more expensive than the female partner’s, not good.
Again, conservatism rules. No open toes and super high heels. Anything opposite to CFM pumps. Don’t don’t forget your panty hose for a formal business look. I would bring a pair of extra for long office interviews.
3. Dress Appropriately
In most cases, wear business formal. This applies to career fairs, Meet the Firms, pre-interview dinners and the actual interviews.
In some cases you may be invited to an occasion that is obviously more causal, such as a BBQ lunch at a partner’s home. Then you wear business casual or even casual.
If not sure, always ask the recruiter before hand. If for some reason you are unable to contact her, wear something that looks business formal with the jacket and business casual when without.
If you know you look good, it will instill confidence in you, which will come across in your personality when you interact with interviewers. This is a huge psychological advantage that you should have in your court going into the interview process.