Jerricho Garcia passes national CPA exam before graduating
Taking more exams outside of regular coursework is not something most college students readily sign up for — let alone four exams that take four hours each to complete and countless more hours of study time.
But Jerricho Garcia, an accounting major at the University of Guam graduating this month, has assumed the challenge with great success. His personal drive paired with the preparation, internship and international competition opportunities, and encouragement through UOG’s Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting Program have led Garcia to pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure exam while still attending school. With pass rates around 50%, the CPA exam is generally considered to be a difficult licensure exam. Moreover, he passed all four parts of the exam on the first try.
“To pass the CPA exam while in college is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Dean Annette T. Santos of the School of Business & Public Administration. “This means Jerricho, with a CPA in hand, is that much more ahead of his peers when he starts his job. It also positions him for promotional opportunities and an attractive salary.”
A CPA is the highest level of accountant and is required to legally provide certain accounting services to the public. Passing the four exam sections is a requirement to become a CPA in any state or territory. While most states require a bachelor’s degree before sitting for the exam, Garcia took advantage of Guam law, which allows students to begin taking the exam sections within 18 months of their graduation date.
Garcia discovered his passion for accounting before ever setting foot into a university accounting course. He first took an accounting class in high school, and despite the coursework all being on paper, he found the work intriguing.
His inclination toward accounting became even more apparent with his first job out of high school. Upon graduating, Garcia enlisted in the U.S. Army and worked as a unit supply specialist at Fort Knox in Kentucky, where he was tasked with the general upkeep and organization of his unit’s equipment and supplies. He likened the work to much of what he enjoyed about accounting, and that’s when he decided to pursue an accounting degree at the University of Guam following his military service commitment.
Garcia had intended to obtain his CPA license soon after joining the workforce, but once Garcia and a fellow accounting student began researching Guam’s CPA licensure and exam requirements, a friendly competition ensued to see who could pass all four exam sections first.
In all, it took Garcia one year to study for and take all four exam sections, winning the competition with his friend, who, to be fair, also has a full-time job, Garcia said.
“Jerricho is an inspiration to our accounting majors,” Santos said. “His ability to pass the CPA exam while still in college shows that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.”
The faculty within UOG’s Accounting Program encourage students to take the exam as early as possible before their career impacts their time to do so. The school also provides opportunities for students to gain valuable experience, including through internships and the chance to compete in off-island competitions and conferences. Garcia interned at a public accounting firm. He also attended the Inter-Collegiate Finance Competition in the Philippines in November and the International Conference on Business, Economics, and Information Technology in March in Singapore.
Going into the exam, Garcia expected he would need years of experience to pass. However, now having taken and passed each section, he said that it’s much less about experiential knowledge.
In fact, Garcia said taking the exam while still a full-time student was beneficial, and he believes that many other accounting students would benefit from taking the exam before entering the workforce as well.
“I was already in the mindset of studying for school — just throw in another ‘class,’” he said.
Garcia will now have to accumulate one to two years of experience in the field before he can obtain his license.
Throughout his job-hunting process, Garcia said interviewers commented that they were very impressed by his determination and commitment to get a head start on his licensure. Set to graduate on May 26, 2019, Garcia already has a job offer from a public accounting firm to work in their auditing department.
As a soon-to-be professional accountant, Garcia will begin to gain the needed field experience. He also plans to begin work soon on a master’s degree in accounting or business administration, which will give him more credit hours to lessen the amount of field experience time he will need for the license.
Santos said the UOG School of Business & Public Administration Accounting Program is working ardently to equip all of UOG’s accounting students for success on the CPA exam.
“Our students receive a great education from the School of Business & Public Administration faculty, and we will continue to do our best to provide them with excellent experiences,” she said.