Studying for the CPA Exam While Working Full-Time Job

Guide to Prepping for the CPA Exam with a Full-time Job

studying-for-the-cpa-exam-while-working-full-time-jobThe journey to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a challenging one, especially if you have a full time job. For many aspiring CPAs, the path involves juggling full-time work with rigorous exam preparation. This balance can be overwhelming, but with the right strategies and mindset, it is entirely achievable.

Let’s explore effective tactics for studying for the CPA exam while working full-time, aiming to provide a comprehensive guide to help candidates navigate this demanding period in their professional lives.

Understanding the CPA Exam

Before diving into exam preparation strategies, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the CPA exam itself.

The exam is divided into four sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

Each section has its unique set of challenges, and candidates are required to pass all four within an 18-month window, achieving a score of 75 or higher on each.

This means that you don’t have time to waste. Once you pass the your first section, you can’t wait around or take extra breaks in between sections. You have to take them back to back in order to give yourself enough time to pass all of them before the 18-month window passes.

Let’s look at some study tips.

5 Tips to Study for the CPA Exam While Working Full-Time

Yes, you can pass the CPA exam while working a full time job. In fact, most CPA candidates have already started their careers before they take the first exam. You just have to manage your study time and stay focused.

Here are the five more effective tips to prep for the CPA exam while working your full-time job:

  1. Effective Time Management
  2. Utilizing Resources Wisely
  3. Balancing Work and Study
  4. Staying Motivated and Focused
  5. Test-Taking Strategies

Let’s take a look at each.

Effective Time Management

The most critical component of successfully studying for the CPA exam while working full-time is effective time management. Candidates should start by creating a realistic study schedule that accommodates their work commitments and personal life. This schedule should allocate specific time slots for studying, ensuring consistent progress.

One effective approach is to break down the study material into manageable sections, focusing on one topic at a time. This method not only makes the content more digestible but also helps in retaining information. Additionally, incorporating short breaks during study sessions can enhance focus and prevent burnout.

Utilizing Resources Wisely

A plethora of resources is available to CPA candidates, ranging from review courses and textbooks to practice exams and online forums. It is vital to choose the right materials that align with one’s learning style and exam preparation needs.

Many candidates find success with comprehensive CPA review courses, which offer structured study plans, video lectures, and ample practice questions. Investing in quality materials can significantly impact preparation effectiveness, providing candidates with the tools they need to succeed.

Balancing Work and Study

Working full-time while preparing for the CPA exam requires a delicate balance. Candidates should communicate their study commitments to their employers, seeking support and understanding. Some companies may offer study leave or flexible work arrangements, which can be invaluable during this time.

It’s also crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance, ensuring sufficient time for relaxation and self-care. Stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies can play a vital role in maintaining mental well-being during this demanding period.

Staying Motivated and Focused

Maintaining motivation and focus is essential for CPA candidates, particularly those balancing work and study. Setting clear goals, tracking progress, and celebrating milestones can help sustain motivation levels.

Joining study groups or online communities can provide additional support, allowing candidates to share resources, exchange tips, and stay accountable. Remaining positive, maintaining a growth mindset, and visualizing success can also contribute to staying focused and motivated throughout the preparation journey.

Test-Taking Strategies

As the exam date approaches, candidates should shift their focus to test-taking strategies. This includes familiarizing themselves with the exam format, practicing time management, and honing their problem-solving skills.

Taking full-length practice exams under exam conditions can provide invaluable insights, helping candidates identify their strengths and areas for improvement. Reviewing incorrect answers, understanding the rationale behind them, and learning from mistakes are crucial steps in this process.


Balancing full-time work with CPA exam preparation is undoubtedly a formidable challenge, but it is far from impossible. By implementing effective time management strategies, utilizing resources wisely, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, staying motivated, and focusing on test-taking strategies, candidates can navigate this journey with confidence and poise.

The path to becoming a CPA is a demanding one, but the rewards of achieving this prestigious designation are immeasurable, both professionally and personally.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it typically take to prepare for the CPA exam while working full-time?

The preparation time can vary significantly depending on the individual’s prior knowledge, study habits, and work commitments, but on average, candidates might spend 6-12 months preparing for the CPA exam while working full-time.

What are the best study materials for the CPA exam?

The best study materials vary by individual preferences, but comprehensive CPA review courses with a proven track record, such as Becker, Wiley, and Roger, are highly recommended by many successful candidates.

How can I maintain a healthy work-life balance while preparing for the CPA exam?

Establishing a realistic study schedule, communicating your commitments to your employer, and ensuring time for relaxation and self-care are key strategies to maintain a healthy work-life balance during CPA exam preparation.

How do I stay motivated while balancing work and CPA exam preparation?

Setting clear goals, tracking progress, joining study groups, maintaining a positive mindset, and visualizing success can help sustain motivation levels throughout your CPA exam preparation journey.