Low GPA? Should You Stay In School Or Get Experience?

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From the mailbag:

Good Morning Andrew,

I have been following your posts for several months, close to around 9-10 months to be exact.

My biggest struggle right now in accounting is my low GPA. My Accounting GPA is 2.8, and my overall is around 2.70. However I do realize that this is really low to even be remotely considered by any Big 4 or regional firm, but what my GPA doesn’t reflect, is my dedication and persistent desire to keep doing better. I am not the world’s best test taker, and sometimes struggle studying for the accounting exams. I would say though, that compared to my classmates I grasp the concepts well, but it doesn’t get reflected on the exams.

I graduate in May of 2016 and I know that I would want t work for either PWC or a regional firm such as CohnReznick or McGladery if I can get into the door. I work harder than anyone in the room, and my professors and managers from job know that, but my GPA doesn’t reflect upon that result.

What advice can you give to someone who doesn’t have the stellar GPA, but has the right mindset and attitude to thrive in corporate America. Also, in the next 5 years with my accounting career I hope to either be a tax manager at a big Fortune 500 company or working at a local CPA company doing a variety of accounting/tax planning assignments.

Hope to hear back from you soon.


I would tell you to get the 150 required credits for the CPA exam now.

Pay as little as possible (go to USF or elsewhere if you have to).

Get an accounting internship or job now while you are getting the 150.

Then you will have:

  1. Accounting experience
  2. Higher GPA

Another thing to consider is doing a full masters degree.

If you do a full masters degree, you could have a Masters GPA over 3.0 or 3.5 and only show that after one semester.

The 150 is so important because much bigger firms will want you and pay for your CPA exam costs.

If go get experience now, you will either have to come back full-time for the 150 hours or part time AND pass the CPA exam.

Working is enough!

If I passed the CPA and never have to take another college course while working, of course I’ll perform better than those swamped in homework and CPA review material.

The people that work, go to school, and pass the CPA exam are 99% the most miserable and poorest performing people in the office.

Bottom line: If you plan on becoming a CPA, get your grades in gear and get your 150 now!

  • Chantel Tavares

    Love the advice! If you want to work towards CMA, CFE, and then CPA, would this still apply? I have a 3.4 overall GPA but my accounting GPA just went down to a 2.9 and I am graduating this summer. On top of that, I am trying to figure out the best schooling since I want to do forensic accounting but that is rarely taught at big public schools.