Why should international accountants earn a US CPA license?
Driven by a shortage of certified public accountants (CPAs), rising inflation and interest rates, the continued evolution of remote and hybrid workforces, and many other trends, the United States is increasingly looking to international lands for accounting and finance talent.
That means international accountants who pursue and earn a US CPA license can expect greater opportunities than ever before—regardless of where they practice. US CPAs enjoy benefits across a wide spectrum: from professional advantages, like career advancement, to personal perks, like more freedom to travel.
In a previous article, we shared steps for accounting professionals in India to become US CPAs. This time, we’re going to zoom out a bit and examine three reasons why international students all over the world should think about earning a US CPA license.
3 reasons for international accountants to pursue US CPA licensure
1. Rising demand for US-qualified financial staff
Even if you practice accounting outside of the US, firms need US-qualified staff to service clients who are based in the United States. If you earn the US CPA, you learn US accounting regulations and skills and have the qualification to back up that knowledge.
Increasingly, today’s businesses are taking finance and accounting abroad. This can take the form of performing some accounting tasks in another country via a shared-services model, hiring full-time finance employees on foreign soil (sometimes called outsourcing,) or, often, a hybrid of the two.
According to a Deloitte survey of 600 companies:
- 94% of financial services companies used shared services and/or outsourced jobs
- 60% of full-time finance jobs were performed through a shared-services or outsourced model
- 44% of respondents outsourced at least some of their finance functions
- Among financial services companies, the top preferred locations for shared services centers (SSCs) were:
- United States
US companies are outsourcing financial and accounting services to banks and firms in other countries. As a result, demand is booming for international talent with knowledge of the US financial system, tax code, regulatory environment, and best practices for accounting, audit, and bookkeeping.
By earning your US CPA, you demonstrate to every potential employer or client that you possess an up-to-date understanding of all those areas and the qualified skills to back it up.
The US CPA can be challenging to earn and maintain, but this is the flip side: it signals to US companies and clients that, yes, they can trust you with their accounting. And that’s a powerful career advantage—one that’s arguably more beneficial than any amount of work references, interview charm, or even prior experience.
2. More freedom to travel
The benefits of earning a US CPA don’t stop with US-based companies. The AICPA has mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with nine professional bodies of accounting in other parts of the world. Broadly speaking, this means that a US CPA license enables you to practice accounting in these international countries:
- South Africa
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
That last item on the list may have you wondering: What about the other three countries in the United Kingdom (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland)? Can I practice accounting in those with a US CPA?
Well…it’s complicated. The official word, via AICPA President and CEO Barry C. Melancon, is that the agreement with Scotland “will give U.S. CPAs a clear and accelerated path to obtaining a credential in the United Kingdom.” Unofficially, however, there does appear to be an uptick in UK companies recognizing the US CPA as a valid qualification for a wide range of finance and accounting positions.
Regardless, the MRAs mean that having a US CPA frees you to travel between several different countries—without having to earn a separate accounting credential. Whether you’re looking to permanently relocate, go full-on digital nomad, or just bask in the knowledge that you have the option to go somewhere new if you feel like it, the US CPA opens all kinds of globetrotting possibilities.
3. Global recognition, reputation and opportunity
Many consider the US CPA to be the highest accounting designation not only in America, but across the globe.
As a US CPA, you’ll be a member of the AICPA—the largest accounting body in the world. You’ll unlock more opportunities, increase your earning potential (by more than 10%, according to one study), improve your job security, and enjoy the freedom to pursue a wider range of career paths.
And if that’s not enough reason—as we mentioned earlier, the US is experiencing a shortage of CPAs. This is evidenced by the latest AICPA Trends Report, which revealed:
- Fewer accounting graduates from US colleges and universities
- Fewer people sitting for and passing the CPA Exam
- Most businesses planning to hire at least the same number of CPAs next year as they did this year
This one-two punch of low supply and high demand is driving US businesses to look more toward international solutions for their public accounting needs. And, as an international accountant with a US CPA, their challenge can become your advantage.
Expand your career by earning a US CPA license
There are no signs of the CPA license becoming less desirable to employers. When the CPA Exam changes under the CPA Evolution, the license will be even more relevant to the accounting and finance world, emphasizing candidates’ skills in data analytics, technology and IT.
Your journey to earning the US CPA starts whenever you’re ready. But you don’t have to go it alone! Becker and its global partners are here to help you at every step along the way—from preparing for the CPA Exam to earning your continuing professional education (CPE) credits, and everything in between.
Find a Becker global partner to start your CPA journey abroad >
 Niehaus, Drew, “Fixing the Crisis in Accounting,” The CPA Journal, November 2022.
 “2021 Global Shared Services and Outsourcing Survey Report,” Deloitte, 2021.
 “Professional Accounting Organizations in UK and U.S. Sign Mutual Recognition Agreement,” AICPA, 2019.
 “Top 5 Reasons to be a CPA,” NASBA blog, April 26, 2017.
 “2021 Trends,” AICPA, 2021.