Many people want to break into the field of finance, but not everyone knows which path to take, and there are many to choose from. Should you pursue your CFA and become a financial analyst for a Fortune 500? Are you better suited to project management in the finance industry? Maybe you’re considering becoming a CPA. Fortunately, there are many opportunities out there for people who want to get involved in the finance industry but are unsure of where to turn. Instead of focusing on these common and heavily saturated employment opportunities, consider becoming an enrolled agent. A job as an EA may be frequently overlooked, but it is a career path worth looking into.
It Doesn’t Require a Bachelor’s
That’s right—there are good jobs out there that still exist that do not require a college degree. As the demand is growing for more and more professionals to have college degrees, the remaining jobs that are available and also have a decent income is shrinking. If you are intimidated by the accrued student debt or you are afraid that your old degree will not apply—don’t fret. Becoming an enrolled agent is a great way to enter an interesting field that has room for growth, but won’t bog you down in more debt. In addition, if you have already gone to school and don’t want to rack up more debt in graduate school, then a career as an enrolled agent may work for you. For those that already have tax or accounting experience, this may be a natural transition. The common alternatives—accountants or lawyers—require years of schooling, which can present a hefty cost. Consider the education and testing requirements in our previously mentioned career path examples to compare: Those looking to go into financial analysis must study for months to pass the extremely difficult CFA exam, while those in project management are required to take PMP courses and pass the PM exam before pursuing high-paying jobs and better employment opportunities. Certifications and degrees are integral to success in these arenas—not so for enrolled agents. The point is, having a degree does not make or break your chances of getting a job. As long as you pass the EA exam and have a firm grasp on tax law, you can become successful.
The Job Market is Strong
There will always be people who need representation before the IRS. Getting audited can be a scary and convoluted process for some, so having an expert to represent them will always be appealing. What’s more, the IRS has begun to audit more people every year, so the demand is actually growing. If you decide to work outside of the enrolled agent career but still gain the credential, it will look incredible on your resume. Certification as an enrolled agent is the highest credential awarded by the IRS and is noted as an “elite status.” Your potential employer will already know that you are an invaluable resource with a high level of expertise in tax issues.
No Representation Limitations
As an enrolled agent, you are granted unlimited opportunity to represent a taxpayer before the IRS. The only other two positions that are allowed to do this are certified public accountants and licensed attorneys. This means that you can use your skills to offer more tax services to the public. Not only can you prepare client returns during tax season, but you can also represent clients at an IRS office. What this entails is that you can also prepare and file documents for the client, attend hearings with or without your client being present. Without this credential, you can only act as a Registered Tax Return Preparer, and you have limited services to advertise. It is simply more desirable to be an enrolled agent.
Becoming an Enrolled Agent
As mentioned before, you do not need a college degree to become an enrolled agent. You do, however have to complete one of two things: work for the IRS for five years, in which during that time you will gain enough tax experience and knowledge to qualify; or take the EA exam. While many people work for the IRS for a considerable amount of time before they become an enrolled agent, it still may be quicker to take the EA exam instead. There are three parts to the exam, and each will require hours of study. However, there are many resources that will teach you how to pass the EA exam, so invest the time and money into preparing for this test. Research the many educational opportunities that will best put you on the path to becoming an enrolled agent.