Do I Need to be a CPA to Have an International Career?

Waiting for the CPA board exam results is an ordeal each year for thousands of young accountants in the Philippines.

That wait has ended in heartbreak and tears for seven out of every 10 candidates, on average, in the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) board exams since 2013.

While gaining a CPA license is a major achievement, the lack of it doesn’t have to close the door on your dreams.

An accounting career that pays well, lets you grow with international clients, and empowers you to nurture your interests outside of work is well within your reach. At TOA Global, you can launch your international accounting career even before you secure a CPA license.

All you need to do is stay teachable.

‘It caused me to doubt what I could do’

Everyone in his life expected Joebert Dalas, CPA, to pass the CPA board exams with no difficulty the first time he took it in October 2021.

After all, Joebert had always been an overachiever: a consistent honor student from grade school to high school and an academic scholarship recipient from his first to fifth year at university, “a feat that fewer than 10 in our class achieved.”

He prepared well. So, while the three exam days were indeed nerve-wracking, Joebert was ready to tell his family and friends that he passed. “Until the night the CPA board exam results came out, and my name was not on the list. I thought it was a glitch or an error, but it wasn’t.”

Only 361 of the 2,367 individuals who took that exam made it, barely 15%. That was also the first time the CPA board exams resumed after the exams were cancelled during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Joebert moved on from this setback by going to work with a local accounting firm. Accounting tasks (“audit, tax filings, general bookkeeping, and such”) helped him cope with depression and made him “genuinely happy”. He thought about taking the exam again.

“The weight of the failure caused me to doubt everything that I can do.” He persevered. While working full-time to help his family, he registered for the May 2022 exams and began reviewing.

‘You will achieve it with determination’

“I failed again. And this time I was a few decimal points away from a passing grade.” Only 990 out of 4,442 aspiring CPAs, barely 22%, passed that exam.

Again, accounting work helped Joebert move on. When his college best friend decided to take the exam scheduled for October 2022 and encouraged him to do the same, he faced a major hurdle. He had to raise enough funds for a required refresher course. So, he took on an extra job, asked for help from his close relatives and friends, and began reviewing.

Somehow he made it among the top five participants of that refresher course.

And then Joebert took the CPA board exam for the third time.

“I didn’t look at the result when it got out. My friend from another college was the first person to tell me that I had passed, which I didn't believe at first. But when I checked the site, I started bawling my eyes out. And from then on, opportunities started coming my way. Of course, I never forgot to thank those who helped me along the way. You see, the journey will be difficult, but one thing is for sure, you will be able to achieve it with determination."
Generalist Accountant for a U.S. firm

‘Pass or fail, you did your best’

For aspiring CPAs who are preparing to take the board exams in October 2024, Jennifer Yamat, CPA, shared this advice:

“Study hard but remember that you have a life, too. Focus on the subject that you think is difficult for you and don't overthink. Just keep in mind that you spent 5 years studying and 4 months or more to review. Imagine just how many exams, quizzes, and qualifying exams you had to pass before you graduated.”
Finance  and Accounting Team Lead

“What I am trying to say is just have confidence in yourself that you can do it. Trust yourself: for me that’s very important. Pass or fail, you did your best!”

Jennifer passed the CPA board exam in 2007, a few months after receiving her Bachelor of Science in Accountancy degree. The year before that, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Financial Management degree, also from Holy Angel University in Pampanga.

It’s an accomplishment made more special by the fact that Jennifer didn’t enjoy math at first. It was her father who encouraged her to study accounting. (And we are so grateful to him that she took his advice!)

She worked with one of the country’s largest property developers and an electronic parts manufacturer, where she held leadership roles, before joining TOA Global in 2020. Now, Jennifer works as the Finance and Accounting Team Lead for a firm based in New Mexico in the U.S.

Your Own Learning Pathways

What she appreciates about working with her U.S. client:

  • Great pay and interesting tasks.
  • Her client’s appreciation for the team’s hard work.
  • Their support for wellbeing and family time.
  • A commitment to making everyone “feel like they are really part of the company.”

“They are very supportive to everyone in the team and recognize our accomplishments, no matter how big or small these are. When I took my CMA (Certified Management Accountant) certification, they would let me take time off and were super happy when I passed. The mentorship is great. I got to meet people whom I learned a lot from.”

Like Jennifer, all TOA Global team members are provided with accounting mentorship programs—both from their clients and as part of their TOA Learning Pathway. This professional development plan spells out the technical, accounting software, and success skills courses that each team member takes, tailored to their role and level.

Since 2013, TOA Global has connected more than 3,900 accountants, bookkeepers, auditors, and other finance professionals with growing firms in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and the United States.

Accounting Career Advice

Not everyone in the team is a CPA.

But everyone gets the support and work/life balance they need to keep on learning and going after their goals, whether or not that includes getting that coveted CPA license.

As one of the largest private sector employers of accounting talent in the Philippines, we are glad that our team is excited and encouraged to be surrounded by some of the best in the accounting industry, many of whom share their accounting career advice and other interests.

If you have two years of accounting or bookkeeping experience and want an international career in your home city, there’s a TOA Global role that will support your career and life goals. We hope you’ll claim it soon!

Career moves for elite accountants

Professional growth. Dedicated support. Relevant training. All that to help you move ahead on your career path and grow with a global accounting team.

Get Notified First

Would you like to know about career opportunities in accounting, finance, support or management as soon as they come up? Beyond accounting or bookkeeping jobs, we offer the training, support and rewards to help you grow a brilliant accounting career.