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Candace Niblock earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and went on to pass the CPA exam. | Photo by Jim Judkis
Candace Niblock graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting in May 2008 and passed her CPA exam the next year.

Earning her bachelor's degree in accounting from Point Park's School of Business in May 2008 wasn't an ending point for Candace Niblock. She knew that getting a certified public accountant license would open doors in her career field.

"You are a lot more desirable and people look up to that (CPA) credential and know it's a strong credential. With accounting jobs, unless you have a master's degree, there isn't much else that divides you from the rest," she said.

Niblock, 26, of Overbrook, credits Cheryl Clark, associate professor of accounting, with encouraging her to take the challenging four-part exam. She learned in October 2009 that she had passed all four exam sections.

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"It's hard for anyone to understand how hard the test is. You make major sacrifices. My little sister was so excited when I passed it because she knew we'd spend much more time together," said Niblock, who worked as a full-time auditor for Allegheny County's Department of Human Services from 2005-09 while going to Point Park as a full-time undergraduate student.

In April, Niblock, returned to campus to share her CPA exam experience with members of Point Park's Student Accounting Association, a group she served as president while at Point Park.

Niblock is currently a lead research accountant for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, budgeting and managing cancer research grants. She is a graduate of Pittsburgh Brashear High School in Beechview.

In an interview, Niblock said she began studying for the test while still a student at Point Park, taking flashcards everywhere -- to baseball games, the park, and even a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant with her 6-year-old sister, Adrianna.

She studied about the recommended 30 hours a week and took one part of the test before she officially graduated.

Niblock said she's still in shock that she passed since it was such a long and difficult process. She received her results Oct. 31, 2009, and threw a party to celebrate.

"It's a huge accomplishment to pass that exam," explained Clark, who described the test as "extremely rigorous."

Clark said many students take a preparation course before taking the exam. Pennsylvania has specific regulations, which are changing in the next year or two, for obtaining a CPA license.

"To be a CPA, you have to have the right college classes, pass a rigorous standardized exam and you have to get the experience requirement," she explained.

Niblock says she wants to encourage Point Park accounting students to take the CPA test, despite its difficulty and tricky questions, because the benefits - including higher salaries -- are worth all the hard work.

"It's basically showing your inner strengths, dedication and persistence compared to others who didn't take the test," she said.

Clark said accounting graduates can have terrific careers without the CPA license, but having the designation creates the opportunity for additional job prospects, especially with public accounting firms that want CPAs.

"There's a shortage of good CPAs right now. Accountants usually don't have trouble finding jobs," she said. "It's a great career path."