Anyone looking to enter the world of finance or tax professionals will one day have to take and pass a credentialed exam that proves they understand the work. Becoming an enrolled agent (EA) is no different. Before you can begin working with clients at a firm or on your own, you have to pass the EA Exam, which is luckily one of the more accessible tests out there. Better still, as an EA, you have a wide variety of satisfying, well-paying job opportunities to pursue that can either situate you for the long term or act as a foundation for a more advanced position. 

Enrolled agent career path options 

Your career options as an enrolled agent are many. You could work as a tax preparer for a large or small firm, at a tax law firm as a reviewer, at a bank providing regulatory analysis and support, or even on your own, providing tax support to clients large and small. The government, at both the federal and state levels, can also use EAs to ensure citizens meet their tax requirements while providing a great service to the community by preparing and optimizing tax returns. 

Be aware you will need some previous tax experience to pass the exam, there are no additional educational requirements, and there’s a relatively minimal investment in getting set up to take the EA Exam. With that credential on your resume, employers in at least a dozen industries will know that adding you to their team will benefit everyone involved. The company gets your expertise; you get what could well be a consistent, year-round job. 

Expect solid earning potential as well. At the entry level, you can make around $42,000 annually. Make it to more senior EA roles, and you could earn more than $80,000 a year. 

How hard is the EA Exam?  

The EA Exam, also known as the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE Exam), is one of the easier tax professional credential exams, with about a 70% national pass rate. Compare that to the CPA and CMA Exams, which are both closer to 50% on average. The relatively lower difficulty does not mean the exam doesn’t take preparation to pass, but the process is more forgiving than the more grueling options out there.  

You have a two-year window to pass all three sections of the EA Exam. You can take the test between May and February, and each section of the test consists of 100 multiple-choice questions to be answered over three and a half hours. The sections are: 

  • Tax subjects relating to individuals. This knowledge includes taxpayer data, income and assets, deductions, credits, advice, specialized returns, and other topics that individual taxpayers will need assistance with. 
  • Tax subjects relating to businesses. The number of subjects here is more limited — business entities, financial information, specialized returns and taxpayers — but because businesses are much larger and more complex than any individual could ever be, the exam covers much more across a smaller subset of topics. 
  • Tax subjects relating to representation, practices, and procedures. You’ll be tested on tax practices and preparation procedures, representing before the IRS, specific types of representation, and completing the filing process. 

Exam prep makes things easier  

No matter how much you know going into an exam, you should always take the time to do some preparation so you’re best positioned to pass on the first attempt. The EA Exam might be a bit easier than some of the other qualification tests, but that doesn’t mean you can go in on test day and expect to ace it without doing a little work beforehand.  

There are several core options for studying for the EA Exam.  

You could purchase textbooks and study guides to prepare you for the test. Such study materials can be enough to prepare you, especially if you’re good at self-motivating. Many books come with practice questions and exams, which usually explain how the tests are structured, giving you the mental tools to take the exam more confidently.  

Consider self-study options by visiting EA Exam informational sites and researching the topics an EA needs to know on your own. If you’re particularly confident in your ability to explore topics and can motivate yourself and structure your time to optimize your studies, the only expenditure you might make is of time. 

However, one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck is to purchase an EA review course like Surgent EA Exam Review to help you build a study plan. Modern software like Surgent’s can adapt to your learning style and provide you with a preparatory system that focuses on only what you need, leaving your strengths intact and bringing your weaknesses up to par.  

When you choose Surgent EA Review, your initial investment gives you some of the most powerful and effective technology on the market. These advanced systems are designed to reduce your study time from hundreds of hours to dozens and make sure that time is as well spent as possible. You can trust the Surgent product, as our pass rate on the EA Exam is 96%, and we offer a 100% pass guarantee, so you don’t lose access to your learning material if something goes wrong on parts of the EA Exam.  

In addition, EA candidates will benefit from: 

  • A.S.A.P.® Technology: Our AI-powered adaptive learning technology assesses what you know and provides only that material you need to work on, so you spend time shoring up weaknesses to help prepare you for the EA Exam faster than other exam review providers. Our technology saves you hours of study time. 
  • ReadySCORE™: Know exactly when you’re ready to take the EA Exam with ReadySCORE, which predicts your likely score if you sit for the test that day.  
  • Daily Surge: If you’re unsure what to study one day, turn to Daily Surge and save some time. Daily Surge cards appear every time you log in, customized to subjects you need to learn now and not the ones you’ve already mastered.   
  • MyMCQ™: Practice the question types you can expect on the exam with Surgent’s customized multiple-choice questions. All of them will push you to learn more challenging concepts with each round and, like the Daily Surge cards, won’t waste your time making you study exam questions you could already answer.   
  • Full access until you pass: All Surgent EA Review materials, including free content and software updates, are there for you until you pass, whether it takes you one try or more.  
  • Unlimited practice exams: Masterthe structure of the EA Exam and relieve some of the anxiety that comes with test-taking with the practice exams available in your Surgent package. Take them as often as you’d like to review any exam section. 

Passing the EA Exam takes time, and you’ll want to do everything you can to prepare for it, but it’s also not as grueling as the CPA Exam. There are some real benefits to becoming an EA as well, including solid job opportunities, earning potential and becoming an expert on tax matters.  

When you work with Surgent EA Review, you’ll have all the tools to pass the test the first time, but even if something doesn’t go your way and you have to retake the EA Exam, you won’t lose access to materials that provide a 96% pass rate across all our students. Start your free trial of Surgent EA Review today and you will be well on your way to earning that EA credential!