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Certified Public Accountant CPA: Definition, What CPAs Do

what is a certified public accountant

You may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as forensic services, taxes, or working within an industry like health care. Alternatively, depending on your career path, you can focus on a wide spectrum of accounting services. Besides tax advising and preparation, CPAs might specialize in auditing, bookkeeping, consulting, management or financial advising and planning, to name just a few.

Public accounting skills

Many states have passed versions of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). This has helped to create more consistency in licensing across states so that you can be mobile while working in this profession. Be certain to understand the requirements in your state and any states you intend to work in to ensure your license is accepted. Find your state’s Board of Accountancy and review its website to get clarity on what you’ll need to do. In Canada, “CPA” is an initialism for Chartered Professional Accountant. This designation is for someone who would like to be a Canadian CPA.

How do you become a CPA?

I’ve met plenty of great accountants who don’t have a CPA, but in my experience, having the credential really helps to advertise your expertise and makes a difference in your compensation and career options. There are some workplaces that don’t want to consider someone for an accounting role who is not a CPA. As a self-employed consultant, I still use all the basic building blocks of accounting that I learned in college, pursuing my 3 ways business owners can use rent as a tax deduction CPA, and working in public accounting. If all you need is help filing a relatively simple return, though, you may not need the full services of a CPA; a non-CPA tax preparer, or even do-it-yourself tax software, may be enough to get your taxes done. Some CPAs specialize in areas like forensic accounting, personal financial planning, and taxation. Keeping the CPA designation requires completing a number of continuing education hours.

What is a CPA? What does a Certified Public Accountant do?

For example, Hawaii only requires examinees to be within 120 days of finishing their bachelor’s program, while Arizona requires candidates to complete their degree before applying for the test. CPA candidates should consult state-specific eligibility information to learn more. States require applicants to have at least 150 semester hours of college education or the equivalent to qualify for CPA certification. This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals. It’s important to note that states have different CPE requirements and deadlines.

what is a certified public accountant

CPA Career Overview

I am currently working as an outsourced controller for a not-for-profit. Today, my day consisted of reviewing the monthly close done by the staff accountant. We then had a Zoom call to discuss our questions for each other and the next steps toward finishing the close. The master of business administration (MBA) is an academic degree in management. If you are interested in starting or running a business, the MBA program will help you prepare.

Each state has different requirements for taking the CPA Exam and earning CPA licensure. You can check with your state’s board of accountancy to verify your eligibility. Depending on your specific skills, the average CPA accounting salary may be higher than other accounting professionals in the workforce.

  1. Some states require CPA candidates to be at least 18 to 21 years old, and a few require that you’re a citizen or permanent resident.
  2. First-time applicants pay an application fee, plus exam fees for each of the four sections.
  3. A CPA is a financial professional licensed by a state board to provide accounting services to the public.
  4. The CPA Evolution initiative will change the licensure model for future CPA candidates in 2024.
  5. I’ve met plenty of great accountants who don’t have a CPA, but in my experience, having the credential really helps to advertise your expertise and makes a difference in your compensation and career options.

You can also search for your state’s board of accountancy or CPA society for online directories. The AICPA requires that all CPA designation holders adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct, which lays out the ethical standards CPAs must adhere to. CPAs prepare reports that accurately reflect the business dealings of the companies and individuals that hire them. Many prepare tax returns for individuals or businesses and advise them on ways to minimize taxes.

The AICPA administers the four sections of the CPA exam on a rolling basis throughout the year. Within those 18 months, there are several windows to retake tests, but you cannot retake a section in the same window. After receiving your test scores, you must wait 24 hours to reapply for the same section. States generally allow candidates to sit for each section individually and in any order. You can also take two, three, or all four of the exam sections in a single session.

Most accounting majors can satisfy most of the educational requirements, although states require 150 semester hours of college credit before you’re eligible to take the exam. This means you’ll need to take 30 additional hours of coursework above and beyond what’s required for your bachelor’s degree. That could mean doing a double major, taking additional college classes, or earning a master’s degree. Continuing professional education (CPE) is also required to maintain licensure. Many CPAs are members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and their state CPA society. CPAs compile, maintain, and review financial statements and related transactions.

It’s a designation that allows accountants to work in the field of public accounting. One of the things I really like about accounting is that there are many different jobs available. I decided that I wanted to start my career in public accounting in order to learn a lot in a short period of time and be exposed to different types of clients and different areas of accounting. I was fortunate to get a job offer from what are operating activities in a business a mid-size CPA firm in New England while I was a senior in college, and I spent many years working there as an auditor. To become a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you must meet the education, examination, and experience requirements. All candidates must pass the Uniform CPA Examination ® (CPA Exam), which consists of three four-hour Core sections and one four-hour Discipline section of your choice.

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