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

A CPA can provide a variety of services depending on whether they are in a public practice or work for a corporation as an accounting professional. The services an accountant can provide includes analyzing financial data, maintaining accounting records, providing financial projections, and preparing taxes. Most states also require work experience, supervised and verified by a licensed CPA. In Texas, for example, candidates need 2,000 hours of experience in accounting services. In Alabama, candidates need one year of full-time employment in a public accounting firm or two years of full-time employment in industry, business, government, or academia. It’s a credential an accounting professional can earn to demonstrate expertise in their field.

  • Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in 2002, accountants were subject to tougher restrictions about their consulting assignments.
  • A CPA license shows that a professional accountant has met the profession’s highest standard of achievement.
  • Other countries have certifications equivalent to the CPA designation, notably, the chartered accountant (CA) designation.
  • From understanding the intricate details of financial reporting to grasping broader business concepts and regulations, the exam ensures that CPAs are well-equipped to serve in various capacities.
  • This designation is for someone who would like to be a Canadian CPA.

However, this is not an official requirement because the general term “accountant” is largely unregulated in the U.S. Candidates have four hours to complete each section, with a total exam time of 16 hours. Each section is taken individually, and candidates can choose the order in which they take them. Candidates must pass all four sections of the exam within 18 months.

Practice Exams and Study Resources

Many businesses, especially those without a robust internal financial team, lean heavily on their CPAs for advice on budgeting, financial forecasting, and risk management. Beyond traditional accounting tasks, CPAs also serve as trusted advisors to their clients, offering insights on a wide array of business matters. By providing assurance services, CPAs audit these statements to confirm that they adhere to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and other relevant regulations. Many universities and colleges offer specialized accounting programs geared toward preparing students for the CPA Exam and their future roles. The combination of educational and practical experience ensures that CPA candidates have both theoretical knowledge and practical insights.

  • They analyze financial data to provide insights for strategic decision-making, monitor financial performance, and communicate financial results to stakeholders.
  • If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to filing, many resources can walk you through how to file your taxes.
  • Despite its primary recognition in the U.S., the impact of CPAs extends globally.
  • Individuals are also required to complete 150 hours of education and have no fewer than two years of public accounting experience.
  • If your state requires this, Becker offers a number of ethics courses in our Continuing Professional Education course catalog.

States require applicants to have at least 150 semester hours of college education or the equivalent to qualify for CPA certification. In Canada, “CPA” is an initialism for Chartered Professional Accountant. This designation is for someone who would like to be a Canadian CPA. 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. That said, you may see a bump above those costs if you work with a CPA.

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More importantly, as a working professional, you can finish your degree faster at Franklin by transferring qualified prior college credits and/or work experience. In addition to fraud detection, forensic accountants often participate in litigation support, valuing businesses during disputes, or assessing potential financial damages in legal cases. By providing strategic tax planning and compliance services, CPAs ensure that clients not only meet all legal obligations but also optimize their financial positions. Beyond the routine of financial statement auditing, CPAs are often tasked with reviewing internal financial controls, performing agreed-upon procedures, and delivering compilations of financial data. In response, regulators passed the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 which largely shapes the CPA-client relationships and auditing standards of today. It’s essential for prospective CPAs to familiarize themselves with the specific educational prerequisites of the state in which they intend to practice.

Becoming a CPA requires passing an exam and fulfilling several education and experience requirements. The CPA designation isn’t required to work in corporate accounting or for private companies. However, public accountants⁠—which are individuals working for a firm, such as Deloitte or Ernst & Young, that provides accounting and tax-related services to businesses—must hold a CPA designation.

More from Merriam-Webster on certified public accountant

The CPA’s license is renewed if the state’s continuing professional education requirements are met. Public accountants work for individuals, businesses, or the government and may specialize in areas such as taxation, consulting, or auditing. Public accountants who meet certain qualifications can seek licensure to work as certified public accountants (CPAs). This page covers important information about CPA careers, including responsibilities and qualifications. A CPA (certified public accountant) is an accounting professional licensed and credentialed by a state or territory to offer accounting services, including tax preparation, to the public.

Scoring the Exam

A CPA license is issued when you meet all the requirements set by your state’s board of accountancy. A CPA’s job description varies by employer, but common duties include advising clients on financial matters, preparing and filing tax documents, and creating financial reports. According to February 2022 PayScale data, CPAs earn an average annual salary of $69,955.

Ask a Financial Professional Any Question

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 1.4 million accountants in 2016, but only about half of those (664,532) are CPAs who are registered with National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. Subsequent iterations included the Institute of Public Accountants in 1916 and the American Institute break even point meaning of Accountants in 1917. The American Society of Public Accountants, created in 1921, was later merged into the American Institute of Accountants in 1936, at which time, the Institute chose to restrict future membership to CPAs. Ask a question about your financial situation providing as much detail as possible. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is a high-ranking executive responsible for a company’s overall financial strategy and management.

I have been lucky to have a lot of long-standing, wonderful client relationships. A CPA is a very valuable credential, and I wanted to position myself well in the marketplace for various jobs. I decided in college as an accounting major that I wanted to try to get my CPA as soon as I could. Although these accounting pros usually come to mind when it comes to filing income taxes, they can help with quite a few other things. We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. The CPA designation has become more important after the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002, which was passed partly in response to corporate financial scandals like the Enron affair.

Most states in the U.S. require prospective CPAs to complete 150 semester hours of college education, which is typically 30 hours more than a standard 4-year bachelor’s degree. Some states may require an ethics exam or ethics course to finalize CPA licensure. If your state requires this, Becker offers a number of ethics courses in our Continuing Professional Education course catalog. One important quality in being a successful CPA is genuinely caring about your clients and their businesses. I love working with not-for-profit clients for that very reason — I feel like I’m really contributing to their mission by helping them have good financial information on which to make smart business decisions. As a self-employed consultant, I still use all the basic building blocks of accounting that I learned in college, pursuing my CPA, and working in public accounting.