Certified Public Accountant: What the CPA Credential Means

what is a certified public accountant

A certified public accountant (CPA) is an accounting professional who has met certain education, exam, and experience requirements for licensure by a state board of accountancy. The CPA’s license is renewed if the state’s continuing professional education requirements are met. You Classified Balance Sheet Financial Accounting must show you understand the rights, duties, and liabilities of debtors, creditors, and guarantors as well as the audit and appeals process employed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This section also covers the alternative minimum tax and both estate and gift taxation.

You do not necessarily have to have an accounting degree, but there will be a minimum number of credit hours required where individuals will need to have studied an accounting course. For example, there are many universities and colleges which now offer online degree courses which fulfill the education requirements Best Accounting Software For Small Business 2023 of CPA certification. Becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) is a popular career with budding accountants, but the minefield of education, licensing and ongoing learning can make it seem impossible to achieve. These include forensic accounting, auditing, financial planning, and compliance.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Certification

Chartered Certified Accountants are still allowed to call themselves Certified Accountants if they wish, hence the continued use of the term today. We understand there can be some challenges entering the field of accounting. That’s why we meticulously designed the Intuit Academy to help you gain relevant knowledge and experience to succeed. Intuit Academy is full of self-paced educational models that will teach you the ins and outs of the industry.

Becoming a CPA opens up opportunities for higher income and career potential. Being a CPA identifies you as someone who knows the ins and outs of accounting. Working with an adviser may come with potential downsides such as payment of fees (which will reduce returns). There are no guarantees that working with an adviser will yield positive returns. The existence of a fiduciary duty does not prevent the rise of potential conflicts of interest.


Search for any reviews you can find of CPAs you’re interested in and then set up an introductory meeting. 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.

  • However, outside of exceptional circumstances, a general accountant cannot file their client’s taxes for them.
  • Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in 2002, accountants were subject to tougher restrictions about their consulting assignments.
  • This isn’t the end of learning, however, as there will be annual continuing education and licensing requirements which will help to ensure that you are always up-to-date with any changes in legislation and ethical practices.
  • The CPA education requirements in most states require someone who is applying for licensing as a CPA to hold the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
  • The application and its processing will incur a few fees, which we’ll get into in the next section.

In addition, CPAs must complete continuing education requirements and uphold a standard of ethics. Various bodies offer lower-level qualifications in bookkeeping and related skills. Individuals with such qualifications are not recognised as professionally qualified accountants but instead as professionally qualified bookkeepers. Besides https://business-accounting.net/massachusetts-department-of-revenue-tax-guides/ tax advising and preparation, CPAs might specialize in auditing, bookkeeping, consulting, management or financial advising and planning, to name just a few. You might even work with a CPA to determine the best strategy for managing your income and withdrawals from individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s in retirement.

Continue your education.

The BEC section has 62 multiple-choice questions, four task-based simulations, and three written communication tasks, wherein test takers must respond in a letter or memo format to a work scenario. This is used to assess candidates’ writing skills as well as their organization, clarity, and conciseness. As with FAR, test-takers need to demonstrate knowledge of international accounting standards, in particular, the difference between International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) and U.S. auditing standards. They must identify situations that might be unethical or a violation of professional standards and determine the appropriate action to these situations. In addition, they must identify key risks in a financial information technology environment. Internationally, accounting professionals with similar education and credentials are called CAs, or charted accountants.

  • After the institutions process these payments, you’ll obtain your license and be able to advance your career as a CPA.
  • Chartered and Certified accountants, by contrast, have extensive professional qualifications and are regulated by specific institutions.
  • In short, beyond the differences in the body that awards the qualifications, very little.
  • Social Security number (SSN) to sit for the exam or finalize your CPA certification.

CCAB-qualified accountants is an informal shorthand for full members of any of the UK accountancy bodies formed by royal charter. All six of these bodies founded the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies in 1974; CIMA left after 2011, but its members may still be intended when this phrase is used. British qualified accountants are full voting members of United Kingdom professional bodies that evaluate individual experience and test competencies for accountants. In short, beyond the differences in the body that awards the qualifications, very little. From the perspective of the client (that’s you and me), both types of accountant offer very similar services.

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