Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the title of qualified accountants in numerous countries in the English-speaking world. It is generally equivalent to the title of chartered accountant in other English-speaking countries. In the United States, the CPA is a license to provide accounting services to the public. It is awarded by each of the 50 states for practice in that state.
Understanding Certified Public Accountants
Obtaining the certified public accountant (CPA) designation requires a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, or accounting. Individuals are also required to complete 150 hours of education and have no fewer than two years of public accounting experience. CPAs must pass a certification exam whose requirements vary by state. Additionally, keeping the CPA designation requires completing a specific number of continuing education hours yearly.
CPAs have a wide range of career options available, either in public or corporate accounting. Individuals with the CPA designation can also move into executive positions such as controllers or chief financial officers (CFOs). CPAs are known for their role in income tax preparation but can specialize in many other areas, such as auditing, bookkeeping, forensic accounting, managerial accounting, and information technology.
Types of CPAs
CPAs generally end up as an accountant of some sort. That is, they put together, maintain, and review financial statements and related transactions for companies. Many CPAs file tax forms or returns for individuals and businesses. CPAs can perform and sign off on audits.
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.