A Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, is an accountant who has obtained a state license in accounting by completing accreditation requirements. Accountants in general maintain and audit financial records for organizations or individuals, but they can specialize in any number of different areas. They can be bookkeepers or tax experts, government auditors or top-level financial planners for multinational corporations.
Becoming a CPA means overseeing the budgets and financial management of a company, business or any organization that requires financial responsibility and accountability. Accountants ensure that the financial records of an organization are precise and that all revenues, investments and expenditures are tracked and reported without discrepancies.
A bachelor’s degree in accounting is usually the basic qualification for entry into the field of accounting. Some companies prefer applicants to possess a MBA or master’s degree in accounting to qualify for employment.
To become a CPA, most states require candidates to possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree plus 30 additional hours of coursework for a total of 150 hours of college coursework. The candidate is then required to take a two-day, four-part Uniform CPA Examination prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Additionally, most states require CPAs to renew their licenses by completing continuing education classes.
Following the attainment of a CPA certification, the Certified Public Accountant is legally allowed to perform services such as audits, reviews or compilations of financial statements. CPAs often work independently or on a contractual basis. They can perform a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax and consulting activities for their clients, which may be corporations, governments, nonprofit organizations or individuals.
The key to a successful career in accounting begins by acquiring the multiple skills and core competencies used in the discipline. These range from an in-depth understanding of accounting and business concepts to effective leadership and communication skills. Those who wish to become CPAs should also develop a broad business perspective to better assess the internal and external factors that can influence a business both in the short term and long run. They need to possess an inclination toward mathematics while also being able to communicate this information effectively, translating numbers into concepts, facts, trends and projections.
Practical knowledge of computers and relevant software is a necessity for those employed in the accounting field and for those seeking to enter the field.
A career as an accountant provides individuals with a competitive entry-level salary and excellent long-term growth potential. According to figures released by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median salaries for CPAs range between $33,750 and $42,500 in small firms, and between $41,000 and $51,250 in larger businesses for individuals with at least three years of accountancy experience. Within the corporate field, accountants who possess a master’s degree and CPA certification can earn up to 10 percent more.