What Does a Certified Public Accountant Do?


A gift for math may be leading you to look into a career as a certified public accountant (CPA).

A CPA is a professional accountant who has passed the CPA exam and has experience in auditing and financial management. They help companies, non-profits, or governmental departments to maintain accurate financial accounting records. Depending on what kind of organization a CPA works for, the daily routine may vary, but CPAs all need strong skills in bookkeeping.

Becoming a CPA

These days, accounting work is always done on computers via a variety of accounting software programs, so computer skills are another essential component of the job. If you are strong in math and computer skills and have an interest in helping businesses keep accurate records, then accounting work may be a good fit. The American Institute of CPAS (AICPA) recommends a minimum of 150 hours of college coursework in accounting before you sit for the Uniform CPA exam that you need to pass in order to get your certification. The 150 hours might be a combination of undergraduate and graduate courses. Once you’ve passed the exam, you also need to meet other work requirements prior to being licensed.

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Some Typical Tasks for a CPA

The process to become a certified public accountant is rigorous, but it’s important that you are well-trained in accounting skills to be able to provide businesses, non-profits or other organizations with the help they need. Good accounting is essential to almost every kind of business endeavor. CPAs need to be able to track various kinds of business and financial transactions and keep books that accurately reflect an organization’s financial dealings from month to month. These sorts of disciplines help organizations maintain honesty but also help them to be more efficient and to make good financial decisions based on the information the CPA tracks and provides. A CPA’s work may be an important part of a company’s budget planning and processes.

CPAs also need to be familiar with tax law and auditing so that they can help businesses to comply with the law. If you decide to work as a CPA for the government, auditing skills may be especially essential. Governmental organizations often need to conduct compliance or investigative audits. Other businesses may also need to conduct internal audits to show their investors or donors their accuracy and integrity. Some CPAs are regular employees of a company while others are self-employed and may be called in to consult, review annual reports or handle special audits.

Although the detailed accounting skills of all kinds of CPAs are similar, what you do each day may well depend on who you work for. Just a few of the jobs you might work as a CPA include assurance services, forensic accounting, tax and financial planning advice, environmental or international accounting. Each of these will have different emphases. CPAs with a strong background in technology might also be called upon to work in information technology, designing and testing financial accounting and management systems for companies. Whatever type of certified public accountant you become, you can be sure of detailed and important work.