Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
What it is:
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an accounting professional who has passed the Uniform CPA examination and has also met additional state certification and experience requirements.
How it works (Example):
To become a CPA, a person must: A) complete a college-level accounting program, B) pass the Uniform CPA Examination, and C) have a certain amount of professional work experience in accounting -- typically one year.
The CPA examination is developed and graded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The exam has four sections: auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business environment and concepts. Nearly 14 hours long in total, the CPA examination also includes a writing skills exercise, multiple choice questions and case studies.
Once a person becomes a CPA, they can specialize in one specific area of finance or a wide range of services, including:
- Corporate Finance
- Corporate Business
- Financial Accounting
- Financial Analysis
- Financial Planning
- Forensic Accounting
- Income Tax
- Information Technology
- Management Consulting
- Performance Management
- Tax Preparation and Planning
- Venture Capital
CPAs are required to complete a minimum number of continuing professional education (CPE) courses in order to retain the CPA designation.
Other countries have different designations for the CPA qualification. The Canadian equivalent to a CPA is a Chartered(CA).
Why it Matters:
The CPA designation is granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in order to maintain industry-wide, professional standards.