Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, are respected professionals who must meet strict state and licensing requirements in order to be acknowledged as the highest of all accounting professionals. When someone wishes to become a CPA, he can ultimately enjoy a vast array of job responsibilities. Certified public accountants perform a variety of tasks, including accounting, tax preparation and planning, auditing, and financial planning. They work in accounting firms, corporations, government organizations, and small businesses. Some even work as independent consultants. No matter where a CPA works, she is expected to follow an uncompromising code of ethics.
Although requirements to become a CPA differ among states in the U.S., they share some requirements in common. To become a CPA, a person must earn a bachelor's degree in accounting, with about 150 semester hours in subjects approved by the State Board of Accountancy. Required courses include classes in Accounting, Business Law, Finance, Business Statistics, Economics, and Liberal Arts. He must also gain on-the-job experience as an accountant.
In addition to these requirements, a prospective CPA must receive a passing score on the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA exam). The exam is designed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This computerized exam is comprised of four sections, including Auditing & Attestation, Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment and Concepts.
In order to register for the CPA exam, an applicant should apply with the state where she intends to practice. The State Board requires an applicant to submit forms, transcripts, and fees to its office. The tests are administered in test centers throughout the U.S. Exam fees cost around $800 to $950 US Dollars (USD).
After the completion of the CPA exam, the accountant must also pass an ethics examination to become a CPA. Upon earning certification as a CPA, the person must complete specific hours of professional development every one or two years in order to stay up to date on all aspects of certified public accounting. CPAs can only practice in the state where they received their certification.
What is the advantage of earning a CPA instead of remaining a regular accountant? First of all, CPAs enjoy higher salaries than their non-certified counterparts. In large accounting corporations, a CPA earns between $35,000 and $48,000 USD a year. CPAs who work in smaller corporations earn an average of $29,500 to $40,750 USD. They also become members of an elite group of accountants who are sought after by people who wish to hire an accountant for their personal or business needs.
A student who wishes to become a CPA needs to earn an accounting degree, gain several years of experience as an accountant, pass rigorous CPA and ethics exams, and commit to ongoing professional development. Despite the stringent requirements, becoming a CPA is a valuable investment in the future. The prospect of commanding a higher salary than regular accountants and becoming universally respected by the business world, influences many to work toward earning that coveted certificate in public accounting.