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Become A Certified Public Accountant

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Working As A Certified Public Accountant

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Processing Information
  • Getting Information
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • $82,567

    Average Salary

What Does A Certified Public Accountant Do

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. They ensure that financial records are accurate and that taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants and auditors assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently. 

Duties

Accountants and auditors typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to ensure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures
  • Organize and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make best-practices recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits

In addition to examining and preparing financial documentation, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes preparing written reports and meeting face-to-face with organization managers and individual clients.

Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on the particular organization that they work for. Some work for organizations that specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decisionmakers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documentation). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as healthcare.

Some workers with a background in accounting and auditing teach in colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

The following are examples of types of accountants and auditors:

Public accountants perform a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, and individuals.

Public accountants work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose. These include tax forms and balance sheet statements that corporations must provide potential investors. For example, some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms. Publicly traded companies are required to have CPAs sign documents they submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including annual and quarterly reports.

Some public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and possibly criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.

Management accountants, also called cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants, record and analyze the financial information of the organizations for which they work. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not by the general public.

Management accountants often work on budgeting and performance evaluation. They also may help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some may work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent in accordance with laws and regulations.

Internal auditors check for mismanagement of an organization’s funds. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste and fraud. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.

External auditors perform similar duties as internal auditors, but are employed by an outside organization, rather than the one they are auditing. They review clients’ financial statements and inform investors and authorities that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported.

Information technology auditors are internal auditors who review controls for their organization’s computer systems, to ensure that the financial data comes from a reliable source.

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How To Become A Certified Public Accountant

Most accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Certification within a specific field of accounting improves job prospects. For example, many accountants become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).  

Education

Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

A few universities and colleges offer specialized programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in internal auditing. In some cases, those with associate’s degrees, as well as bookkeepers and accounting clerks who meet the education and experience requirements set by their employers, get junior accounting positions and advance to accountant positions by showing their accounting skills on the job.

Many colleges help students gain practical experience through summer or part-time internships with public accounting or business firms.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Every accountant filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Many other accountants choose to become a CPA to enhance their job prospects or to gain clients. Many employers will often pay the costs associated with the CPA exam.

CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy. Becoming a CPA requires passing a national exam and meeting other state requirements. Almost all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be certified, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree to meet the 150-hour requirement, but a master’s degree is not required.

A few states allow a number of years of public accounting experience to substitute for a college degree.

All states use the four-part Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates do not have to pass all four parts at once, but most states require that they pass all four parts within 18 months of passing their first part.

Almost all states require CPAs to take continuing education to keep their license.

Certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing. Accountants and auditors seek certifications from a variety of professional societies. Some of the most common certifications are listed below:

The Institute of Management Accountants offers the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) to applicants who complete a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must have worked at least 2 years in management accounting, pass a two-part exam, agree to meet continuing education requirements, and comply with standards of professional conduct. The exam covers areas such as financial statement analysis, working-capital policy, capital structure, valuation issues, and risk management. 

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) to graduates from accredited colleges and universities who have worked for 2 years as internal auditors and have passed a four-part exam. The IIA also offers the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), and Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) to those who pass the exams and meet educational and experience requirements.

ISACA offers the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) to candidates who pass an exam and have 5 years of experience auditing information systems. Information systems experience, financial or operational auditing experience, or related college credit hours can be substituted for up to 3 years of experience in information systems auditing, control, or security.

For accountants with a CPA, the AICPA offers the option to receive any or all of the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. The ABV requires a written exam, completion of at least six business valuation projects, and 75 hours of continuing education. The CITP requires 1,000 hours of business technology experience and 75 hours of continuing education. Candidates for the PFS also must complete a certain amount of work experience and continuing education, and pass a written exam.

Advancement

Some top executives and financial managers have a background in accounting, internal auditing, or finance.

Beginning public accountants often advance to positions with more responsibility in 1 or 2 years and to senior positions within another few years. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.

Management accountants often start as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees for other accounting positions. As they rise through the organization, they may advance to accounting manager, chief cost accountant, budget director, or manager of internal auditing. Some become controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, chief financial officers, or corporation presidents.

Public accountants, management accountants, and internal auditors can move from one aspect of accounting and auditing to another. Public accountants often move into management accounting or internal auditing. Management accountants may become internal auditors, and internal auditors may become management accountants. However, it is less common for management accountants or internal auditors to move into public accounting.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to identify issues in documentation and suggest solutions. For example, public accountants use analytical skills in their work to minimize tax liability, and internal auditors use these skills to detect fraudulent use of funds.  

Communication skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to listen carefully to facts and concerns from clients, managers, and others. They must also be able to discuss the results of their work in both meetings and written reports.

Detail oriented. Accountants and auditors must pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documentation.

Math skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures, although complex math skills are not necessary.

Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills are important for accountants and auditors who often work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.

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Certified Public Accountant Jobs

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Certified Public Accountant Career Paths

Certified Public Accountant
Accountant Senior Accountant
Accounting Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Controller Chief Finance Officer
Chief Finance And Operating Officer
14 Yearsyrs
Tax Preparer Accounting Clerk Controller
Controller/Director Of Finance
11 Yearsyrs
Finance Analyst Senior Finance Analyst Accounting Manager
Corporate Accounting Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Staff Accountant Accounting Manager Controller
Corporate Controller
12 Yearsyrs
Assistant Controller Finance Manager Controller
Director Of Accounting & Finance
11 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Accounting Clerk Accounting Manager
Division Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Accountant Accounting Manager Controller
Finance Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Accountant Finance Analyst Senior Finance Analyst
Finance Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Bookkeeper Accountant Senior Finance Analyst
Finance Planning Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Assistant Controller Plant Controller Controller
Finance Vice President
9 Yearsyrs
Accounting Manager Controller
Interim Controller
15 Yearsyrs
Controller Finance Consultant Senior Finance Analyst
Manager, Finance Analysis
8 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Accountant Accounting Manager
Plant Controller
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Accountant Controller
Regional Controller
10 Yearsyrs
Finance Analyst Senior Associate Senior Accountant
Reporting Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Bookkeeper Accounts Payable Clerk Accounting Manager
Senior Accounting Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Accounting Manager Finance Manager Finance Director
Senior Director Of Finance
14 Yearsyrs
Staff Accountant Finance Analyst Finance Manager
Senior Finance Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Tax Preparer Bookkeeper Staff Accountant
Tax Manager
8 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Certified Public Accountant?

Certified Public Accountant Demographics

Gender

Female

55.6%

Male

40.6%

Unknown

3.7%
Ethnicity

White

60.0%

Hispanic or Latino

15.1%

Black or African American

11.0%

Asian

10.0%

Unknown

3.9%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

44.2%

Mandarin

10.1%

Chinese

9.2%

French

7.8%

Arabic

4.6%

Cantonese

4.0%

Italian

3.2%

Japanese

2.3%

German

2.0%

Hindi

1.7%

Korean

1.7%

Portuguese

1.4%

Vietnamese

1.2%

Russian

1.2%

Carrier

1.2%

Hebrew

0.9%

Kurdish

0.9%

Tagalog

0.9%

Urdu

0.9%

Hmong

0.6%
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Certified Public Accountant Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

18.0%

University of Houston

6.3%

Hofstra University

5.8%

University of Texas at Austin

5.2%

University of South Florida

4.7%

San Diego State University

4.7%

Florida International University

4.6%

Georgia State University

4.6%

Florida Atlantic University

4.5%

DePaul University

4.5%

Southern New Hampshire University

4.5%

New York University

4.3%

Pace University - New York

4.2%

Villanova University

4.0%

Utah State University

3.6%

Northeastern University

3.5%

Liberty University

3.3%

Michigan State University

3.3%

Arizona State University

3.3%

University of Alabama

3.2%
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Majors

Accounting

52.7%

Business

24.0%

Finance

5.5%

Taxation

2.3%

Law

1.8%

Management

1.7%

Education

1.3%

Economics

1.2%

Health Care Administration

1.1%

Psychology

1.0%

Criminal Justice

1.0%

Marketing

1.0%

Computer Science

0.8%

Nursing

0.8%

General Studies

0.7%

Communication

0.7%

English

0.7%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

0.7%

Human Resources Management

0.6%

Elementary Education

0.6%
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Degrees

Bachelors

48.4%

Masters

23.8%

Other

15.8%

Associate

5.8%

Certificate

3.1%

Doctorate

2.3%

Diploma

0.6%

License

0.2%
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Real Certified Public Accountant Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Business Analyst, CPA-Shared CSS Delivery or Other Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Nov 01, 2016 $131,000 -
$151,000
Certified Public Accountant Rowbotham & Company San Francisco, CA Nov 19, 2015 $101,421
Senior Certified Public Accountant The Singh Accounting Firm, LLC Piscataway, NJ Jan 15, 2015 $95,689
SR. Accountant, CPA Hwang & Choi CPAS Oakland, CA Jul 30, 2015 $95,368
Senior Information Technology (IT) Tax Accountant, CPA Warren Averett Companies, LLC Atlanta, GA Jul 12, 2016 $94,515
Advocacy Manager Cpa-Cfa Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Oct 01, 2015 $93,951
CPA Auditor David A Levy CPA PC Brookline, MA Feb 24, 2012 $92,000
Senior CPA Shwiff, Levy & Polo LLP San Francisco, CA Jul 24, 2014 $90,000
Certified Public Accountant SK Tax Associates LLC Schaumburg, IL Jul 14, 2015 $89,800
Accountant-Cpa National Accounting Services Inc. Millington, MD Feb 01, 2015 $89,523
Tax Professional/Cpa Delagnes Mitchell & Linder San Francisco, CA Jun 27, 2016 $87,838
Certified Public Accountant Madriaga & Associates Oakland, CA Jan 12, 2015 $84,000
Senior Associate CPA Walton & Company CPAS, LLC Boca Raton, FL Oct 01, 2010 $83,063
Certified Public Accountant Gary H. Kuwada, A Professional Law Corporation Los Angeles, CA Nov 23, 2016 $78,915
Senior CPA Shwiff, Levy & Polo LLP San Francisco, CA Nov 28, 2012 $70,803 -
$85,000
Senior CPA Shwiff, Levy & Polo LLP San Francisco, CA Jul 24, 2013 $70,429 -
$85,000
Certified Public Accountant Leon Accounting and Tax LLC Beaverton, OR Dec 01, 2014 $70,000
Accountant, CPA Shwiff, Levy & Polo, LLP San Francisco, CA Jun 13, 2012 $69,451
CPA/Auditor David A Levy CPA PC Brookline, MA Nov 15, 2010 $69,000
Certified Public Accountant The Chugh Firm, AAC Cerritos, CA Jan 28, 2011 $67,500
Shah Associates CPA PA Shah Associates CPA Pa Burtonsville, MD Jan 27, 2014 $66,784
Certified Public Accountant Husami & Associates CA Apr 08, 2014 $66,560
Audit Senior Associate/Cpa Johnson Lambert, LLP Burlington, VT Jun 28, 2016 $59,446
CPA James Y. Lee & Co. Accountancy Corporation Garden Grove, CA Jul 20, 2010 $58,436
Certified Public Accountant Evergreen Accounting PC Ann Arbor, MI Apr 06, 2010 $56,432
Associate Certified Public Accountant Sejong, LLP New York, NY Oct 01, 2010 $56,349 -
$30
Certified Public Accountant Montage Services Inc. San Francisco, CA Apr 05, 2011 $56,000
Certified Public Accountant Montage Services Inc. San Francisco, CA Sep 14, 2011 $56,000
Certified Public Accountant Nass-Worthington, Hess & Alford PLLC Amarillo, TX Sep 28, 2013 $55,500 -
$60,000
CPA Firm Accounting Tax Preparers Bogdan & Fransco, LLP San Francisco, CA Sep 29, 2013 $55,000

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Top Skills for A Certified Public Accountant

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  1. Financial Statements
  2. Income
  3. Payroll
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Utilized automated accounting system to produce monthly and yearly financial statements Created and implemented cost saving procedures.
  • Review income statement and expenditure document to determine forms needed.
  • Assist in daily accounting procedures such as preparing corporate and individual tax returns, payrolls, and sales tax schedules.
  • Intern Preparation of tax returns Logged in customers Demonstrated administrative skills and assisted in office work
  • Staff Accountant to Supervisor to Manager - (CPA firm 6th in national size).

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