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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

  • $82,670

    Average Salary

What Does A Certified Public Accountant Do

A Certified Public Accountant is responsible for preparing, reviewing, and analyzing financial reports for individuals and companies. Their primary duties include maintaining and auditing the company's financial records, overseeing the budget, and preparing financial reports.

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).  


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.


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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Certified Public Accountant Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • Mandarin

  • Chinese

  • French

  • Cantonese

  • Arabic

  • Italian

  • Japanese

  • German

  • Korean

  • Hindi

  • Portuguese

  • Vietnamese

  • Russian

  • Carrier

  • Hebrew

  • Kurdish

  • Tagalog

  • Urdu

  • Hmong

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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 -
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 -
Senior CPA Shwiff, Levy & Polo LLP San Francisco, CA Jul 24, 2013 $70,429 -
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 -
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 -
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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Top Certified Public Accountant Skills

  1. Income Tax Returns
  2. Financial Statement Preparation
  3. Payroll Tax Returns
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Prepared individual income tax returns.
  • Provided monthly accounting services, financial statement preparation and tax return preparation for several small business clients.
  • Prepare payroll tax returns, personal tax returns, and business tax returns.
  • Organized and classified financial data and documents upon CPA's request.
  • Issued Audit Reports with findings and recommendations of each completed assignment.

Top Certified Public Accountant Employers

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