Everyone has heard of certified public accountants, but a lot of people wonder just what exactly they do. A certified public accountant is a licensed professional who provides accounting services to others. Each certified public accountant is licensed to practice in their state and almost every state allows them to practice in other states via mobility laws. Each state has its own set of licensing requirements with the bare minimum needing to have 150 college semester units, passing the Uniform Certified Public Account Examination, and having a year of accounting experience.
This entry on Wikipedia goes into the particulars of being a certified public accountant. Some states, such as Texas, require that anyone calling themselves an accountant or auditor must be certified as a public accountant. One of the most important things a certified public accountant does is to provide assurance services. The most common type of assurance service is conducting audits of a company’s finances. The accountant will review their financial documents and determine if the disclosures in it are reasonable. They will verify that their financial statement is free of material misstatements and that it complies with generally accepted accounting principles.
Certified public accountants are held to professional standards of conduct and must be independent of any organization they are auditing. This means, for example, they can’t hold stock in a company they are auditing. While conducting an audit they can’t work for a company that is providing consulting services to that same company as another example.
Certified public accountants do work for the public at large as well. An example of a certified public accountant is someone like Dave Burton, CPA. People like this work with individuals and families in order to do their taxes. In addition to preparing taxes, his company also does things such as business incorporation, payroll services, investment analysis, and corporate compliance. Some people have very complex financial situations which call for getting a professional involved so that everything is done properly.
This FAQ about certified public accountants answers questions about this occupation in layman terms. For example, it shares that accountants and certified public accountants aren’t the same things. All certified public accountants must be an accountant, but the opposite doesn’t hold true. A certified public accountant has more education and experience than a regular accountant. While becoming a certified public accountant is a challenging goal it is rewarded with more opportunities and higher financial rewards.
Certified public accountants do more than taxes and audits. They can also become the chief financial officers of organizations, for example. They can be advisors who help small to Fortune 500 companies make financial decisions. They can also do consulting work where their expertise is needed on a particular project.
It takes a broad range of skills to work in this occupation. Certified public accountants need to have a firm understanding of business and accounting concepts. They also need excellent communication skills and an ability to see the “big picture”. They also need to master the technology needed to perform their jobs and stay on top of advances in their field.