Public Accounting: Careers, Skills, and How to Become a CPA

what does a cpa do

You can check with your state’s board of accountancy to verify your eligibility. Some states have experience requirements that candidates must fulfill, such as a year of work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA. In 2021, I decided to take the next step in my accounting career journey, and I am now a self-employed accounting consultant and business advisor. I was able to put my technical accounting and client service skills to use in working with my own clients.

Acquiring your certified public accountant license takes time, patience and planning. Being a CPA also takes a commitment to continuing education even after earning your CPA designation. CPAs are often required to complete 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) each year, depending on state board requirements. You must show you understand the rights, duties, and liabilities of debtors, creditors, and guarantors as well as the audit and appeals process employed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This section also covers the alternative minimum tax and both estate and gift taxation. Accountant

Accountants are responsible for recording, organizing, and analyzing financial transactions for businesses and individuals.

Roles and Responsibilities

Additionally, accountants provide an essential service by helping to maintain the integrity and transparency of financial reporting. In an era of increasing complexity and regulation in financial markets, accountants serve as watchdogs, helping to prevent fraud and ensure that financial records are accurate and reliable. In public accounting, obtaining CPA licensure is especially important to advancing your career. If you want to advance to management or become a partner, the CPA designation will prove extremely beneficial. Consulting services include everything from assisting customers in creating and implementing new financial systems to helping clients understand financial reporting and recommending accounting best practices. Forensic accounting, financial and estate planning, and litigation assistance are some of the consulting specialties.

what does a cpa do

The next step toward gaining your CPA license is to take and pass the CPA exam. You can apply for the exam through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). No matter which state you’ll be working in, however, the first step toward becoming a CPA is completing your accounting education. Those wondering how to become a CPA should understand the path is not easy. Historical pass rates sit around 50% for each of the four sections on the CPA exam. For those wondering how to become a CPA, the process begins with a bachelor’s degree, culminating with a CPA license.

Where can a CPA work?

You can choose to manage your business accounting by hiring an in-house accountant or CPA. This can be a great option if you want to ensure your books are in order, and that your company’s financial information is accurate, but it does come with some drawbacks. For one thing, the cost of hiring someone like this can be a substantial burden on your business’s finances.

  • If you’re looking to take your accounting career to the next level, a CPA designation may be what you need.
  • Becoming a CPA can also help you pursue additional career paths outside of financial institutions.
  • These findings may be used to identify financial opportunities, manage risks or make important business decisions.
  • BEC is arguably the easiest section, and most candidates pass it on their first attempt.
  • Automated accounting software, such as QuickBooks and other popular applications, are becoming increasingly influential in the industry.
  • Hear from some of Becker’s Elijah Watt Sells Award winners, who earned a cumulative average score above 95.5 across all four sections of the CPA Exam, why CPA is a goal absolutely worth pursuing.

However, there are other career options worth considering beyond a Certified Public Accountant. The industry is filled with a wide range of in-demand finance and accounting careers. So whatever type of accounting path you choose, there’s incredible job growth opportunities for accountants.

History of the CPA Designation

CPAs will give you an unbiased report and make sure everything is up to snuff. By registering for a NerdWallet account, you’ll have access to our tax product in partnership with Column Tax for a flat rate of $50, credit score tracking, personalized recommendations, timely alerts, and more. Although these accounting pros usually come to mind when it comes to filing income taxes, they can help with quite a few other things. We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence.

Accounting professionals must pay strong attention to detail in order to keep information accurate and organized. With the amount of financial data that must be analyzed, it can be easy to make mistakes; however, simple errors can translate into much larger problems if they’re not caught. While passing the CPA exam certifies your accounting knowledge, you still have to be licensed by your state before you can practice as a CPA. “The new CPA exam will require students to understand how to perform data analysis and research, which shifts the narrative of the traditional accounting role,” said McLaughlin.

Understanding the requirements

Some candidates complete graduate degrees or a certificate to fulfill the educational requirements. According to the AICPA, the majority of U.S. jurisdictions offer licensure paths to candidates with two years of relevant professional experience. Most states accept general accounting experience acquired in roles open to all accounting professionals.

  • You must show you understand corporate governance, financial risk management, financial management processes, strategic planning, and operations management.
  • No matter which state you’ll be working in, however, the first step toward becoming a CPA is completing your accounting education.
  • As a CPA, your day-to-day tasks could vary depending on your professional interests and where you work.
  • CPAs can pursue continuing education through professional organizations and colleges, both in person and online.

Users can create job alerts and search by sector, qualification level, and salary range. Many CPAs earn additional certificates to bolster their career prospects. Accountants can pursue certificates from professional organizations, such as the Institute Law Firms and Client Trust Accounts of Internal Auditors and the Institute of Management Accountants. Your total score for the BEC section is a weighted combination of scaled scores from multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, and written communication tasks.

Different Roles and Responsibilities of a CPA

Accounting software allows you to do basic tasks such as tracking inventory, invoicing and payments, and generating reports on sales and expenses. It’s useful for small businesses and freelancers who don’t have the resources to hire an accountant or bookkeeper. Besides, this frees up time so you can focus on running your business smoothly. Check out our recent piece on the best accounting software for small businesses.

Public accounting focuses on financial documents that clients must disclose to the public, such as tax documents. is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.