If you’ve heard of a CPA, you probably know it means some type of accountant. But what is a CPA, really? Why is it an important distinction from your average accountant at the office? Let’s take a look at who CPAs are and what they do.
Certified Public Accountants
CPAs, or Certified Public Accountants, are more than just traditional accountants. They exist to help businesses of all sizes grow and flourish. CPAs are knowledgeable in all aspects of business finance, so they can help with everything from analysis and financial statements, to complicated forensic accounting and tax planning. Between their education, credentials, and experience, they’re qualified to do a lot more than run reports and balance checking accounts.
It’s not easy to become a CPA. Besides a college degree in accounting, they have the real-world business and financial experience it takes to put concepts to work. In order to get a CPA certification, candidates must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which is an exhaustive test managed by the American Institute of CPAs. Believe it or not, it’s been around since 1896! The exam includes multiple choice questions, written communication tasks, and simulations of real scenarios on a variety of subjects. Needless to say, it’s highly challenging. The average passing rate in 2015 was a little less than 50%, so it’s a grueling undertaking. The CPA exam takes a lot of preparation, along with the experience and mindset that’s needed to be able to perform in the field. The last step in becoming a CPA is to get licensed by the Boards of Accountancy for the particular geographic location.
CPAs Make an Impact
CPAs hold positions throughout business, government, and nonprofit organizations, including Controllers, Auditors, Consultants, and Chief Financial Officers. Businesses and individuals need CPAs for many functions:
- Tax and Financial Planning
- Financial Consulting
- Accounting - Forensic, International, and Environmental
- IT Services
- Assurance Services
Working with a CPA can help you plan for your business and personal finances, and it can help ensure that cashflow doesn’t cause any short-term loan situations or other issues. What is a CPA? It just may be the best resource you’ve ever used!