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

what is public accounting

The Uniform CPA Exam can only be taken by accountants who already have professional experience in the field and a bachelor’s degree. CPAs must meet eligibility requirements, obtain state licensure, and follow strict principles established by the AICPA. Licensed CPAs can perform specialized sales journal entry tasks not allowed for general accountants, like representing clients to the IRS. I would encourage students starting out in accounting to spend some time investigating their career options and talk to other people in the industry to get a sense of the best career fit for them.

Besides, they have to grapple with the advent of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. The decentralized and immutable nature of blockchain presents new challenges in terms of auditing and verifying transactions. Accountants must navigate the complexities of blockchain-based financial records and assess the accuracy and completeness of digital asset holdings. The rise of cryptocurrencies introduces additional considerations in financial reporting, including the valuation and classification of digital assets on balance sheets. Public accountants in the technology industry face the challenge of dealing with rapidly evolving products and services. The dynamic nature of tech companies necessitates agile financial reporting and forecasting.

what is public accounting

To become a CPA, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in accounting, which typically encompasses 120 hours of semester coursework. According to AICPA, the pre-licensure education required for a CPA is 150 semester hours of coursework. You could fulfill the extra 30 hours by pursuing a master’s degree in accounting or taking additional relevant coursework at the undergraduate level. The accounting industry thrived in the late 1990s due to the expansion by large accounting firms into various forms of consulting. The Enron scandal in 2001 resulted in major changes in the accounting industry, not least the collapse of Arthur Andersen, one of the nation’s top accounting firms. Since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed in 2002, accountants have been subject to tougher restrictions concerning their consulting assignments.


They must ensure accurate product costing, manage inventory fluctuations, and navigate international taxation and trade regulations. The certified public accountant (CPA) is a license for working accountants that signals a degree of professional expertise. If you are an accountant or want to be one, it’s a valuable tool to help you move up the ladder.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network. For example, a short-term milestone might be to acquire an in-demand skill like using accounting software, while a long-term goal might be to advance into a leadership position. Arthur Andersen company executives and CPAs were charged with illegal and unethical accounting practices. I am an extrovert, which many people don’t think of as a typical characteristic of an accountant, but I find it helpful in establishing a bond with my clients.

  1. Also, especially during these unusual COVID times, it can be challenging to find the optimal balance between personal and professional priorities.
  2. Each section is taken individually, and candidates can choose the order in which they take them but must pass all four sections of the exam within 18 months.
  3. Matos stays up to date on changes in the accounting industry through educational courses.
  4. CPAs prepare reports that accurately reflect the business dealings of the companies and individuals that hire them.

The AICPA requires that all CPA designation holders adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct, which lays out the ethical standards CPAs must adhere to. According to February 2022 PayScale data, CPAs earn an average annual salary of $69,955. Factors influencing CPA income potential include location, industry, experience, and education level. For example, entry-level CPAs earn an average salary of $54,400, while mid-career CPAs earn an average of $71,580 annually.

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Public accountants who specialize in the nonprofit sector tackle unique challenges related to maintaining tax-exempt status and preserving public trust. Nonprofits rely heavily on donor contributions and grants, necessitating accurate financial reporting to demonstrate responsible stewardship of funds. It signifies that an individual possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to uphold the highest standards of accounting and financial reporting. Armed with this certification, they join the ranks of elite professionals who are entrusted with the financial well-being of businesses and organizations.

what is public accounting

Public accountants in the healthcare sector play a vital role in ensuring financial stability and compliance with stringent regulations. They must contend with complex reimbursement systems, healthcare reform, and evolving accounting standards. This comprehensive examination is a formidable barrier to entry, testing candidates on their knowledge, analytical skills, and ability to apply accounting principles in real-world scenarios. Public accountants, often referred to as CPAs, are the architects of financial clarity. They are professionals who have undergone rigorous training and successfully passed the CPA exam, a challenging rite of passage.

What is the difference between a CPA and an accountant?

A CPA license isn’t required to work in corporate accounting or for private companies. However, public accountants⁠—individuals working for firms such as Deloitte or Ernst & Young that provide accounting and tax-related services to businesses—must hold CPA designations. She earned a bachelor of science in finance and accounting from New York University. Matos began her career at Ernst & Young, where she audited a diverse set of companies, primarily in consumer products and media and entertainment.

Renamed several times over the years, the organization has been known as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) since 1957. In an interconnected world, the influence of public accounting extends beyond national borders. Multinational corporations and global financial markets require a harmonized approach to accounting and auditing standards.

As you fulfill the CPA requirements, it’s a good idea to keep your job search materials updated, including your resume and LinkedIn profile. It’s also a good idea to improve your interviewing skills, such as researching a company, preparing questions to ask the hiring manager, and presenting your qualifications. A CPA is required to complete continuing education requirements and uphold a standard of professional ethics. A CPA is a very valuable credential, and I wanted to position myself well in the marketplace for various jobs. I decided in college as an accounting major that I wanted to try to get my CPA as soon as I could. As a self-employed consultant, I still use all the basic building blocks of accounting that I learned in college, pursuing my CPA, and working in public accounting.

CPAs prepare reports that accurately reflect the business dealings of the companies and individuals that hire them. Many prepare tax returns for individuals or businesses and advise them on ways to minimize taxes. A certified public accountant (CPA) is a licensed professional who has passed an examination administered by a state’s Board of Accountancy.

To embark on this journey, aspiring CPAs must typically hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. However, each state in the United States has its specific requirements for CPA licensure, which may include additional coursework. If a public accounting firm is hired to audit the financial statements of a client, then independence rules restrict the ability of the firm to provide many of the other services just noted. For example, a firm cannot prepare the financial statements of a client and audit those statements. It should be brought to your attention that you cannot have the same public accounting firm do your books, prepare your financial statements and then audit them. The auditing would need to be done by another independent accounting firm or Certified Public Accountant.

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