Certified Public Accountants or CPAs are a notch higher than accountants because of the stringent requirements to become one. Aside from meeting educational, experience and ethical standards, they also need to pass the Uniform CPA Examination before they can be granted the license by the State Boards of Accountancy to practice the profession. In short, all CPAs are accountants but not all accountants are CPAs.
If you love working with numbers, collating data and analyzing information, you could be well-suited for a career as a CPA. As a CPA, you do the typical tasks performed by accountants, such as preparing financial reports and keeping a company’s records in order. You will also ensure that the company follows mandated tax rules, regulations and complies with standard accounting practices. But what puts you over and above other accountants is that you will be the only one who can file a report to regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC.
There are a lot of good reasons to not be content with being just an accountant but work towards becoming a CPA. For starters, they earn more because a lot of responsibility is given to them compared to regular accountants. They also widen their employment prospects as only CPAs can conduct mandatory audits of all companies that are publicly traded in the United States. If you are an accountant who is analytical, have the ability to interpret facts and figures and possess strong organizational skills, becoming a CPA will help you move forward to the next step of your career.
Certified Public Accountant Work Environment
Most CPAs work in the offices of large corporations and public companies. The largest employers of accountants around the world are the Big Four companies composed of Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young and KPMG. CPAs work long hours, particularly during tax season and the end of the budget year. The work environment is often stressful, especially if the company’s financial issues are problematic and facing regulatory scrutiny.
Certified Public Accountant Salary
On the average, CPAs earn as much as 10 percent more than accountants who don’t have this credential. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers survey in 2012, those who have a bachelor’s degree in accounting earned around $50,500. However, those who went on to obtain their CPA licenses had median salaries of $73,800 with top salaries reaching about $124,000.
Certified Public Accountant Career Outlook
The employment outlook for accountants and auditors is set to grow from 13 percent in a ten-year period from 2012 to 2022. The spate of corporate scandals and the financial crises that have plagued banks and other financial institutions in the United States have made CPAs more valuable. Although CPAs stand better chances of employment than their non-credentialed counterparts, competition for jobs in large accounting firms and business companies remain fierce.
Certified Public Accountant Degree
A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is needed by those who want to pursue a career as an accountant. To become a CPA, however, an accountant needs to pass the Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The test is composed of four parts. All the parts need not be taken all at once but test-takers must pass all the parts within 18 months after they have passed the first part. When they have passed this test, the state’s Board of Accountancy where they intend to practice in will grant them their license. Continuing education is often required by nearly all states for CPAs to retain their license.