Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

A certified public accountant, more commonly referred to as a CPA, is someone who possesses at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and who has successfully completed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam.

The primary responsibility of a certified public accountant is to ensure that an accounting entity whether corporate or private strictly adheres to the Generally Accepted Accounting Practices rules, regulations, and guidelines.

As an outgrowth of the Enron incident, questionable financial practices being conducted on Wall Street, and the current economic upheaval, the demand for CPAs qualified in forensic accounting and regulatory reporting is of paramount importance.

Formulated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and administered under the auspices of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, the exam consists of four parts. Each part requires candidates to achieve an acceptable score prior to proceeding to the next portion.

With the exception of California, all states adhere to what is known as the 150-hour guideline, which requires one year of study beyond the bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting. This requirement may be completed on or offline at an accredited business school or college.

Prior to being officially licensed, candidates must complete what is known as the Three Es of Certification: Education, Examination, and Experience. Meeting these requirements includes a minimum of two years of on-the-job experience in auditing and/or taxation training under the guidance and sponsorship of a certified public accountant. In addition to the aforementioned, 40 of the 50 U.S. states require passage of a separate ethics exam.

Once licensed, every certified public accountant is required to undergo re-certification every three years. This process must include 20 credits per year and two to eight hours of ethics instruction.

To prepare for the exam, candidates are encouraged to enroll in a review course to acquire review materials and study them when and wherever they can. Highly regarded apps are easily downloaded to mobile devices making it possible to study at one’s own pace.

Candidates are advised to concentrate on areas in which they determine themselves to be weak or to have performed poorly during the classroom. Available at the AICPA website, practice tests have been deemed to be very useful by many candidates.

Candidates are strongly cautioned to be aware of exam center entrance requirements, especially the importance of arriving on time to make ample use of the 30 minute sign-in time for ID completion, perusal of the exam center policies, and to be properly seated before the exam begins.

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