Duties and responsibilities
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is responsible for preparing, reviewing and analyzing the financial reports of a company. Ultimately, they pay a vital role in a company’s financial operations and ensure compliance with the law and accuracy in accounting. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Organizing and updating financial records as needed (both digitally and physically)
- Analyzing transactions and preparing reports
- Performing regular and detailed audits to ensure accuracy in financial documents, expenditures and investments
- Forecasting revenue and analyzing profit margins
- Overseeing ledger reconciliation and managing accounts payable/receivable
- Participating in the budgeting process
- Briefing senior managers regularly on the company’s financial status
- Monitoring bookkeeping activities
- Establishing accounting policies and procedures
- Staying informed on industry developments and changes in regulation
Typically, to become an accountant you will need an associate’s or bachelors degree in accounting or a related field. However, it is becoming more and more common for employers to prefer applicants who have a master’s degree in accounting or business administration.
To become a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you will need to pass a national exam, which is the four-part Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). You will also need to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree to meet the 150-hour requirement.
Skills and relevant work experience
Employers will often look for relevant work experience in the industry and, based on this, it is worth attempting to seek an internship in a related field. Other key skills that potential CPAs need include:
- Analytical skills, as CPAs need to be be able to analyze transactions and prepare reports based on this analysis
- Mathematics Skills, as CPAs must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures. They may use advanced math skills, such as calculus and statistical analysis, for these tasks.
- Communication skills, as CPAs often have to work in a team and/or communicate with company executives
- Attention to detail, as CPAs need to closely monitor books and ensure all accounting related activities run smoothly
CPAs work typical business hours (around 40 hours per week). However, they may have to work overtime on occasion.
According to payscale, the median annual salary of a CPA in the is $68,491. The lowest 10% earn less than $49,000 per year and the highest 10% earn over $115,000 per year.
Typically, CPAs will progress to managerial roles or financial account management roles. The list of fields that CPAs can be employed in is endless. However, some of the most popular include construction, agricultural, food and beverage, private health care facilities, colleges and universities, banks and other financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, transport and logistics companies, professional service firms and offices.