A Complete Job Description of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Students who excel in math, solving puzzles and enjoy working with finances should consider a career as an accountant. It is a healthy occupation that is necessary for nearly every organization and business. Prospective accountants should strongly consider taking the Uniform CPA Examination in order to become a Certified Public Accountant or CPA. CPAs enjoy greater privileges and responsibilities, as well as higher pay. It is important for all potential CPAs to understand the accountant job description, the accountant salary expectation and the accountant certification requirement to become a CPA.

Accountant Job Description

Certified Public Accountants maintain and monitor financial records. They also must be able to correctly read and interpret what these financial records mean. Part of the accounting job description is to ensure complete compliance with all state and federal regulations. In many cases, CPAs may be called upon to give professional financial advice to their company heads or individual clients, even if this is not listed in the accounting job description. They also play an important role in preparing tax returns, and many CPAs find work preparing tax returns during tax season. In most cases, CPAs work on a full-time basis employed by a company, non-profit or government organization. However, some CPAs work for themselves for private clients. In the accounting job description, occasional travel may be required.

Characteristics of CPAs

While requirements for individual jobs are relayed in the accountant job description, there are general characteristics all CPAs share. CPAs must have a high attention to detail. They also must understand and utilize good accounting practices in order to remain legally compliant, prevent fraud or theft, and maintain accurate financial information for their employer or clients. With technological changes that are only expected to become more ingrained in the profession, CPAs must have good tech skills, particularly in major accounting software such as QuickBooks. CPAs must meet every accountant certification requirement required by their state to get their certification.

Accountant Salary Expectation

The accountant salary expectation is quite good. CPAs make an average of $63,165 annually per PayScale. The lowest 10% makes around $45,000 while the highest percentile earns over $100,000 per year. As with all professions, the accountant salary expectation highly depends on location and prior experience. Salary is usually included in the individual accounting job description.

Education, Training and Certification Requirements

A bachelor's degree is required to become an accountant and usually listed in an accountant job description. It can be obtained in accounting, in a specialized area of accounting like internal auditing, or in a related field. In some cases and by some employers, a master's degree is preferred. The best college accounting programs help students by requiring the completion of an internship or other hands-on experience prior to graduation.

Prior work experience is not required to find employment as an accountant in the average accounting job description. However, one CPA accountant certification requirement is at least one year of experience in the accounting profession. As with most jobs, prior experience is a selling point that drastically increases job prospects. For managerial positions, prior experience will likely be required as well.

As it says in the name, CPAs must have an accountant certification requirement in order to offer accounting services to the public. Anyone filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a CPA. Obtaining certification greatly improves job prospects. Unlike certifications for other occupations, that often vary by state, the Uniform CPA Examination is used by all states. It is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Individual states do have their own additional requirements as well. Do note that nearly all states require CPAs to participate in continuing education in order to keep their license. Many businesses will pay for their employees to take the exam.

Job Outlook for CPAs

The job outlook for CPAs is generally favorable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation is expected to grow at a faster than average rate over the next ten years. The overall health of the economy is particularly important to the health and employment growth of this profession.

Students who are drawn to the accountant job description should strongly consider an education in accounting. They should also strongly consider achieving the accountant certification requirement to become a CPA. Becoming a CPA will increase job prospects and up the accountant salary expectation.